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Gordon builds momentum for 2013 with victory at Homestead

November 19, 2012, Holly Cain, Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com



Gordon builds momentum for 2013 with victory at Homestead
Gordon builds momentum for 2013 with victory at Homestead

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- If Jeff Gordon's on-track tangle to settle a score with Clint Bowyer a week ago didn't convince you the four-time champ is still passionate about racing, then his dramatic victory Sunday in the Sprint Cup season finale at Homestead should.

Deftly going from controversy to celebration, the 41-year old Gordon collected his 87th win in NASCAR's marquee series -- a mark second only to Hall of Famers Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105).

"With the way this team has handled things and fought through things and some great moments and some pretty low moments to be able to end the season like this, pretty amazing."

--JEFF GORDON

And scoring the victory at Homestead means Gordon has won at every single track NASCAR visits except Kentucky Speedway.

It was more remarkable this week since Gordon came under fire for his retaliatory move in Phoenix last week, that sent a message to Bowyer but also collected innocent bystanders Joey Logano and Aric Almirola.

Gordon and Bowyer's crews skirmished wildly and the video of the melee has been played repeatedly the past week.

This week Gordon was fined $100,000, penalized 25 championship points and placed on probation until Dec. 31.

Worse than that was the questionable publicity for one of the sport's all-around good guys and most respected champions.

"It's like our whole season wrapped up in one week,'' an elated Gordon said. "Definitely the emotions, you can try to move past the moment, but man, it just ate me up inside all week. I just kept going back and forth about the decisions that I made -- wishing I had made different decisions to backing up my decisions.''

Gordon said he apologized to his team before the race for putting them in a difficult position.

"And I thanked them at the same time for having my back,'' Gordon said. "We've had to have one another's backs because we've all made mistakes this year. And so to be able to celebrate with them in victory lane was very special, very meaningful and gives a tremendous amount of momentum to go into 2013 with the new race car.''

Yet for all the padding of the record books he's doing, Gordon remains most focused on winning another championship. And although he finished 2012 ranked 10th in the standings, finishing out a season with a win is the best way to start the next.

Had he not been given the point penalty, Gordon would have finished seventh in the standings, only a single point behind sixth place Denny Hamlin.

"We talked about it before the race started,'' team owner Rick Hendrick said. "We wanted momentum out of this race carrying into next year.''

Said Gordon, "With the way this team has handled things and fought through things and some great moments and some pretty low moments to be able to end the season like this, pretty amazing.''