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Gordon Wins Martinsville, Moves Into Contention

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 27 2013

Jeff Gordon got his first victory of the season on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Rusty Jarret)

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Jeff Gordon continued Hendrick Motorsports’ decade-long domination of Martinsville Speedway Sunday by scoring his eighth victory at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series shortest track, taking the lead for good with 21 laps remaining in the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 Powered by Kroger.

The 42-year-old driver’s first victory this season gives him 88 career wins, makes him the 16th different winner this season, and wraps up Chevrolet’s 11th consecutive manufacturer’s title.

However, runner-up Matt Kenseth possibly scored the greatest moral victory, licking the paperclip-shaped half-mile track that has been his Achilles’ heel throughout his Sprint Cup career. In Sunday’s 500-lap race, Kenseth led the most laps — 202 – and emerged tied with Jimmie Johnson in the championship battle with three races remaining. Johnson, who possesses eight Martinsville victories, finished fifth. He held a four-point advantage over Kenseth entering the event. Now they’re deadlocked and Gordon trails by 27 points.

“Let’s be honest. We’re all alive, but right now there’s two that are in it [title battle],” Gordon said. “Our job is to go to Texas and make it three. Realistically, legitimately, we’ve got to put pressure on those guys. Right now, other than this win today, they don’t really feel a lot of pressure. They’re racing one another is the way I look at it, and those guys are capable of putting very solid finishes together for the remainder of the season. Mathematically, we’re certainly in it, but until we close that gap I don’t think that anybody else is really looking at it other than those two guys.”

But back to Kenseth and Martinsville. Prior to this year, Kenseth’s first with Joe Gibbs Racing, he had led only 73 laps in 26 races at the oldest track on the Sprint Cup schedule. However, this year he led 96 laps in Martinsville’s spring race and outdistanced Johnson on Sunday by 79 laps. Perhaps that’s why he was disappointed with second, his best Martinsville finish since the spring of 2002 when he was the runner-up to then JGR driver Bobby Labonte.

“I felt like today was an opportunity to get a point lead back. I honestly did,” said Kenseth, winner of seven races this season. “I really woke up this morning feeling like … went to bed last night feeling like we had a chance to win. I know that sounds crazy because I haven’t had that many good runs here, but we ran good in the spring. We were terrific at Loudon, which has always been my worst track and this has probably been my second-worst track. I can’t tell you where I knew we were going to finish or what we were going to do, but I felt like today we were going to have a shot to win. I couldn’t be much happier, but I am disappointed I got beat there at the end.”

Kenseth pointed to Gordon’s success at Martinsville as making the difference in the final laps.

“I just got beat by honestly experience and a better driver of this track,” said Kenseth, who finished 0.605 second behind Gordon and narrowly edged Clint Bowyer for second. “I was hesitant to change my line and do the things he was doing because what I was doing got me there and just got too tight at the end. I just got slowed up with some lapped cars and he got by.”

Crew chief Alan Gustafson believed it was Gordon’s patience and his ability to be “really precise with the car at the end of the race” that ultimately paid off.

“He wore Matt down and that’s not easy to do,” Gustafson explained. “Of all the drivers in the series, Matt is much like Jeff. He’s a guy that does not make many mistakes. I was really proud of Jeff to be able to do that and just wear him down and ultimately pass him and win the race.”

While Kenseth talked with the media, Johnson found himself in a verbal confrontation on pit road with Greg Biffle. The discussion was prompted by an incident that occurred with less than 150 laps remaining while the two battled for a top-10 position. The two exchanged sheet metal for a few laps and Biffle felt Johnson caused his rear panel to come loose; damage that eventually required him to pit to fix. Biffle made it back to ninth, but he still felt he could have finished better if not for the run-in with Johnson. After the race, Biffle went to Johnson, spoke his mind and then turned to walk off. Johnson took his arm and they talked for another few seconds. Johnson told The Sporting News he believed they would be able to sort through it.

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

1. (9) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 500, $183596.

2. (4) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 500, $177736.

3. (5) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 500, $141478.

