Updated at: 04/07/2013 8:35 PM
By HANK KURZ Jr.
(AP) MARTINSVILLE, Va. - Jeff Gordon arrived at Martinsville Speedway 18th in the points race after five events and badly in need of a good finish at a track where he has been one of the top performers in history.
He got it in spite of himself, finishing third in Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series event.
"I think third was a great finish for us and I’m happy," Gordon, a seven-time winner on the 0.526-mile oval, said. "We needed the points. We needed a good solid run."
It might have been better except for a mistake by the four-time series champion.
Midway through the race, he pitted and slid past his pit stall, had to back up and it was costly.
"I made a boneheaded move and overshot my pit stall and cost us a couple of positions," he said. "I was just sitting back there not passing anybody, not going anywhere thinking, `Uh-oh, I’ve really screwed us up,’" he said.
After a few quality adjustments, a long green-flag run stamped him as one of the cars to beat.
Rallying for a good finish after the gaffe was something of a surprise, Gordon said.
"You know, we can’t afford to do those things. I can’t be making those mistakes, and we can’t have those mistakes made, and that’s just how crucial it is in the sport today, as competitive as everybody is and how close the cars are," he said. "You know, we kind of got fortunate today."
There are other areas when the team can improve too, he said.
Gordon started sixth, and said that’s not good enough at Martinsville, especially not when teammate Jimmie Johnson wins the pole and gets the coveted first pit stall, which can minimize mistakes. Johnson has done it on the past two visits here, and won both races, too.
"The next thing we’ve got to work on now is trying to qualify better," Gordon said.
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(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)