Gordon Ends His Win Drought In The Desert
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
Jeff Gordon took the lead away from Kyle Busch with eight laps to go and went on to win the wreck-ravaged Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Sundayafternoon.
The victory was the 83rd of Gordon’s career but the first in a Sprint Cup car for the four-time champion since he won at Texas in April of 2009.
It came in the second race with Alan Gustafson as Gordon’s crew chief.
“Are you kidding me? Pinch me, pinch me,” Gordon said in Victory Lane.
Busch finished second, one spot short of completing a sweep of all three NASCAR races at PIR over the weekend.
“There at the end, Jeff just had a better car than us,” Busch said. “Good to see those guys back in Victory Lane.”
Jimmie Johnson, Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate and a five-time and defending champion, was third.
Fourth was Kevin Harvick while Ryan Newman was fifth.
Gordon led 138 of the race’s 312 laps, so the victory was no fluke. Not that it mattered.
“I don’t care how we do it, we just want to get to Victory Lane,” Gordon said. “But to do it that way, and to see the fans reaction? I mean, we beat Kyle Busch. We were the only one to beat Kyle Busch this weekend. He’s so tough to beat.”
Gordon led most of the second half of the race. But with 30 laps to go, green-flag pit stops started. Gordon had a slow stop and came out third behind Tony Stewart, who took just two tires, and Busch.
Busch blew past Stewart in less than a lap and got out to a healthy lead. But Gordon started cutting away at the margin and with eight to go, was on the bumper of Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
Gordon went low in his Chevrolet when Busch wiggled up toward the wall out of a turn. The two went door-to-door inches apart. Gordon finally cleared Busch and then ran away to a 1.1 second victory.
“I thought if I catch him, what am I going to do with him?” Gordon said. “We caught him, he got loose, I got underneath him. I didn’t know what to expect.”
Nobody will ever know if the fastest car in the starting field won this race.
The first third of the race was marred by wrecks which took out a number of cars which had either led laps or appeared capable of leading laps.
The big wreck – 13 cars were involved – occurred on the restart after a medium wreck which happened on lap 60.
In the first wreck, polesitter Carl Edwards forced into the grass when Kyle Busch ran him off the track. Among others involved was Harvick.
““I’m not exactly sure what happened,” Edwards said. “I’ll have to talk to Kyle about it. I thought at first he was just frustrated and he turned left to get back in line and he didn’t know I was there, but I watched the tape and I think he really did get loose. He hit me hard and I was left with nothing. I got rammed to the infield.
“If I would have turned right, I don’t think I could have made the corner to clear that curb, so that’s just the way it is. That is the fastest car at the race track. It’s just a shame it’s on jack stands. We’ll get it put back together, though, and we’ll get all the points we can. We can win this championship. I’ve never had a run like this where our cars are this fast.”
Within moments of the race going back to green, the 13-car pileup occurred. This was started when Matt Kenseth moved up into Brian Vickers. The impact popped Vickers tire, Vickers got out of shape and the track turned into a junkyard.
Among those involved were fast cars driven by Clint Bowyer, Jamie McMurray and Jeff Burton.
“Matt wrecked us,” Vickers said when asked what happened. “It’s going to come back to him.”
Bowyer pointed his finger at “embarrassing” moves so early in the race.
“They were driving like it was the last lap,” he said. “Man, if we keep this up we’ll only about four cars to end all these races. I have no idea what happened. Everybody was checked-up all over the place and running into the back of us and we got crashed. But it’s just stupid. To be racing this hard this early in a race; we’re all smarter than this.”
Caught up in a small wreck was the winner of last weekend’s Daytona 500, Trevor Bayne. Fifty laps in, he moved up into Travis Kvapil and spun into the wall. He was knocked out of the race.
“We were battling with the 13 car a little bit and I don’t know if it was the 38 car behind us or who, but something happened,” Bayne said. “Either I came up or he poked his nose in there at the last second on the top of us getting into one. After that, there was nothing we could do. I tried to stay in the gas and keep it turning, but it just backed into the wall. That’s tough coming off of our high at Daytona to come to this, but we’ve got a great race team behind us.”
But with the new hero out of the race, an old hero came on to give NASCAR a second-straight feel-good finish.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgOne Comment