4. (11) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 500, $153436.

5. (2) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 500, $144046.

6. (10) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 500, $133846.

7. (1) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 500, $110560.

8. (12) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 500, $101060.

9. (33) Greg Biffle, Ford, 500, $100460.

10. (7) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 500, $114555.

11. (22) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 500, $94160.

12. (14) Carl Edwards, Ford, 500, $119560.

13. (13) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 500, $111899.

14. (6) Joey Logano, Ford, 500, $112243.

15. (3) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 500, $132993.

16. (15) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 500, $115910.

17. (41) Danica Patrick #, Chevrolet, 499, $85035.

18. (19) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 499, $109155.

19. (16) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 499, $109299.

20. (18) Aric Almirola, Ford, 499, $119871.

21. (28) Casey Mears, Ford, 499, $107543.

22. (23) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 499, $111101.

23. (27) David Gilliland, Ford, 499, $96993.

24. (32) Travis Kvapil, Toyota, 499, $102743.

25. (35) Elliott Sadler(i), Toyota, 499, $88860.

26. (36) Michael McDowell, Ford, 498, $77035.

27. (25) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 497, $94860.

28. (38) Ken Schrader, Ford, 496, $91368.

29. (24) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 495, $76585.

30. (37) JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, 495, $81010.

31. (20) Ricky Stenhouse Jr. #, Ford, 495, $124721.

32. (34) Bobby Labonte, Toyota, 494, $96332.

33. (40) Joe Nemechek(i), Toyota, 493, $76160.

34. (31) Josh Wise(i), Ford, 490, $76110.

35. (30) Cole Whitt(i), Toyota, 459, $76060.

36. (21) Mark Martin, Chevrolet, 455, $122835.

37. (43) David Reutimann, Toyota, Rear Gear, 451, $75947.

38. (17) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 432, $105408.

39. (29) Dave Blaney, Chevrolet, Accident, 357, $67250.

40. (42) Reed Sorenson(i), Ford, Rear Gear, 275, $63250.

41. (39) Tony Raines(i), Chevrolet, Brakes, 220, $59250.

42. (26) Kyle Larson(i), Chevrolet, Engine, 160, $63250.

43. (8) David Ragan, Ford, Engine, 109, $59750.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 70.337 mph.

Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 44 Mins, 21 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.605 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 17 for 111 laps.

Lead Changes: 15 among 8 drivers.

Lap Leaders: D. Hamlin 1-2; J. Johnson 3-24; Kyle Busch 25-36; M. Kenseth 37-110; J. Johnson 111-174; J. Burton 175-179; J. Johnson 180-216; M. Kenseth 217-237; C. Bowyer 238-281; J. Gordon 282-338; D. Hamlin 339-350; C. Bowyer 351-366; M. Kenseth 367; E. Sadler(i) 368-373; M. Kenseth 374-479; J. Gordon 480-500.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): M. Kenseth 4 times for 202 laps; J. Johnson 3 times for 123 laps; J. Gordon 2 times for 78 laps; C. Bowyer 2 times for 60 laps; D. Hamlin 2 times for 14 laps; Kyle Busch 1 time for 12 laps; E. Sadler(i) 1 time for 6 laps; J. Burton 1 time for 5 laps.

Top 13 in Points: M. Kenseth – 2,294; J. Johnson – 2,294; J. Gordon – 2,267; K. Harvick – 2,266; Kyle Busch – 2,258; C. Bowyer – 2,239; D. Earnhardt Jr. – 2,238; G. Biffle – 2,236; Kurt Busch – 2,219; C. Edwards – 2,218; J. Logano – 2,209; R. Newman – 2,188; K. Kahne – 2,170.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 27 2013
One Comment

One Comment »

  • NASCAR No Credibility says:

    The joke goes on, the joke goes on.

    Another chase race that I did not watch a single lap of. NASCAR has killed the golden goose.

    I wonder how much money Brian got from Hendrick to add Gordon to the Chase?

    After all Rick Hendrick has a history of bribery in his business practices.