Gordon Ties Earnhardt

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Jeff Gordon accomplished two goals on Saturday night.

He tied Dale Earnhardt on the all-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup win list with his 76th career victory while also erasing Phoenix International Raceway from the list of tracks where he's never won.

Gordon started from the pole and battled Tony Stewart down to the wire to win the Subway Fresh Fit 500 Saturday night at PIR.

The dramatic win capped off an exciting night that ended with Gordon celebrating his win with a victory lap while holding a flag with Earnhardt's famous number three.

"It means the world to me, just to get a win at a track that I've never won at before," Gordon said. "I drove my guts out to win this one. Holding that 3 flag, to honor him in that way, means a lot to me. I learned so much from him. We wanted to honor him. We've been holding on to that flag for a very long time."

Gordon now has won at every track on the NEXTEL Cup schedule except Texas Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The turning point in Saturday night's race came on lap 283, when Gordon was on pit road for fuel and tires.

Dave Blaney got hit by Carl Edwards that ignited a three-car crash also included Martin Truex, Jr. Caution waved and pit road was closed, but because Gordon was already in the pits and had the number one stall by virtue of his winning the pole, he was able to finish the stop and not lose a lap.

When the rest of the lead lap cars pitted, Gordon inherited the top spot.

"We had a good pit stall to come out first and to stay with those guys," Gordon said. "It was hard to make the pass. I love racing with Tony. It was a lot of fun out there.

"That's how I wanted my 76th victory to come out."

Stewart and Gordon battled for the lead over the final twenty laps but once Gordon moved around for good, Stewart was forced to settle for second.

After Gordon's crew chief Steve Letarte congratulated him on the win, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was next.

"He said that was a class act and that means the world to me because we wanted to honor his father properly," Gordon said.

Denny Hamlin, who led the race early but was penalized for speeding on pit road and sent to the rear of the field, battled back to finish third.

Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top five.

"At the very end we were just too loose and we couldn’t go anywhere," said Kenseth. "So, we didn’t have the car as good as some of those guys. On a long run we were able to run up, probably, in the top four or five times, so I was real proud of the guys for that. And they did a great job on pit road. We never had bad track position all day and that was really the key to us getting a good finish."

Jeff Green, Kyle Busch, Bobby Labonte, Johnny Sauter and Kevin Harvick completed the first 10 finishers.

Gordon extended his lead in the NEXTEL Cup standings to 74 over Jeff Burton with Kenseth, Johnson and Hamlin rounding out the first five.

The NEXTEL Cup Series now heads to Talladega Superspeedway for next Sunday's Aaron's 499.

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