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Jeff Gordon breaks winless streak
Jeff Gordon's winless streak is over.
The No. 24 car survived a wreck-filled race Sunday to win the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, ending a 66-race winless streak and moving into a tie with Cale Yarborough for fifth in all-time career Cup wins. With 83 total triumphs, Gordon is one from sharing third with Bobby Allison and NASCAR on FOX's Darrell Waltrip.
"Are you kidding me? Pinch me man, pinch me," Gordon said after the race.
The race ended just in time for Gordon, who had to be pushed into victory lane by a tow truck after blowing his engine while celebrating with infield burnouts. In winning, Gordon denied Kyle Busch a second career weekend sweep of the Camping World Trucks, Nationwide and Sprint Cup races in one weekend. Busch had won the first two events earlier in the weekend at Phoenix.
With eight laps to go, Gordon got on Busch's rear, went down low and blew past Busch. The cat-and-mouse game was over, and Gordon held his lead and took the checkered flag for his second win at Phoenix.
"I don't really care how we do it, we just want to get to victory lane," Gordon said. "But to do it that way and to see the fans' reaction . . . I mean we beat Kyle Busch. We were the only one's to beat Kyle Busch this weekend and he's so tough to beat."
Many drivers weren't so lucky. Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne's day ended on the 50th lap. Bayne was trying to get in line when he pushed his luck and clipped Travis Kvapil. Bayne's No. 21 Ford went into the wall, sustained heavy rear end damage and brought out the third caution.
“I don’t know what happened," Bayne said. "We were battling with the 13 car (Casey Mears) a little bit, and I don’t know if it was the 38 car (Kvapil) behind us or who, but something happened. Either I came up, or he poked his nose in there at the last second on the top of us getting into one. After that, there was nothing we could do."
The race came to a standstill thanks to a big wreck on Lap 66. Several drivers involved, including pole-sitter Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer and David Reutimann later returned to action.
David Ragan blew a tire and hit the Turn 4 wall hard on Lap 126, causing an engine fire and bringing out the sixth caution of the day. Ragan checked out OK and was released from the infield care center. On the restart, 21 cars were on the lead lap, with Juan Pablo Montoya getting the free pass to get back on the lead lap.
But once the dust settled from all of the earlier wrecking, the drivers' tempers appeared to have settled down and the usual championship contenders were holding the top five spots with 73 laps to go: Gordon, Busch, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson.
With 31 laps to go, Stewart overtook Harvick for the third spot. Busch, Gordon and Stewart pitted with 30 laps to go, followed by Johnson with 28 laps to go. The leaderboard changed again when the eighth caution of the day was out after Andy Lally hit the wall, Stewart moving to first place with 27 laps to go.
But Stewart got there by taking only took two tires, and that might have cost him the race. With only two fresh tires, Stewart was down to seventh with 11 laps to go. Meanwhile, Busch clung to his precarious lead over Gordon, who was strongly challenging him every lap before his final, race-winning move.
Throughout the race, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had been relatively quiet, deftly avoiding the wrecks that — almost midway through the 312-lap race — had involved 24 cars. Earnhardt, to no one's surprise, had been voted Pizza Hut's Fan Favorite for the second straight week.
Joey Logano, who was hampered throughout the day with engine problems, finally watched his motor blow up on Lap 218, and the seventh caution was out for debris on the track.
The tone of the first 100 laps was established early as Kurt Busch overtook Edwards to lead after one lap.
The first caution of the day came at Lap 19 because of debris on the track. On the restart, there was plenty of rubbin' and three-wide racing on the 1-mile track. Robby Gordon got a little bump by Marcos Ambrose on the 34th lap that sent Gordon's car into a spin and caused the second caution of the day. NASCAR had designated Lap 40 a competition caution because of the heavy rains on Saturday, but that second caution took its place.
Nine laps later, Kurt Busch got loose and had contact with Edwards, leading to a wreck involving six drivers. Edwards was upset, saying he hoped it was in "inadvertent move" by Kyle Busch. Kyle Busch expressed his frustration over the radio, saying, "All we're doing is being a ping-pong ball here. It's pathetic."
Prerace coverage from Kansas begins June 5 at 12:30 p.m. ET on FOX.
Busch was remorseful after the race.
"Unfortunately there, the car got out from underneath me right around the backstretch and I made a mistake and got into Carl Edwards there and completely destroyed his day," Busch said. "I can understand his frustration that he had, and so I apologize to him first and foremost. But just with the day that we had, and the outcome we had, it's kind of the same thing as last week. We are just glad to get out of here with what we got."
After a restart on Lap 66, Brian Vickers got sideways after some minor contact from Matt Kenseth, and for the second straight week, a huge wreck followed. This time the crash involved 13 cars, including Jaime McMurray, Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton. Twelve cars were sent to the garage. Boywer was clearly angry, saying, "Pretty disgusted with the whole thing, to be honest with you. We're all professionals, we should be driving like it."
Earnhardt was caught speeding on pit road and was sent to the back of the pack on the restart. Gordon took the lead at lap 74 and stretched his lead to almost two seconds after 10 laps, but Stewart grabbed the lead on the 92nd lap after Gordon's car collected some debris on his grill and caused him to back off.
Kyle Busch's second-place finish gave him the lead in the Sprint Chase for the Cup. With 80 points, Busch is three points ahead of his brother, Kurt. Stewart and A.J. Allmendinger are tied for third at 69.
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