UPS Game-Changing Moments: Martinsville
October 27, 2013, Staff report, NASCAR.com
GORDON MAKES LATE PASS FOR FIRST WIN OF 2013
Jeff Gordon once appeared to own sole possession of that title, but he ceded it to Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson several years ago. Gordon took a large step toward reclaiming it Sunday when he earned his first win of the season, and the eighth of his career at Martinsville Speedway, by capturing the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500.
Gordon made what proved to be the winning pass on Matt Kenseth with 21 laps to go and then held off Kenseth and the rest of the field for the victory. It moved him into third place in the Chase for the Sprint Cup standings, 27 points behind Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson, who are now tied for first with three races remaining in the season.
"I'm just so proud of my team for never giving up. We've shown it all year long and we've been through a lot. But this is making it all worth it, to get this huge win at Martinsville," Gordon said in Victory Lane. "Man, what a great race car."
KENSETH LEADS MOST LAPS, FINISHES SECOND TO CATCH JOHNSON
Kenseth was attempting to win for the first time in 28 career starts at Martinsville, where he typically has struggled.
"Jeff's experience got me. I just don't have that much experience running up front here," Kenseth said. "I had something that was working, but I was hurting the rear tires and ended up hurting the front tires, too."
Johnson, who also owns eight career wins at Martinsville, finished fifth. He said he wasn't surprised Kenseth bucked past history and tightened the Chase points race.
"It's been a great battle with the 20 car (driven by Kenseth) and the 24 team (of Gordon) has shown it wants to be a part of the championship battle as well," said Johnson, who owned a four-point advantage heading into Sunday's race. "It's going to be a fight to the end. It's what I want to see and I know it's what the fans want to see, too. We'll keep digging hard."
Kenseth appeared in command but ended up barely holding off Clint Bowyer to finish second after Gordon made his nifty pass to the inside going into Turn 1 on Lap 479 of the 500-lap event. He and Johnson spent much of the day sparring, trying different strategies as numerous cautions – a total of 17 for 111 laps in all -- continued to mount on the only short track on the 10-race Chase schedule.
At times, Johnson and Kenseth took turns running up front. Then one would fall back, only to rally again.
Gordon, meanwhile, kept lurking in the vicinity of the Chase leaders. Now he can be called one of them, as he at least injected himself into the championship conversation heading to Texas.
"I think anyone within a race (or 43 points of the lead) is still in it," Kenseth said.
Using that criteria, that would also include Kevin Harvick, who is in fourth and 27 points back; and Kyle Busch, who is in fifth and 36 back heading into next Sunday's AAA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
HARVICK GETS INTO NEWMAN BUT STAYS IN TITLE CONTENTION
After getting spun out in Saturday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, Kevin Harvick spun Ryan Newman in Sunday's race on his way to a sixth-place finish that finds him fourth in the Chase standings, 28 points out of the lead and only one point behind Gordon.
"First thing I want to do is apologize to Ryan Newman," Harvick said. "I tried to shoot in the gap and just barely clipped the right rear (of) his car. It doesn't make his day better but just got to thank all my guys on the Rheem Chevrolet.
"…We battled all day and had a decent car. They adjusted for the damage and had the car really good there at the end, and we live to fight another day."