ThatsRacin

Martinsville Rewind: Jeff Gordon punches his ticket to Chase finale

Jeff Gordon celebrates winning the Goody’s 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
Jeff Gordon celebrates winning the Goody’s 500 at Martinsville Speedway. AP

Jeff Gordon won the Goody’s 500 on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway and will move on to the championship round of NASCAR’s Chase.

Gordon’s victory – the first of the Chase’s third round – was his first of the season. It was also the 93rd of his career and his ninth at Martinsville. Gordon will be one of four drivers racing for the championship in the season finale Nov. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Gordon, who has won four titles and is retiring after this season, edged Jamie McMurray to win as the race ended in near darkness. Two other non-Chase drivers – Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. – were third and fourth, respectively. Kyle Busch was fifth and Martin Truex Jr. sixth.

The race was marred by a controversial wreck involving Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano. After Logano passed Kenseth on Lap 454, Kenseth knocked Logano’s Ford into the Turn 1 wall. It appeared to be in retaliation for when Logano pushed Kenseth aside on his way to winning at Kansas two weeks ago.

Turning point

Gordon passed Hamlin and then AJ Allmendinger after the Kenseth-Logano wreck on Lap 454 caused the race to be red flagged. Gordon led the final 22 laps of the race, holding off McMurray, as darkness fell.

Chase update

How the NASCAR Chase drivers fared:

1. Jeff Gordon (4,047 points): Wins first race of season and now finds himself heading to Homestead with chance at fifth Cup championship.

2. Kyle Busch (8 behind): Solid fifth-place finish leaves him in best shape of non-winning drivers heading to Texas this week.

3. Martin Truex Jr. (8 behind): Started second and had a strong car all afternoon, leading 27 laps. Sixth-place finish keeps him in contention.

4. Kevin Harvick (10 behind): Led 38 laps, finished eighth and wasn’t the center of post-race attention this week.

5. Carl Edwards (17 behind): Didn’t have much speed at all, finishing 14th. Edwards’ No. 19 Toyota suffered significant damage when it was caught up in a wreck on Lap 172.

6. Brad Keselowski (34 behind): Led a race-high 143 laps before getting swept up in a wreck with Kurt Busch and Kenseth.

7. Kurt Busch (36 behind): Hit backstretch wall hard on wreck on Lap 435, eventually finished 34th.

8. Joey Logano (38 behind): Taken out of the race after he had taken lead from Kenseth, finished 37th and saw three-race win streak come to an end.

Observations

▪ Kenseth wouldn’t directly own up to wrecking Logano on purpose after the race. Since Kenseth didn’t, there’s no way of knowing if he did it intentionally or not. But all the conditions were there for it to happen. Logano had just passed Kenseth and was on his way to winning and advancing into the championship round of the Chase.

▪ Trevor Bayne raced Harvick hard during one stretch. Although Bayne isn’t in the Chase, it was no doubt a result of Harvick’s under-powered car crashing into him last week during a late restart at Talladega. Harvick eventually got past Bayne, who was then bumped out of the way and up the track by Truex, another Chase driver.

▪  Danica Patrick and David Gilliland got into a back-and-forth on Lap 419 when Gilliland ran Patrick into the wall. Patrick then tried to wreck Gilliland back, but it didn’t work as she spun in the middle of the track.

They said it

“We’re going to Homestead! Whoo-hoo!” – Gordon.

“Some days you’re the bat. Some days you’re the ball.” – Kenseth.

“That was a complete coward move.” – Logano.

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Next race

AAA Texas 500

Where: Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, Texas.

When: Sunday, 2 p.m.

TV: NBC.

Radio: Performance Racing Network.

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