It was a long day that saw 17 caution flags fly while Jeff Gordon prevailed to win his 88th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race after taking the lead with 21 laps to go in the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway Sunday. It's Gordon's first win of the 2013 season and Gordon is proud of his Hendrick Motorsports team.
"I'm so proud of my guys for never giving up," Gordon said in the front stretch victory lane at Martinsville Speedway. "We've been through a lot this year. Nothing better than getting a clock at Martinsville."
Gordon passed Matt Kenseth, who led the most laps during the race with 202, in the closing stages to win. Kenseth finished second but was not at all disappointed with his team's effort.
"Nothing to complain about here. Jeff's experience running up front here got me," the 2003 NASCAR Cup Champion said.
Kenseth is now tied with Jimmie Johnson for the points lead as the series heads into Texas Motor Speedway next weekend.
Clint Bowyer finished in the third position, with Brad Keselowski finishing fourth and Jimmie Johnson finished fifth. Finishing sixth was Kevin Harvick with Denny Hamlin finishing seventh, Dale Earnhardt Jr eighth, Greg Biffle ninth and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top ten.
The race started with Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson on the front row. Johnson shot to the lead off the outside and took the lead. Three laps later the race was slowed for its first caution flag when Jeff Burton spun collecting Dave Blaney. Both drivers would continue. From there Johnson led until lap 25 when it was Kyle Busch passing the five time champion for the lead. Busch soon felt pressure from teammate Kenseth and Kenseth got the lead on lap 37. Kenseth's lead was growing and on lap 75 his lead was a half second over Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. On lap 88 Travis Kvapil spun causing the races' second caution flag.
The leaders would pit and on lap 95 Matt Kenseth would pull away after the restart. On lap 111 Jimmie Johnson passed Kenseth for the lead and began to pull away from the field. David Ragan blew his engine on the same lap and would go to the garage. He finished 43rd.
Johnson was leading when the races' third caution flag flew when David Reutimann spun after contact with Bobby Labonte. Johnson still led on lap 147 when the race restarted and pulled away from the new second place driver Juan Pablo Montoya. Jeff Gordon would get the second position from Montoya with Matt Kenseth getting third on lap 150. The races' fourth caution flag flew when Kyle Larson blew his engine, leaving oil all over the track. Larson finished 42nd.
Jeff Burton stayed out during the caution and found himself in the lead on the lap 181 restart. Johnson would get the lead off the restart but on lap 182 the races' fifth caution flag flew when Kasey Kahne, Martin Truex Jr, Denny Hamlin, Ken Schrader and Aric Almirola crashed in turn three. Kahne was stuck in the inside wall and his car had to be towed from the wall. Kahne would continue as would everyone else.
The race restarted on lap 192 with Johnson still in front and setting pace. He led until the races sixth caution flag when Kurt Busch spun collecting Mark Martin on lap 204. Both drivers had pretty decent damage but would continue.On lap 210 Jimmie Johnson pulled away and led after the restart. On lap 217 Johnson would lose the lead to Matt Kenseth. One lap later the races' seventh caution flag flew when Travis Kvapil spun. Kvapil would continue and finish 24th.
The race restarted on lap 223 with Matt Kenseth on the inside. Kenseth pulled away and on lap 230 the races' eighth caution flag of the day flew when David Reutimann spun. Reutimann would finish in the 37th position after retiring from the event due to engine issues later in the race. Some leaders would pit including Jimmie Johnson, who would restart in the 16th position. On lap 235 Matt Kenseth led and would immediately feel heat from Clint Bowyer. On lap 238 Clint Bowyer got the lead from Kenseth and began to pull away and show his strength.
By lap 255 Bowyer's lead was a second and a half over as Kenseth's Toyota began to fade on the long run. Kenseth found himself in the ninth position on lap 257. Jimmie Johnson, meanwhile, was flying through the field and by lap 264 he was in the fifth position. He was fourth on lap 274 and Kenseth was running 14th in desperate need of a caution flag.
In the front of the field Jeff Gordon began to put heat on Clint Bowyer for the top spot and made the pass on lap 282. Three laps later though the races' ninth caution flag flew when Reed Sorenson stopped in turn three. Sorenson finished in the 40th position. After pit stops Jeff Gordon found himself in the lead on the lap 291 restart. Gordon pulled away but the lead was short lived because on lap 300 debris caused the races' tenth caution flag. Gordon led on the lap 304 restart but on lap 307 the races' 11th caution flag flew when Landon Cassill spun in turn three. Cassill would continue and finish 29th.
Gordon was still in front on the lap 315 restart and he pulled away from the field. On lap 318 the races' 12th caution flag flew when Ryan Newman crashed hard after contact with Kevin Harvick. Newman finished 38th. Gordon was still in front on the lap 326 restart when Martin Truex Jr went around causing the races' 13th caution flag. Gordon led on the lap 331 restart and pulled away on the restart but the race was slowed for the 14th time for debris. Gordon would pit and relinquish the lead to pole sitter Denny Hamlin.
Hamlin led on the lap 342 restart but felt early pressure from Clint Bowyer. Bowyer passed Hamlin for the lead on lap 351 and began to pull away from the field. On lap 362 Matt Kenseth would pass Hamlin for the second position and began to set his sights on Bowyer. Two laps later Cole Whitt spun and hit the wall. Whitt would finish 35th. The lead lap cars would pit, except for Elliott Sadler who was driving the #55 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing filling in for Brian Vickers. Sadler would lead the field to green on the lap 371 restart. Matt Kenseth got the lead after restarting in the third spot as Sadler would immediately lose the lead and drop back. He finished 25th.
Meanwhile Kenseth remained in front when the races' 16th caution flag flew when J.J. Yeley spun in turn three. Yeley was wrecked after a tangle with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Yeley finished 30th. The race restarted on lap 385 and Kenseth was still the man in charge of the race.
Meanwhile Jeff Gordon and teammate Jimmie Johnson were making their way through the field and began to chase down the leaders. On lap 407 Gordon was in the fifth position with Johnson in his tracks in sixth. On lap 413 Gordon moved to fourth and he passed Denny Hamlin for the third spot on lap 414. The races' 17th and final caution flag flew for debris on the backstretch and the leaders would pit for the final time on lap 417.
Matt Kenseth won the race off pit road with Brad Keselowski in second and Jeff Gordon in third. Kenseth led on the lap 424 restart and Gordon would get the second position from Keselowski. He began chasing down Kenseth and by lap 475 Gordon was right on Kenseth's tail. He made the pass for the lead on lap 479 and without much pressure the rest of the way Gordon won his 88th career event.
Other notables in the field included, Carl Edwards in 12th, Joey Logano in 14th and Kyle Busch in 15th. Danica Patrick finished as the first car one lap down in 17th and Kurt Busch finished 18th. Kasey Kahne finished 27th.
Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson are tied atop the point standings as the Sprint Cup Series heads into the Texas Motor Speedway for the running of the AAA Texas 500. It will be race eight of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Third in the standings is Jeff Gordon who is 27 points back of both Kenseth and Johnson. Fourth in the standings is Kevin Harvick, who is 28 points back and Kyle Busch is fifth 36 points back. Sixth in the standings is Clint Bowyer with Dale Earnhardt Jr seventh, Greg Biffle eighth, Kurt Busch ninth and Carl Edwards tenth. Eleventh in the standings is Joey Logano with Ryan Newman in 12th and Kasey Kahne in 13th.
The AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway will start at 3:16 p.m. ET on Sunday, November 3rd.
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