Jeff Gordon has won his way into the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in his final year before hanging up the helmet.
“We’re going to Homestead!”
Yes, the drought has ended for Jeff Gordon.
After running 39 races without a win, Gordon was victorious in his final running of the Goody’s 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday.
It was all a joke, I’m coming back next year. No way, man. This is the sweetest most amazing feeling. I’m trying to hold back my emotions. We’re going to Homestead!
It was the 93rd win for the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team — and Gordon’s ninth career victory on the half-mile track.
“Yeah, buddy, yes,” Gordon screamed on the radio.
“Yes, baby, we’re going to Homestead,” crew chief Alan Gustafson exclaimed.
“That was huge,” Gordon replied. “That was huge. God, I love you guys, way to hang in there. Fighting and digging boys, that’s what we need to do. God, I love this team.”
Gordon inherited the lead for the second time on Lap 479 after Matt Kenseth dumped race leader Joey Logano on Lap 448 (VIDEO).
Logano had led 207 circuits prior to the wreck. NASCAR red-flagged the race for 12 minutes and 46 seconds. Gordon pitted prior to the restart and lined up behind Denny Hamlin and AJ Allmendinger — both who stayed out on the race track.
Sprint to the finish
As nightfall set on the track, Gordon passed Allmendinger for the lead on Lap 478. He remained at the point when Sam Hornish Jr. triggered the 18th and final caution on Lap 493.
With three laps remaining, Gordon lined up alongside Jamie McMurray. He was able to hold off McMurray and extended the lead over the No. 1 Ganassi Racing Chevy by 0.336-seconds at the finish-line for the win.
When Gordon was asked if this was the best race of his career, the four-time Cup champion replied, “It was all a joke, I’m coming back next year. No way, man. This is the sweetest thing…I’m trying to hold back my emotions. We’re going to Homestead!
“What an incredible battle that was. We just stuck with it all day long. People don’t give this team enough credit and we just seized an opportunity right there. I don’t think this opportunity would present itself the next couple of weeks. We’re going to take advantage of this one and I don’t have to worry about that.”
There were nine leader on Sunday, with Gordon holding the point for 35 circuits. McMurray, who finished second, tied his best finish of the season set at Phoenix in March.
“Great battle with Jeff," McMurray said. "I have looked up to Jeff Gordon since I was a little kid. What a fun way on his last year to get to battle him like that. I wish we could have won, I had a great car. The inside line was just the preferred line on the restarts.”
Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Chaser Kyle Busch rounded out the top five.
“The last 100 laps were good, the car was fast, it was hard to pass,” Earnhardt said. “The cars were just kind of equal. I love Martinsville, but if we’re going to run at night, they need to put some damn lights up here.”
A slow start
The race started under yellow for the first seven laps as NASCAR safety crews worked to dry pit road. On Lap 436, Kurt Busch triggered a wreck entering Turn 1 after tagging the rear of Brad Keselowski’s car. Not only did Busch damage his own car, he took Keselowski and Kenseth out of contention as well.
However, Kenseth returned to the track on Lap 447 and exacted his revenge on race leader Joey Logano after multiple run-ins with the No. 22 Team Penske driver over the past two weeks.
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