GORDON ENDS 66-RACE NASCAR DROUGHT AT PIR
Track excavation begins with Gordon’s pull of the lever
While fans at Phoenix International Raceway said goodbye to the track’s old racing surface and configuration, Jeff Gordon bid adieu to a winless streak of 66 races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Gordon pulled away from Kyle Busch during the closing laps for victory in the SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500 at P. I. R.
At the end of a caution period, the field restarted on lap 291, with 22 to go. Gordon was in third place behind leader Tony Stewart on the outside and Busch inside the front row in second place. Busch galloped to the lead over Stewart, who had gambled to improve his track position by taking two tires on lap 283. When Gordon drove his Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet past Stewart for second place, he took off after Busch. Gordon caught him on lap 305, tapped the Combos Toyota just enough to cause a slight bobble in turn four by Busch, who was looking for a sweep of NASCAR’s three main events this weekend. Gordon drove under Busch in turn one and was on his way with the checkered flag soon in sight.
“I knew Jeff was going to catch me,” explained Busch. “He drifted up into me in turn one, but it made no difference. Jeff was too strong.”
Gordon’s victory was the 83rd of his Cup career and tied him for fourth all-time with Cale Yarborough. Richard Petty remains well in front with 200 wins.
Two wrecks considerably impacted the outcome. Busch, by his own admission, accidentally caused the first on lap 60 when his car got loose, and in correcting it he cut down into pole-sitter Carl Edwards. “I apologize to Carl Edwards,“ said Busch. “It was my fault, and I completely destroyed his race.”
Edwards’ SUBWAY Ford received considerable damage, much to his and his crew’s frustration. Edwards said, “Our car was so good, we should have been fighting for the win.” Instead he finished 28th, 60 laps off Gordon’s pace.
The second accident came right after the next restart, and it was a “big one” that collected 13 cars and was reminiscent of the kind of wrecks created by the tight racing on restrictor-plate tracks. It started when Brian Vickers got loose, and when it was over, dozens of crew members were rushing to the garage to try to quickly repair their crushed cars.
Gordon was understandably happy afterward, saying, “It’s been a long time, I know.” He also saluted the ticket-holders of P.I.R. “I’m happy the fans stuck around for my lame burnout. I’m pretty bad at them,” he laughed.
Gordon’s teammate, Jimmie Johnson, suffered through a slow, late pit stop but rallied to a third place finish. Kevin Harvick finished fourth, and Ryan Newman was fifth.