Jeff Gordon added to his legacy at Martinsville Speedway, winning there Sunday for the ninth time in his career by capturing the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500.
It was the first win of 2015 for Gordon and gives him an automatic berth in the final four-driver round in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway three weeks from now.
In addition to earning his 93rd career Sprint Cup win, Gordon, who also assumed the points lead in the Sprint Cup standings, is now the winningest active driver at the paper clip short track, breaking a former tie with teammate Jimmie Johnson. Richard Petty remains the all-time record holder with 15 career wins there.
Several of the eight remaining Chase drivers had rough days and find themselves in trouble after the first of the three races in Round 3. That list includes Penske Racing teammates Joey Logano, who is unofficially last in the eight-driver Chase standings, 38 points behind Gordon. Also taking big hits in the points were Logano’s teammate, Brad Keselowski (sixth place, 34 points back), as well as Kurt Busch (seventh, 36 points back).
Just as big of a story as Gordon winning was Matt Kenseth putting Logano into the wall on Lap 454. Logano was attempting to lap Kenseth when the contact occurred.
Both cars suffered heavy damage. Kenseth’s car was unable to be repaired, while Logano came back on-track with four laps remaining. Being unable to get back in the race was problematic for Kenseth, as NASCAR ruled he would be parked if he could get his car restarted.
Although Kenseth said over his team radio that he believed his right front tire blew out, an argument could be made Kenseth’s actions were payback for when Logano wrecked Kenseth at Kansas two races ago.
Kenseth, crew chief Jason Ratcliff and team owner Joe Gibbs were summoned to the NASCAR hauler after the race.
“It was just a complete coward move,” Logano, who finished 37th, said of Kenseth on NBCSN. “It’s a chicken you-know-what move to completely take the leader when your race is over. We’ll move on, we’re going to work hard.”
Kenseth replied to NBCSN, “I got outside of Joey and was going to race him for the win. Brad wiped me out for some reason. I’m not really sure why. We had so much damage on the right front, I probably should have just put it in the garage. I got into (turn) one and couldn’t get it to turn and ran Joey over. Disappointing end for sure. … Some days you’re the bat, some day’s you’re the ball. It’s never any fun when you’re the ball.”
Kenseth waved to the crowd after drawing a large round of applause when he climbed from his wrecked car. Logano, meanwhile, received some cheers as well, but not to the extent of Kenseth.
How Gordon won: When Logano was taken out by Kenseth, Gordon had the best car for the remainder of the race. Jamie McMurray gave Gordon a strong battle in the closing laps, but Gordon was not to be denied.
Who else had a good race: This was arguably the best race of the season for McMurray. To his credit, he raced Gordon hard and clean. … Even though they were both eliminated from the Chase last week at Talladega, Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. both had late rallies to finish third and fourth, respectively. … Chase driver Carl Edwards battled overheating issues after being involved in a multi-car wreck and suffered significant front end damage, but still managed to rally late to finish 14th. … Tony Stewart had one of his best finishes of the season, rallying back with a back-up car to finish 10th.
Who had a bad race: Greg Biffle was involved in at least four incidents in the race, including three spins. He finished 26th. … Danica Patrick ran as high as the top 10 before she was involved in wrecks with Clint Bowyer and then David Gilliland. She finished 40th. … Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hit the wall hard just short of the one-fourth point of the race, suffering heavy damage to the right front end of his Ford. Stenhouse finished 39th. … Former Chaser Clint Bowyer was involved in a heavy wreck about one-third of the way through and finished 43rd. … Brad Keselowski (finished 32nd) and Kurt Busch (finished 34th) saw strong days come to an end on Lap 434 when Keselowski made contact with Kenseth, who then pushed Busch into the inside retaining wall.
Notable: Gordon celebrated in victory lane with children Ella and Leo and wife Ingrid, showing emotion that arguably hasn’t been seen since his fourth and last Sprint Cup championship in 2001. Gordon laughed, cheered and even held back tears. He even joked, “I’m coming back next year,” even though he acknowledged shortly after that he will not change his plans to retire at season’s end. … To illustrate how big of a finish this was, many of the race fans in attendance stayed after the race to watch all of the post-race celebrations. “I can’t wait to wake up from this dream I’m in and know when I stand next to that (grandfather’s clock) that it really did happen,” Gordon said.
Quote of the day: “We’re going to Homestead! What an incredible battle that was. We just stuck with it all day long. … Jamie McMurray raced me hard and clean. What a battle. We seized an opportunity there. … This has turned into a fairytale year.” – Race winner Jeff Gordon on not only winning his first victory of 2015, but also gaining an automatic berth for the season-ending and championship-deciding race at Homestead in three weeks.
What’s next: AAA Texas 500 on Sunday, Nov. 8 at Texas Motor Speedway, the eighth of 10 races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.