Gordon grabs wild 500 win at Daytona

Gordon grabs wild 500 win at Daytona

A series of late-race cautions set up a green-white-checkered finish to determine the winner of the Great American Race. In the end, Jeff Gordon held off the hard-charging cars of Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to wheel the No. 24 Hendrick ...

A series of late-race cautions set up a green-white-checkered finish to determine the winner of the Great American Race. In the end, Jeff Gordon held off the hard-charging cars of Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to wheel the No. 24 Hendrick Chevrolet to victory for the 70th time in his career.

Jeff Gordon takes the checkered flag ahead of Kurt Busch.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
"I am so stoked," said Gordon in victory lane. "I was trying to pass so many people. I thought Tony Stewart was going to be the guy. And he held us off for so long. I had three shots at him and he drove a great race car. It was fun racing him. Dale Jr. came out of nowhere. He was just hanging back there all day until it really counted.

"And I was worried. He pushed me a couple of times. I thought there was no way I was going to be able to keep him behind me. When he got the lead, I thought it was all over. I've got to thank Jimmie Johnson. He gave me a couple of great pushes."

It is Gordon's third Daytona 500 win and the fifth for Hendrick Motorsports. Gordon dedicated his victory to the people who lost their lives in the Martinsville plane crash last year.

Victory burnout for Jeff Gordon.
Photo by Bob Harmeyer.
"This win is dedicated to those families who were part of the tragic loss last year," Gordon said. "It's something we'll never forget. Days like today allow us to honor them that much more and we're thankful that we're in victory lane and can talk about them and honor them."

Gordon makes an early start in his bid for 'the drive for five' as he takes the lead in Cup series points.

Kurt Busch drove the wheels off the No. 97 Ford making a bold move on the final restart to slice between Earnhardt and Gordon to grab second. A great start to Busch's season who is the defending Nextel Cup champ.

"We were in great position to be able to win the race," said Busch. "We kept moving towards the front all day, we had very timely pit stops and we're able to stay in the lead bunch. With a green-white-checker finish you always look to see where you can punch a hole."

Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr..
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Third place went to Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who was mired mid-pack most of the day, until he managed to propel from 17th to third within 17 laps near the end of the event. He challenged for the win at times, but just did not have the power to out motor Gordon.

"We struggled all day with the car it wouldn't turn, at one point there we were just terrible," said Earnhardt. "I don't know how we didn't loose the draft and get lapped. I got the car handling good and we just drove right up through there. I got a lot of help from Greg Biffle to get into the top ten.

"I wanted to help Tony (Stewart) but we couldn't really get in the same line, besides he had the lead and I wanted it and it was time to get by.I wasn't going to sit on his bumper until the checker fell that wouldn't have been a lot of fun."

Scott Riggs and Jimmie Johnson completed the top five.

"We were all trying to block," said Johnson. "Do what we could. Evidently he (Stewart) was upset with me for blocking him like you're supposed to and kept running to the outside in turn 1. I just tried saving my car and we bounced off each other a few times.

Another restart, another crash.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
"There is no retaliation. We were wheel to wheel and it almost spun me out and I ran back into him. It was one of those deals. I'm sure he's upset. He led a lot today and didn't win the race."

Stewart was indeed upset with his seventh-place result. He and Johnson were called into the NASCAR hauler post race to discuss aggressive driving. PR representatives stated that the two had amiably resolved the issue with NASCAR and that there were no hard feelings.

"It was fine," said Stewart who led a race-high 107 laps. "Like he (Johnson) said, we're racing and it's the last lap of the Daytona 500. You know, I was mad he pinched me into the No. 10 (Riggs). We went down there and we both bumped into each other. We both did the same thing to each other. So, you know its fine."

Dale Jarrett led the field to the green flag for the 47th running of the Daytona 500 but Johnson overtook the No. 88 Ford coming out of turn four to lead the first lap. As Johnson took the lead, Jarrett was knocked loose by the fast approaching car of Earnhardt and repelled from second to 30th.

Pitstop for Travis Kvapil.
Photo by Greg Aleck.
Johnson's tenure at the top wasn't long as Tony Stewart powered the No. 20 Chevy to the lead on lap three. Stewart was atop the charts when the first caution of the day occurred when the No. 18 Chevy of Bobby Labonte blew an engine on lap 15.

Most of the field entered pit road for service but a two-tire stop by the No. 22 Dodge team of Scott Wimmer got them out before Stewart, who emerged fourth.

Wimmer navigated the field to the green on the restart at lap 18 and stayed upfront until lap 20 when the No. 15 DEI power house of Michael Waltrip blew past on four fresh tires followed by Stewart and Kurt Busch.

