Eight is Great for Gordon at Martinsville
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on October 27, 2013 | 5:31 P.M. EST
Gordon scored his eighth win at Martinsville and the 88th overall of his career. (Photo: Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon scored his first win of the season, and the eighth of his career at Martinsville Speedway, when he took the checkered flag in Sunday's Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500.
Gordon got around Matt Kenseth for the lead with 21 laps to go and went on to take the checkered flag for the 88th Sprint Cup Series victory of his career.
“Man, what a great race car,” said Gordon, who led twice on Sunday for 78 laps. “I thought we’d given it away a couple of times there; and I’m just so proud of how we fought.
“We had great pit stops and just that never give-up attitude. I thought I got too loose there at the end, running with Matt (Kenseth). Every time he slipped the tires, I just tired to let off a little bit.”
Kenseth was able to hang on for second place. Jimmie Johnson placed fifth They are tied atop the point standings (although Kenseth owns the tiebreaker with more wins this season) with three races left.
“Whenever your team puts you in front for that last run and you're out there leading, you get beat, you're always a little bit disappointed,” said Kenseth, who led a race-high 202 laps. “I just got beat by,honestly, experience and a better driver of this track. I was hesitant to change my line and do the things he was doing because what I was doing got me there and just got too tight at the end, which I wish I could do it over.”
Kenseth’s effort was his best career finish at Martinsville and the Joe Gibbs Racing driver believes he has great momentum heading into the final trio of races, beginning with Texas.
“I feel like when my team is at its best and we do everything right, I feel like we can race anybody at these next three tracks,” said Kenseth. “I feel good about that. We're in it, and we're going to three really good tracks, so hopefully we can perform here the next three weeks and have a race.”
Gordon is third in the standings 27 points out and also feels he’s very much alive to contend for a fifth championship but is very aware of the challenge.
“Well, of course we're in it,” said Gordon. “Until we're mathematically out of it, we're in it. This was certainly a big moment, big day for us. I'm excited about Texas. I think it's a great track for us. But it's pretty darned great for both those guys, as well. They performed very, very well again today. It's going to be tough to catch them.”
Johnson registered his 17th top five-finish in his last 24 Martinsville starts. Despite coming up short of career win number nine at the track, he is ready to fight for a sixth crown.
“It’s going to be a dogfight to the end,” he said. “The way that I would want to go racing for a championship, and I know that’s exactly what the fans want to see. We’ll keep digging hard.”
The victory was Chevrolet’s 14th of the season to wrap up the Manufacturer’s Championship.
Clint Bowyer finished third. Brad Keselowski and Johnson completed the top five.
Kevin Harvick was sixth and followed by Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle and Jamie McMurray.
Harvick is 28 points out of the Chase lead, while Kyle Busch, who finished 15th Sunday, is 36 points behind Kenseth and Johnson.
The race featured a season-high 17 caution flags for 111 laps.