Sunday, May 11, 2014

Jeff Gordon notches 89th career Cup win at Kansas Speedway

Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images


Call Jeff Gordon "Wonder Boy" because he's driving like The Kid again.

Last Wednesday, the four-time champion participated in a press conference at the NASCAR Hall of Fame to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his first Winston Cup win, which came in the Coca-Cola 600 on May 29, 1994.

Saturday night at Kansas Speedway, the driver that the late Dale Earnhardt dubbed "Wonder Boy," drove like it was 1994 to capture his 89th career victory.

With polesitter Kevin Harvick in hot pursuit, Gordon wove smoothly through lapped traffic to take the checkered flag and all but guarantee his position in the Chase.

Well, it was almost like 1994. In his first win, Gordon's margin of victory was 3.91 seconds. Saturday night it was a slim 0.112 seconds.

Gordon said, "Nothing makes me more proud than when it's all on the line and you get the lead and you've got to hold off somebody like Harvick and you get it done. It might have been by inches, but we got it done because that's what builds momentum, that's what builds a great race team and turns you not only into a winning team, but hopefully a championship team."

Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images
Harvick led 119 of 267 laps and the race commentators could not help but repeatedly refer to the No. 4 Jimmy John's Chevrolet as "freaky fast." Unfortunately, it could have used an extra sandwich because a green-flag pit stop on Lap 208 put Harvick behind.

"I didn't get down pit road very good there coming to the pit box,” Harvick explained. “I kind of ran out of gas, and I was paying attention to the fuel pressure gauge instead of the pit road speed light."

Kasey Kahne led twice for 22 laps, finishing third. That's his first top five this season. Joey Logano led six times for a total of  63 laps in his effort to be the first three-time winner of 2014, but had to settle for fourth. Dale Earnhardt Jr. led nine laps but wound up fifth because the cars were "twitchy."

Clint Bowyer lost control on Lap 47; his No. 15 Toyota looked as if it had overdosed on 5-hour ENERGY as it looped across the backstretch. On Lap 71, Denny Hamlin spun in Turn 2. Marcos Ambrose plowed across the infield on Lap 110, winding up on pit road. Kurt Busch did the double with spins on Laps 179 and 203.

Those twitchy cars didn't make for a good night for fast food sponsorships, with the exception of Jimmy John's, of course.

On Lap 59 David Ragan's No. 34 Taco Bell car started a flamenco dance in front of Ryan Truex's No. 83 Burger King machine, and before you could say "Home of the Whopper," they were wrecking. Landon Cassill and Michael Annett didn't want to dance but ended up getting twirled around anyway.

On Lap 150, Jamie McMurray's McDonald's car went into the wall. He headed to pit road in flames but ended up bailing out of the burning vehicle.

Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images
Then on Lap 187, AJ Allmendinger's No. 47 started fishtailing while he was on the inside of Paul Menard. Allmendinger tried but couldn't save it. He clipped the rear of Justin Allgaier's No. 51, launching Allgaier across the track and straight into David Gilliland's Long John Silver's car, which hit the wall, burst into flames and slid along the wall on the driver's side before twisting back toward the center of the track.

Fortunately, both Allgaier and Gilliland climbed out under their own power.

On the positive side, young Ryan Blaney made his Sprint Cup debut driving the No. 12 SKF Ford for Roger Penske, finishing a respectable 27th. Kyle Larson was the highest-finishing rookie with his 12th-place run.

Kyle Rivas/NASCAR via Getty Images
A week after becoming the first woman to lead laps at Talladega, Danica Patrick finished a career-high seventh. She ran as high as third at one point, passing both her current boss, Tony Stewart, and her former boss, Dale Earnhardt Jr., in one swoop. But that wasn't the high point of the night for her.

"Honestly, the most rewarding part of my night was probably when I drove around the outside of the No. 48 on a restart," Patrick said. "That was probably my most rewarding thing of the night. I say that with all the respect in the world. It’s a big deal because he is Jimmie Johnson."

Her GoDaddy.com team had the second-fastest pit stop times, too, right behind Kasey Kahne's Farmer's crew.

Heading into the All-Star Race, Jeff Gordon remains atop the points standings, leading Matt Kenseth by 15. At the other end of the spectrum, Kurt Busch sits in 28th. Despite his win, if he slides below 30th, the Outlaw will not make the Chase.

Unofficial finishing order:

1 Jeff Gordon
2 Kevin Harvick
3 Kasey Kahne
4 Joey Logano
5 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
6 Carl Edwards
7 Danica Patrick
8 Aric Almirola
9 Jimmie Johnson
10 Matt Kenseth
11 Ryan Newman
12 Kyle Larson
13 Brad Keselowski
14 Brian Vickers
15 Kyle Busch
16 Greg Biffle
17 Paul Menard
18 Denny Hamlin
19 Austin Dillon
20 Tony Stewart
21 Martin Truex Jr
22 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
23 Clint Bowyer
24 Marcos Ambrose
25 Michael Annett
26 Casey Mears
27 Ryan Blaney
28 Cole Whitt
29 Kurt Busch
30 AJ Allmendinger
31 Joe Nemechek
32 Reed Sorenson
33 Josh Wise
34 Travis Kvapil
35 Alex Bowman
36 Justin Allgaier
37 David Gilliland
38 David Ragan
39 Jamie McMurray
40 Timmy Hill
41 J.J. Yeley
42 Landon Cassill
43 Ryan Truex



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