Amanda Vincent, NASCAR correspondent
Gordon claims 85th career Cup victory; Johnson, Stewart finish 2nd & 3rd
The race to win the AdvoCare 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Tuesday came down to a battle between Hendrick Motorsports teammates -- Jeff Gordon in the No. 24 Chevrolet and Jimmie Johnson in the No 48 Chevrolet. Gordon came out the victor, claiming his 85th-career win to claim sole possession of third on the all-time win list. Johnson was forced to finish second.
“That was a lot of fun, racing with him (Johnson),” Gordon said.
Our car was so strong at the beginning of a run
Tony Stewart was third in the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, and Kurt Busch finished fourth in the No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge.
“It was a great run for us, a Chase-like effort,” Busch said.
After heavy rains moved through the Atlanta area on Sunday, the day the race was originally scheduled, and continued through Monday, the event finally took the green flag on Tuesday. Rain wasn’t completely out of the area by the start of the race though, as the event was red flagged for weather with 115 laps to go and laps were ran under caution a couple of other times because of a light mist.
“I don’t care if it’s a Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday,” Gordon said of the long delay.
Gordon took the lead on lap 44 of the 325-lap race, and dominated much of the rest of the way. As cars that were fast and running near the front early -- like the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Kyle Busch and the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Matt Kenseth -- faded back in the latter stages of the race, cars that looked more like “also rans” early on -- like the Johnson’s No. 48 -- improved throughout the race and made their way toward the front to battle for top positions.
“We started the race really bad, but we made some adjustments on pit road and it came to us,” Johnson said.
While some drivers gradually moved forward and others slid back as the race wore on, Gordon was one of the few drivers who looked to have a car to beat both early-on and late in the race.
“Our car was so strong at the beginning of a run,” Gordon said. “We used it up at the end.”
Both the No. 24 and the No. 48 handled like cars that had been used up as the two drivers battled in the closing laps, with both Gordon and Johnson getting sideways several times late in the race.
“I am so glad I grew up racing in the dirt,” Johnson said of his loose-handling race car.
Johnson nearly went a lap down early in the race when he found himself running outside the top-20. He overcame his early-race woes to move into the second spot on a restart with 94 laps to go. He then proceeded to take the lead on the next restart that followed a lap-241 yellow flag.
Gordon did fall back a few positions in the second half of the race but worked his way back up front to claim the lead with 40 laps to go. Soon after Gordon retook the lead, the field began cycling through green flag pit stops, the final pit stops of the day. The No. 24 and the No. 48 occupied the top-two spots when the cycled completed, and they pulled away from the rest of the field to duke it out for the win.
Gordon pulled away from Johnson for a few laps, but Johnson gradually reeled him back in. In the final 10 laps, Johnson pulled up beside Gordon several different times but was unable to complete the pass.
“He had one or two shots at me,” Gordon said.
Carl Edwards rounded out the top-five in the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.