Gordon Gets On The Board In Kansas
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Jeff Gordon had been quoted as saying that he’d give up the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship lead for a victory this season.
He took care of that problem Saturday at Kansas Speedway.
Gordon held off a late charge from Kevin Harvick to win Saturday’s 5-Hour Energy 400 at Kansas Speedway, his first victory of the season and the 89th of his Sprint Cup career.
“What a huge weight lifted off this teams shoulders,” said Gordon, who became the ninth different driver to win in Sprint Cup competition this year. “We’ve been leading the points but we needed to get to victory lane.”
The turning point of the race for Gordon came during the final round of green flag pit stops, which took place over the course of the final 20 laps.
Gordon, who at the time was running second behind Harvick, pitted first with approximately 30 laps left. One lap later Harvick came down pit road to make his stop, but his car ran out of gas as he came down pit road. He quickly got the car refired and his crew completed the pit stop, but when he returned to the track he found himself almost a second behind Gordon.
It took 20 laps before all the other drivers on the lead lap completed their pit stops, but when they did Gordon emerged with the race lead. Harvick, however, refused to give up and began to chase down the four-time Sprint Cup champion.
With seven laps left Gordon lost a bit of his momentum as he fought lapped traffic, allowing Harvick to close the gap to within half a second. He continued to gain on Gordon as they continued to the white flag.
Gordon took the white flag still with a comfortable lead over Harvick, but in the final lap Harvick closed the gap dramatically. Coming out of turn four Harvick was right behind Gordon and dove to the inside as they raced to the checkered flag.
It was too little, too late though for Harvick as Gordon beat him to the checkered flag by approximately two car lengths to score his third victory at Kansas Speedway.
“I knew we had a fast race car. We’ve been bringing fast race cars every single weekend. It has given me so much confidence in the race cars and in the race team,” said Gordon. “Kevin was tough. He was so strong. I did not know if I could hold him off and I almost didn’t there at the end.
“When I caught traffic the car just got extremely loose on me and he (Harvick) was just coming. Luckily that was the checkered flag,” Gordon said.
Gordon said the last pit stop, which got him out in front of Harvick, was what he needed to win the race.
“We weren’t sure if we had as good a race car as Kevin, but I thought if we got in front of him we could hold him off,” Gordon said. “That last pit stop we cycled out in front of Kevin. It was confusing because there were still guys out there (waiting to pit) and we weren’t in the lead.
“I pulled away from him. The car was just driving unbelievable. Then all of a sudden I started getting extremely loose. He faded and then he kept coming back on me, then my car would tighten up and I’d go forward again and then he’d fade. We just kept going back and forth, but the key was getting out front.”
Harvick, who led a race-high 119 laps, had to settle for second.
“In the end I ran out of gas coming to pit road and I was paying attention to that and didn’t get enough RPM down pit road and then didn’t get out of my box very well,” Harvick said. “He (Gordon) wound up getting by me there as we came out of our pit stop.”
Kasey Kahne had his best finish of the season, crossing the line in third. Joey Logano led 63 laps and came home fourth ahead of Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. in fifth.
Carl Edwards was chased to the finish in sixth by Danica Patrick, who earned a career-best seventh-place finish. Aric Almirola, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth completed the top 10.
The race featured several multi-car incidents, including a vicious crash on lap 186 that involved A.J. Allmendinger, Justin Allgaier and David Gilliland. The cars of Allgaier and Gilliland were destroyed during the crash, which started when Allmendinger lost control of his while trying to pass Paul Menard.
Allmendinger spun to the high side, then came down low and clipped Allgaier’s No. 51 Chevrolet. That sent Allgaier’s car spinning back up the track and into the path of Gilliland, who slammed into Allgaier’s car head on. Luckily all the drivers involved in the crash walked away.