Waltrip was leading when the second caution flew at lap 28. Ricky Rudd's tire casing flew off creating a chain reaction crash that collected Elliott Sadler, Kyle Busch, Mike Wallace and Boris Said. Only Wallace and Busch had to go behind the wall for repairs, the rest were able to make repairs on pit road, everyone remained on the lead lap except for Rudd who fell on lap down.

Waltrip continued to be the front runner at the restart on lap 30 until a round of green flag pit stops on lap 61. On that stop, eleven drivers were nabbed for speeding on pit road and had to come in for stop-and-go penalty. Among those drivers were Sterling Marlin, Dave Blaney, Sadler, Mark Martin, Busch, Jeremy Mayfield, Johnson, Casey Mears, Travis Kvapil and Bobby Hamilton, Jr.

Martin, Busch, and Johnson were all running in the top-ten at the time of the assessment. After all the drama shook out, Gordon manned the front of the freight train.

Gordon led the field through the third yellow flag flying at lap 84 for debris in the tri-oval. Sadler was the lucky dog on that caution gaining his position back on the lead lap.

Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch fight for the lead.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Stewart smoked the field on pit road and regained the top spot for the restart on lap 89. The fourth caution came out on lap 104 for debris on the race track and the leaders once again came down pit lane for service. Stewart fell to second after Wimmer once again took two-tires to gain the lead but it didn't take long for Stewart (with a push from Waltrip) to out horsepower Wimmer.

Stewart remained in the lead through several subsequent pit stop and cautions until lap 153 when the No. 31 RCR Chevy of Jeff Burton stayed out and grabbed number one. Burton was leading when the No. 15 of Waltrip blew an engine on lap 161 bringing out the seventh yellow flag.

The field restarted with 35 laps to go with Stewart at the front of the pack but the cautions just kept coming. The No. 11 Chevy of Jason Leffler and the No. 14 Ford of John Andretti made contact resulting in the eighth caution period.

With 31 laps to go, all of the leaders pitted for fuel and were within the window to be able to run to the finish. Stewart remained the leader unchallenged until 22 to go, when the No. 24 Chevy of Gordon finally began to make his move.

Stewart and Gordon battled door-to-door until Busch gave the love to Stewart propelling him forward in the draft, to out power the stampeding car of Gordon.

As Stewart and Gordon swapped the lead, the big one broke loose on lap 184. The No. 10 of Riggs tapped the No. 17 of Biffle setting off a chain reaction stockpile involving the cars of Mayfield, Wimmer (who flipped four times through the infield grass), Jamie McMurray, Kevin Harvick, Rusty Wallace, Kasey Kahne, Brian Vickers and Mears.

At the restart, it was Stewart, Gordon and Earnhardt battling for the win but they didn't even get through the first turn. Kvapil got into the rear of the No. 23 Dodge of Mike Skinner wrecking Andretti, Kahne, Newman, Jarrett and Carl Edwards consequently bringing out the tenth yellow.

Sunset on Daytona as we race into the early evening.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
The field went green with six to go with Gordon all over the back of Stewart's bumper. But when Gordon went high to pass Earnhardt stayed behind Stewart then whizzed past him for the lead with five laps left.

Stewart and Earnhardt wheeled door-to-door but once Earnhardt got past Stewart in turn two he pulled out to a car length lead on the field. Gordon kept chasing grabbing back the front spot at lap 197 just as the eleventh caution flag was displayed.

The yellow bunched the cars in contention for the victory as they went back to green at lap under the green-white-checker rule instituted by NASCAR last season in an effort to end races under green flag conditions.

Gordon led being pushed by Earnhardt but Busch was able to slice his way to second and get on Gordon's bumper. Stewart, who was the class of the field all day, got trapped behind the No. 48 of Johnson when he got a slow restart.

In the end, Hendrick horsepower reigned supreme over the DEI power plant of Earnhardt to grab the win.

Gordon assumes the top spot in points. Kurt Busch (-15), Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (-15), Scott Riggs (-25), Jimmie Johnson (-25), Tony Stewart (-29), Mark Martin (-35), Sterling Marlin (-43), Kevin LePage (-47) and Rusty Wallace (-51) complete the top ten in Nextel Cup series point standings.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , John Andretti , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Jason Leffler , Mike Skinner , Boris Said , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Sterling Marlin , Mike Wallace , Kurt Busch , Casey Mears , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Scott Riggs , Kasey Kahne , Scott Wimmer , Brian Vickers , Carl Edwards , Eric Gilbert , Dave Blaney , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin , Travis Kvapil