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Gordon Beats Back Johnson To Win At Atlanta

| , RacinToday.com Tuesday, September 6 2011

Jeff Gordon celebrates the 85th victory of his Sprint Cup career. It came Tuesday At Atlanta Motor Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)


Jeff Gordon held of Jimme Johnson to win the rain-delayed AdvoCare 500 Sprint Cup race Tuesday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Gordon, getting his third victory of the season, dominated early and then late to get the win. He led a race-best 146 laps. It was Gordon’s 85th victory in Cup – third most behind Richard Petty and David Pearson.

Finishing second was Johnson, who took shot after shot at getting past his Hendrick Motorsports teammate over the final 10 laps. But, even driving so hard he was going through turns sideways, Johnson could not get past the four-time champion for the lead.

“That’s Jeff Gordon right there,” Gordon’s crew chief, Alan Gustafson, said.

Johnson took over the points lead with the runner-up finish.

Tony Stewart finished third, Kurt Busch was fourth and Carl Edwards was fifth.

Rounding out the top 10 were Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and AJ Allmendinger.

The race was originally scheduled to be run on Sunday evening. But rains caused by tropical storm Lee moved into the area and the race was postponed until Tuesday.

The race got going on schedule Tuesday morning and Gordon appeared to have the best car.

But light rain returned to the track during a caution called for a wreck on lap 176. It extended the caution

Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson run door to door late in Tuesday's Sprint Cup race at Atlanta. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

but on lap 185, the race restarted with Edwards in the lead.

A lap later, Edward’s Roush Fenway Racing teammate, Kenseth, took over the top spot.

Light rain again brought out yellow on lap 201 and then brought the field in for pit stops.

J.J. Yeley and his team opted to not pit in hopes the rain would intensify and when it did, and when the yellow was replaced by red, he had the lead when the field was parked. Behind him was Landon Cassill, who also stayed out during the caution.

After a 24-minute red flag, the race went back to yellow, the cars rolled out and Yeley and Cassill pitted. Taking back the lead was Edwards when the race went green on lap 219. On the next lap, Kenseth got the lead back and then another yellow flag waved for rain on lap 221.

On lap 230, the race went green again with Kenseth in the lead.

On lap 240, Jimmie Johnson pulled even with Kenseth, nosed ahead for the lead but gave it back just  as a yellow came out for a wreck.

The race went green with 78 laps to go and Johnson quickly jumped to the lead.

With 50 laps to go, Gordon went past Johnson, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, on the low side and got the lead.

With 42 laps to go, and with Gordon’s lead over Johnon at 1.3 seconds, green flag stops began.

When the pitting had cycled through, Gordon had a half-second lead over Johnson with 37 laps to go. Kurt Busch was third, 3 seconds behind the leader.

Gordon stretched the lead to about 2 seconds but with about 11 laps to go, Johnson moved in as Gordon’s care lost its handling.

With four laps to go, the two Hendrick drives went door to door across the finish line but Johnson could not get past.

Johnson got sideways several times taking shots over the final three laps but could not get past.

“Yeah, when I saw him get real loose off of (Turn) 4, coming to take the white,” Gordon said, “I could breathe a little sigh of relief because I could kind of maintain down there in (turns) 3 and 4. I just got so, so loose. And he was rolling a little bit better than me through the middle down in (Turns) 1 and 2. I could maintain the outside, but all he had to do was to get to my inside off of (Turn) 2 and it would have been hard to beat him back to the line because we just lost so much grip there.

“So, it gave me a little breathing room there and I was able to just be real smooth and easy with it through (Turns) 1 and 2, which wasn’t easy, and then just baby-it through 3 and 4. So he had one or two shots at me that I really thought we were done. I got so loose. But once he got to me and we were able to maintain, I said okay we’ve just got to fight him to the checkered flag.”

Clint Bowyer – who started the race 12th in points and 22 out of 10th – all but died when he was hooked from behind by Juan Pablo Montoya and whacked the wall with 84 laps to go. Bowyer was running 11th at the time. Bowyer had some choice words for Montoya, calling him a jackass and a bully.

“He ( Montoya) races everybody that way, that is why he sucks,” Bowyer said. “You can’t race that way in this sport, plain and simple and I’ll call him out for it. I think that is how about everybody in the garage knows what they are up against anytime that 42 is around. He is like a pinball out there because he is a bully. There has got to be some give and take. You are out there racing for nothing. He dive bombs the restarts and then before you know it he’s in the way and wrecking somebody. It is just frustrating. I knew what I was up against anytime you are racing against him. It doesn’t help my situation.”

David Ragan’s hopes for a berth came undone when he blew and engine with 76 laps to go. Ragan had entered the race 21st in points but with a victory.

We’re not gonna give up no matter what,” Ragan said. “We can still have a great season. There are five or six tracks coming up where we’ll be a threat to win at, but this is gonna make it a lot harder.  The month of August was really tough for us.  We had some speed in our car.  We had a car that could have won the race in the right position, but you can’t do that win no engine.”

| , RacinToday.com Tuesday, September 6 2011
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