NASCAR – Jeff Gordon Gets His First Win Since ’09, Denying Kyle Busch a Weekend Sweep

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Jeff Gordon back in the winners circle.  After 66 starts many had fallen to the belief that Gordon had seen his last days in the winners circle, but Big Daddy decided to prove them wrong as he took the win in the Subway Fresh Fit 500.  If anyone could have fulfilled a wish for NASCAR this would definitely be one of them.  The crowd certainly seemed to agree as Jeff Gordon drove past Kyle Busch with 8 laps to go and never needed to look in his rear view again.  Having run up front and led laps early Gordon knew he had a car that could win it, but as late race cautions began to shuffle the field and Kyle Busch got out front, it looked like the sweep was inevitable until the final restart.

With 23 laps to go Tony Stewart made a 2 tire pit stop and came out at the head of the field, a decision which proved costly as he moved backwards through the field quickly finishing in 7th.  Kyle Busch passed Stewart with Jeff Gordon following closely as Busch began to check out on the field.  Gordon was the only car that could keep up with Busch at first and for the next 15 laps Gordon closed the distance.  Then with only 8 laps remaining, Gordon got his bumper up under Busch’s rear fender causing him to wiggle just enough for Gordon to make the pass.

“He was gaining on me really good, and I knew he was going to get to me eventually, and this place is so flat and it’s one groove that we all run the bottom,” Busch said of the sequence where Gordon got to his bumper on Lap 304.  The noise from the crowd was deafening as Gordon started to check out on the field and never looked back.

While we may have lost the Intimidator 10 years ago,  Gordon showed that he had certainly been paying attention in class with a move that reminded me of  Dale Earnhardt Sr. and proved that Gordon still has what it takes to get the win.

“He got so tucked up behind me in 3 and 4, he got me loose, and I could not put the gas down,” Busch said. “I mean, he was so far up underneath me that I could not go forward.”

Gordon was absolutely beside himself as he climbed out of his car.

“God, it feels so amazing,” the four-time Cup champion said. “I can’t tell you how amazing this feels. So thankful to Rick Hendrick, all that he does. It’s been a long time, I know. I’m going to savor this one so much, but I’ve got to say thanks to the fans.

“I mean not only the fans at home — I’ve been tweeting lately for the first time and all of the stuff that people have been saying, the motivation has been unbelievably inspiring. And then to see that crowd stick around to see my really lame burnout, because I stink at them, but they love that show. Man, we hope we can give them some more shows like that this year.”

“We beat Kyle Busch out there, and we all know how hard he is to beat.”

While Gordon’s win was the biggest story from the weekend there were a lot of changes in the standings lineup, probably more than anticipated by the drivers.  With Gordon finishing first and Jimmie Johnson finishing 3rd they made major gains in the points standings.  Gordon moved from 26th to 5th with the win, proving as many had stated that the points system is no more difficult to recover from a bad day that it had been before.  Jimmie Johnson who was only 1 spot worse than Gordon before the race moved up to 13th without the benefits of the bonus points that Gordon had earned.  Tony Stewart showed that consistancy will be rewarded with this new system as well, after finishing in the top 15 at Daytona and 7th at Phoenix he maintains a 3rd place spot in the standings.  Kyle Busch passed Kurt Busch both on the track and in the points to take the lead out of reach of his older brother’s hands for now.  Carl Edwards, who had come in to the race as the points leader, suffered from an early race incident with Kyle Busch, who later apologized to Edwards during a post race interview (was that the real Kyle Busch out there?) and ended the race with a dismal 28th place finish which moved him backward to 12th in the standings.

Edwards, who had led 21 laps, felt like he let an excellent chance at victory slip through his fingertips.

“That’s the car to beat, right there, sitting in the garage,” said Edwards, pointing back at his damaged ride. “That’s the fastest car here. That thing’s unreal. I was just cruising out there, screaming fast. It’s just too good of a race and too good of a race car to be sitting here, watching.”

“My first impression was that Kyle was just frustrated that Ryan got by me and he turned down,” Edwards said. “But I looked at that and it looked like he might have just gotten loose. I’ll talk to him about it.

“Regardless of what caused it, that wreck took the fastest car out of the race. That car is so fast, you guys. It was a joy to drive. I was having a blast. We took two tires and we were screaming, four tires and we were screaming. The thing was just awesome, I feel bad.”

A.J. Allmendinger, Kasey Kahne and Dale Earnhardt Jr. also all had an excellent day at the track.  Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished just inside the top 10 with his 10th place finish moving him from 22nd in points up to 17th and showed that Jr. still has what it takes to get up to the front, when you have to start from near the back of the field.  Allmendinger got his 2nd top 10 finish of the season so far leaving the track with a 9th place finish and a 3rd place tie with Tony Stewart in the standings.  Kasey Kahne  finished 6th in what he has declared to be his worst track in the series.  His finish allowed him to move up to 15th in the standings overall.

“We’ve always struggled getting off the corners, struggled spinning the tires. I feel like we hit on some stuff that helped that, and that was probably the biggest thing that helped us.” said Khane about his improvement on the track at Phoenix.

Phoenix, which will undergo a radical repaving job between races, has never been a good track for Kahne. So for him to escape a carnage-filled race with a sixth-place finish was a victory of sorts.

“I’m really excited they’re repaving it,” Kahne said with a smile after Sunday’s race. “I actually really like this place. I raced midgets and Silver Crown and all that stuff here and really have always liked this track. As far as Cup racing goes, I’m looking forward to the new one.”

The points system, while different from last season, seems to be just as forgiving as the previous system with the results in now from 2 races, but only time will tell for sure.  While there less points to earn with each race, that also means less points to overcome after suffering from a bad day as a lot of NASCAR’s top drivers had in the lap 29 wreck at Daytona.  Consistency will pay off and we will have the drivers who manage to finish best through out the season in the chase when this all shakes out at the end.   Yesterday I also noticed something I had missed when reading the points system changes previously.  The field this year in the chase will be decided by the top 10 in points for the first 10 spots, while the final 2 spots in the chase will be awarded to the drivers who place between 10th and 20th who have the most wins.  A pair of wild card slots if you will.  It is going to be an interesting finish to a season that has already started out with some very unpredictable results.



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