Jeff Gordon's ruinous streak of bad luck seems to have ended. After a summer marred with race mishaps that took him out of the championship hunt, the No. 24 Chevrolet team of Gordon has finally turned it around. Jeff Gordon. Photo by...
Jeff Gordon's ruinous streak of bad luck seems to have ended. After a summer marred with race mishaps that took him out of the championship hunt, the No. 24 Chevrolet team of Gordon has finally turned it around.
Pit strategy helped Gordon grab the lead from Tony Stewart on lap 340. He then managed to stay out front for 151 laps to earn his fourth victory of the 2005 season and 73rd of his career. It was a particularly sweet win for Hendrick Motorsports, who lost several employees (including Rick Hendrick's son, Ricky), at this race last season.
"It brings back a lot of tough memories," said Gordon. "With what happened here last year, we just want to keep honoring those folks that were lost. I can't think of a better way to do that than to pull this DuPont Chevrolet into victory lane."
Stewart led a race high 283 laps but faded toward the end of the event and had to settle for second. "We had a solid day," said Stewart. "We just never got to 100% all day."
Bobby Labonte and Jeff Burton completed the top five.
"I'm proud of how we ran," Burton said. "We ran well all day.it was a great day for the Cingular Wireless Chevrolet. All the sponsors and everybody with us; it's been a tough year and we're not going to quit."
Stewart started on the pole and led the first lap but was soon overtaken by the No. 21 Ford of Ricky Rudd. Stewart and Rudd traded the top spot several times before the No. 20 Chevy settled in for the lead.
After a caution on lap 45, Michael Waltrip assumed the lead after choosing not to pit but it only took Stewart a few laps to get back by for the top spot. Stewart was still out front when the second caution came out on lap 86 after Mike Wallace made contact with Waltrip.
The leaders pitted but Matt Kenseth and Mark Martin stayed out grabbed the 1-2 spot with Stewart restarting in third. Stewart was beginning to make his charge back to the front when a debris caution waved on lap 95.
On the restart, however, Stewart quickly passed Kenseth for the lead at lap 107 but the field was slowed again on lap 123 when right front problems on the No. 25 Chevy of Brian Vickers created heavy smoke on the track.
Pit road was a madhouse, with Joe Nemechek collecting a penalty for being too fast entering the pits, Johnson and teammate Kyle Busch making contact while trying to exit, and Ryan Newman beating them all off the service lane by taking two-tires.
Ken Schrader, Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards all chose not to pit putting them in the top three spots, with Newman and Stewart completing the top five on the restart at lap 132. By lap 145, the No. 20 Chevy was back in the lead.
Waltrip was running second when the No. 97 Ford of Kurt Busch dumped him sending the No. 15 Chevy into the wall. NASCAR black-flagged Busch and penalized him one lap for rough driving.
The field restarted at lap 206 with Stewart still in the lead but at lap 209 Dave Blaney, Jeff Green, and Scott Riggs got together bringing out the seventh yellow flag. Stewart was once again slowed at lap 239 when Kevin Harvick got into Dale Earnhardt, Jr. turning the No. 8 Chevy into Elliott Sadler.
The leaders came in for service but Blaney and Burton stayed out grabbing the front of the field. Stewart restarted third but easily marched past Burton and Blaney.
Through a series of cautions Stewart remained the leader but lost the lead to Gordon after a series of pit stops on lap 340. Gordon was still in the lead on lap 436 when the 16th caution came out and at lap 476 when yellow 17 flew after Kyle Busch punted Matt Kenseth causing the No. 17 Ford to spin.
After pit stops, Gordon brought the field to the green for the restart but it didn't last long. Scott Riggs made contact with Rusty Wallace, sending the No. 2 Dodge hard into the inside retaining wall and tying the race record with 18 cautions.
A few laps later at lap 494, the track record was broken when the 19th yellow was displayed for a wreck involving Travis Kvapil and Greg Biffle. The caution allowed the field to be reset making it a green/white /checker shootout between Gordon and Stewart.
With three laps to go, Stewart waged war against Gordon but just didn't have the juice to pass him on the last lap.
Tony Stewart takes back the lead in the Chase for the Nextel Cup. Jimmie Johnson (-15), Ryan Newman (-63), Greg Biffle (-83), Carl Edwards (-149), Rusty Wallace (-166), Mark Martin (-170), Kurt Busch (-172), Matt Kenseth (- 172), and Jeremy Mayfield (-216) complete the top ten.
There were 19 cautions for 113 laps and 15 lead changes among eight drivers.