A final 14-second pit stop helped Jeff Gordon sail off to a three second lead over the field to earn his third victory at California Speedway. Bobby Labonte mounted a late race charge, in an attempt to catch the No. 24 Chevy of Gordon, but could...
A final 14-second pit stop helped Jeff Gordon sail off to a three second lead over the field to earn his third victory at California Speedway. Bobby Labonte mounted a late race charge, in an attempt to catch the No. 24 Chevy of Gordon, but could only get within two seconds of Gordon's lead.
Labonte looked poised to earn second place, but as they took the white flag on the final lap, Labonte's No. 18 Chevy ran out of gas and began to slow on the backstretch. The top five cars of Jeremy Mayfield and Kasey Kahne also ran out of gas on the final lap.
Gordon, last week's Talladega winner, garnered his second win of the season and 66th of his career, but almost didn't make it to victory lane to celebrate his back-to-back win. As Gordon attempted to do a burnout and victory lap the No. 24 ran out of gas, and had to be pushed to the winners circle.
"Holy cow," Gordon said. "We won the inaugural race here, but it's been awhile. I went to do burnouts and spin out and I ran out of gas."
Gordon is the third driver this season to win multiple races; he is accompanied by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Matt Kenseth.
"This team is just awesome right now," Gordon said. "These guys never give up, they just fight so hard. What an amazing run it was today. We worked hard yesterday getting this car dialed in and I didn't think we were the best car. But when they dropped the green flag this DuPont Chevrolet just drove straight to the front.
"It was just a joy to drive."
Former California victor, Jimmie Johnson grabbed second. Johnson earned his first ever Cup series win at this event in 2002.
"I didn't think we were in a position to run out of gas," said Johnson. "I was surprised people ran out of gas. We pride ourselves on being consistent and not making mistakes.
"It's going to make us a championship team and keep us successful for a long time in this sport."
Ryan Newman also benefited from the 19, 9 and 18 running out of gas. Newman, who was assured a solid top-ten endeavor, wound up third.
"We came out with a top five finish because of a little bit of fuel strategy," commented Newman. "It was a good finish for us. We had a really good car at the start. I think the track changed a little bit and we had to catch up with it. I think we were pretty conservative on fuel.
"We were all right at the end, but you never know how it's going to work out sometimes. Sometimes the driver uses a little too much, but you never know for sure until it's over. We came away with a top five at a place we hadn't finished in the top ten before, so we're pretty happy with that."
Defending Nextel Cup series champion, Matt Kenseth placed fourth.
"At times in the race we ran really good, capable of winning," said Kenseth. "We had a problem in the pits, the clutch went out and I messed up the tire changer and let the clutch out early. We got ourselves behind, and then we didn't handle good. We just lost the handle the last two runs.
"So, for all that stuff to go wrong and still finish fourth is pretty lucky."
Labonte's gasless, limping No. 18 Chevy was able to cross the finish line to salvage a fifth place result.
"We made up a lot of time," said Labonte. "But we ran out of gas going into turn 1. The guys did a great job. We didn't miscalculate fuel; we just ran a little faster the last run. We put tires on and took off. I told them, don't make any adjustments."
It was a disastrous day for point leader Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Team 8 ran poorly all afternoon, and only managed to place 19th. The off day will prove costly for the DEI Chevy team. While Earnhardt will retain the lead, Jimmie Johnson moves within 25 points of the top spot.
Jeff Gordon (-27), Matt Kenseth (-96), and Kurt Busch (-137) completes the top five.
Pressure was on the teams today as extremely hot weather blanketed the greater Fontana area. At its highest the asphalt temperature spiked at 140 degrees, while the ambient air temperature lingered at 98.6. The heat created slick conditions on the track, and drained drivers and crew members by the end of the 500-mile event.