Gordon Comeback Kid
April 10, 2005 | 11:15 A.M. EST
Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet, came back from being three laps down and held off Kasey Kahne at the finish to win Sunday's Advance Auto Parts 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway.
Gordon became the first repeat winner of 2005 also winning the Daytona 500. It was his 71st career series win and sixth at Martinsville Speedway.
"My goodness, the car was incredible," said Gordon after he climbed out of his car. "We never gave up the fight. That's what it takes week in and week out, especially here."
With car owner Rick Hendrick in attendance, the win was bittersweet for Gordon, as he became the second-consecutive Hendrick Motorsports driver to visit Victory Lane at the Virginia short-track since the tragic Hendrick plane crash last fall.
"I think it's only fitting for us to get this victory today," said Gordon. "I know how much this means to Rick and his family and all the other families. It means a lot to this race team."
Gordon fell behind after making an unscheduled pit stop for a loose front wheel on lap 46. On lap 279, Gordon was able to rejoin the lead lap when he received the "Lucky Dog" pass after Elliott Sadler spun Sterling Marlin. On lap 447, Gordon used Sadler's tactics on Kurt Busch as he sent Busch's No. 97 into the wall. Busch, who was third at the time of the incident, wound up 19th in the end, two laps down.
"It was our first points race for the Crown Royal car and we just ran out of patience again with another Hendrick car," said Busch. "We'll bounce back."
On his birthday, Kahne battled from the 35th starting position to score his best finish and first top-ten at the .526-mile speedway.
Mark Martin, Ryan Newman, Rusty Wallace and Sterling Marlin rounded out the top-six.
Virginia native Ricky Rudd finished seventh and scored his first top-20 finish of the season.
"It's a good relief," said Rudd. "The team has had good cars just like this all year, but we just are kind of a freak deal. The good thing is we are now in the top-35 in points."
Jimmie Johnson, Elliott Sadler and Joe Nemechek completed the first ten finishers.
Tony Stewart dominated the event, leading 247 of 500 laps, but fell out of contention on lap 432 after he lost the right-front tire on the Home Depot Chevrolet.
"I can't even describe how disappointed I am," said Stewart. "I guess the thing I am proud of is that I am handling it the way I am right now. But it is like I told the guys, on the radio and told them again after I got out of the car, we have a lot to be proud of."
Newman, Marlin and Sadler used pit strategy to score their respective finishes after they opted not to pit under the caution brought out by Stewart.
Kevin Harvick's bid for back-to-back short track wins came to an end on lap 263 after clutch problems sent the No. 29 Chevrolet to the garage.
Atlanta winner Carl Edwards, who was third in the standings heading into today, was forced behind the wall on lap 68 after making contact with Hermie Sadler in Turn 2.
"I drove down in the corner and something in the steering locked up," said Edwards. "I couldn't turn it either way, so I just spun it around."
Both Harvick and Edwards were able to make repairs and return to the track. They finished 32nd and 38th respectively and fell seven positions each in the points.
Gordon's win boosted him six positions in the standings to sixth. Johnson still remains the championship leader with a 160-point edge over Greg Biffle. Sadler, Martin and Stewart round out the top-five.
The NEXTEL Cup Series now heads to Texas Motor Speedway for next Sunday's Samsung/Radio Shack 500.