Posted: 10:07 a.m. Sunday, May 12, 2013
By Jordan Bianchi
Regardless of where he finished, Saturday's NASCAR race at Darlington Raceway was always going to be a landmark moment for Jeff Gordon, as the Southern 500 represented his 700th career Sprint Cup start.
But appropriately on a track that holds much meaning to the seven-time Darlington winner, he was able to produce one of his better showings of the season.
"We've known for some time that this should be where it should happen," Gordon said post-race. "I thought that was very cool. I think, looking back throughout my career, this track has been one of the best for me, a very special place. Holds so much history for this sport.
"To have the seven wins here, I couldn't think of a better place to come to and get the 700th start. Then to go out there and have a strong performance, it felt great."
His performance included taking the lead during the middle portion, which for a brief time had many wondering if this was going to be a storybook night for Gordon.
But the ever-changing track conditions and a race that become more about track-position that anything else, worked against the driver of the No. 24 car and he placed third.
However, by finishing third Gordon triggered yet another milestone in his storied career.
The result was the 300th time he had finished a Cup race in the top five -- only the fourth driver in history to achieve such an honor.
"Top three, that's fantastic," Gordon said. "I mean, we needed this kind of performance, a gutsy performance, for the points as well as to make this one memorable."