SONOMA, Calif. - The last ten laps of the Dodge/Save Mart 350 were the Gordon/Gordon show; as Jeff and Robby battled for the win. In the end, 34- year old California native Robby Gordon was able to hold off the hard charging No. 24 Chevy to score...
SONOMA, Calif. - The last ten laps of the Dodge/Save Mart 350 were the Gordon/Gordon show; as Jeff and Robby battled for the win. In the end, 34- year old California native Robby Gordon was able to hold off the hard charging No. 24 Chevy to score his second career victory.
Gordon who was battling nausea due to a case of food poisoning managed to prevail to garner Richard Childress Racings first win of 2003. Previously, RCR had not won an event in 33 races.
"It was a big race for us," said Gordon. "To win here, it means a lot. We've let this race slip away probably four times in the past. We stuck to a plan and it worked good all day."
Gordon starting on the outside pole got around Boris Said on the races second lap and remained out front for the next 55 laps. On lap 57, Ron Fellows and Kevin Harvick motored past the No. 31 Chevy, but Gordon wasn't about to let them have the lead without a fight.
After a caution flag at lap 67, Gordon and teammate Harvick both pitted early, gaining enough fuel to see them through until the races white flag. Gordon broke the age-old "gentleman's agreement" about not racing back to a caution flag, and soared past Harvick on lap 72, to gain fifth position.
Gordon finally retook the lead at lap 80, and despite a late race panic that he had a flat tire (he didn't), the crew managed to keep Gordon calm and out of trouble to mark RCR's third ever win at a road course.
"I raced everybody pretty clean," commented R. Gordon. "Never put the bumper to anybody. That was part of the game today; keep the fenders on the car. We didn't really push hard."
The win allows Robby Gordon to edge close to the top ten in series standings once again. Gordon fell out of the top ten last week; he now scoots back up three positions to 13th.
Jeff Gordon, who has won seven of the last twelve road course events, had to settle for second.
"On this racetrack it's hard to really pass and he (R. Gordon) was blocking which he needed to do and it was a good move," said Jeff Gordon. "My hats off to him and Richard Childress team; they did what they needed to do. They had the track position. I think Robby has a little problem going faster under caution then he does under green. Besides that, he drove the wheels off the car. I did everything I could to get by him, and that's all we had for him."
The second place finish catapults Jeff Gordon into second in championship points, 174-points out of first.
"Great points day," said J. Gordon. "I had to keep that in mind. Robby's pretty hungry at these road course races, and there was a couple of times when I could have made some moves on him, but it was very iffy and as aggressive as Robby is you want to be careful when you're going for a championship."
Robby Gordon's teammate Kevin Harvick was third. It is Harvick's third top- five finish in sixteen races. The third place, however, is good enough to bump Harvick two spots up the championship ladder into ninth place.
Bill Elliott still nursing three broken bones in his foot pulled off a fourth place finish.
"We've worked hard, and the last three or four weeks have been a struggle," said Elliott. "To come out and have a good day like this makes us all feel good. It's been me some, but it seems like we just hadn't hit the combination. I've been nursing this foot along, and everything has gone well, but we needed this for the second half of the season. It'll give us the inspiration we need to get the second half started right. I need to get this foot better, but we had a good, dependable car today and that's what we need."
Ryan Newman coming off a fiery wreck at Michigan last weekend, and sporting moderate burns to his neck and cheek stayed out of danger at Sonoma, to score his seventh top ten of the season.
"Good run for the Alltel Dodge," said Newman. "Good run for the car for sure, had a little off-road experience there, and lost a couple of spots. Got into the 20 (Stewart) didn't mean to do that, typical road racing, when you don't have a lot of room to pass you have to make some moves. Happy to come home in the top five."
Road course specialists hired to run this event, didn't exactly light up the charts. The two top finishers were pole sitter Boris Said; finishing sixth, and Ron Fellows, seventh. The rest of the 'aces' came home 24th or worse.
Current series leader Matt Kenseth came home 14th, and retains his top spot in the championship. This is Kenseth's 13th week at number one, and he holds the biggest point's lead any driver has achieved since the 1993 season. Only one driver in the modern-era history of the sport has had this big of a victory and not gone on to win the Winston Cup championship (Bobby Allison, 1981).
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. entered Sonoma second in series standings, but experienced problems on lap 62. While running in the ninth position, Earnhardt spun, after he recovered, he was relegated back to the 32nd spot. Earnhardt worked his way back to an 11th place, but slips to third in the overall standings; 176-points out of first.
"That was a knock down drag out," said Earnhardt. "But a lot of fun, I had a good car. We got to race, and got to be competitive. I'm really happy, and we worked for that eleventh, you know what I mean. So, that's a good deal.
"I knew he (Gordon) was going to gain a little bit of points on me, but not too many. Not as bad as it could have been. I'm real happy, would have liked to got my first top ten on a road course but I'll have to wait until Watkins Glen."
Notably, this was the last event covered by the FOX/FX networks. NBC and TNT pick up the reigns in two weeks at the Pepsi 400 in Daytona and will cover the remainder of the season.