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Jeff Gordon beats Kyle Busch to end winless streak

Subway Fresh Fit 500 on the 1-mile Phoenix oval
Sunday, February 27, 2011

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A happy Jeff Gordon
Getty Images for NASCAR
Jeff Gordon didn’t just 'drive to end hunger' (his sponsor) Sunday—he drove to end a famine.  Gordon hunted down race leader Kyle Busch with 8 laps to go and made the pass to win Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race by 1.137s on the 1-mile Phoenix International Speedway oval.  For the first time in his career, Jeff Gordon has led the most laps at Phoenix. More important, he has ended a 66-race winless streak, which was the longest of his career.  Gordon's Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson was 3rd.

Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman rounded out the top-5 to give Chevy 4 of the top 5 positions.

Busch, who had won Friday's Truck race and Saturday's Nationwide race in dominating fashion was going for a clean sweep of the weekend until Jeff Gordon spoiled his plans on Sunday.

Gordon passed Kyle Busch on Lap 304 of 312. Busch had taken the lead from Tony Stewart after the last restart on Lap 291. Gordon passed Stewart on the next lap and methodically cut into Busch's lead.

Gordon puts the move on Busch for the lead with 8 laps to go
Getty Images for NASCAR
"Welcome back, baby. Welcome back," crew chief Alan Gustafson said as Gordon took the checkered flag.

"That's why I love racing," Gordon shouted. "Hell, yeah."

The win was Gordon’s second at the one-mile flat track and the 83rd of his career, tying him with Cale Yarborough for fifth on the NASCAR Sprint Cup victory list.

He won for the first time in his second start with crew chief Alan Gustafson and in his second race under "Drive to end hunger" sponsorship, an initiative of AARP.

"Pinch me, man. Pinch me," Gordon said in mock disbelief, after killing his engine in an ill-fated burnout on the frontstretch.

Five-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson finished third after starting 28th. Kevin Harvick came home fourth, a substantial improvement over his 42nd-place result in last week’s Daytona 500, and Ryan Newman claimed fifth.

Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, AJ Allmendinger and Dale Earnhardt Jr. completed the top 10.

In victory lane, Gordon was positively bubbly.

"God, it feels so amazing," the four-time Cup champion said. "I can’t tell you how amazing this feels. So thankful to (owner) Rick Hendrick, all that he does. It’s been a long time, I know. I’m going to savor this one so much, but I’ve got to say thanks to the fans.

"I mean not only the fans at home—I’ve been tweeting lately for the first time and all of the stuff that people have been saying, the motivation has been unbelievably inspiring. And then to see that crowd stick around to see my really lame burnout—because I stink at them—but they love that show. Man, we hope we can give them some more shows like that this year."

Taking the lead on Lap 304 of 312, Gordon prevented Busch from achieving the second weekend sweep of his career. Busch had won Friday’s Camping World Truck Series race and Saturday’s Nationwide Series event.

On Sunday, however, he fell nine laps and one position short of matching the feat he accomplished at Bristol last August, when he became the first driver to win races in all three of NASCAR’s top national touring series at the same track on the same weekend.

"There’s always got to be the one car out there to ruin the whole weekend," Busch quipped. "Today it was the 24."

Gordon nosed to the inside of Busch’s No. 18 Toyota at the start-finish line and cleared him in Turn 1 to complete the winning pass.

"He was gaining on me really good, and I knew he was going to get to me eventually, and this place is so flat and it’s one groove that we all run the bottom," Busch said of the sequence where Gordon got to his bumper on Lap 304.

"He got so tucked up behind me in (Turns) 3 and 4, he got me loose, and I could not put the gas down," Busch said. "I mean, he was so far up underneath me that I could not go forward."

Busch, at least, could find some degree of consolation in taking over the lead in the series standings by three points over his brother, Kurt.

Gordon had to survive a number of early wrecks, including a 13-car pileup on the backstretch that blocked the track with crippled cars and stopped the action on Lap 67.

Slight contact between Matt Kenseth’s No. 17 Ford and Brian Vickers’ No. 83 Toyota cut Vickers’ left rear tire and ignited a wild wreck that damaged the cars of Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Jamie McMurray, David Reutimann, Casey Mears, Travis Kvapil, David Gilliland, Bobby Labonte, Regan Smith, Andy Lally and Robby Gordon.

"We’re all better racecar drivers than this," a disgusted Bowyer said after the incident. "It’s pretty embarrassing, to be honest with you."

The wreck occurred eight laps after contact between Kyle Busch and the No. 99 Ford of polesitter Carl Edwards sent Edwards into the Turn 3 wall. Edwards, who entered the race with the points lead, was able to return to the race but finished 28th, 52 laps back.

"I’m not exactly sure what happened," Edwards said. "I’ll have to talk to Kyle about it. I thought at first he was just frustrated and he turned left to get back in line and he didn’t know I was there. But I watched the tape, and I think he really did get loose. He hit me hard, and I was left with nothing."

Busch acknowledged responsibility for the wreck, saying repeatedly he owed an apology to Edwards.

Daytona 500 champion Bayne wrecks early
Driving in a backup car after he wrecked his primary car on Friday and then he crashed again on Sunday proving that perhaps his Daytona 500 was a real fluke, which it was in the fact that most of the top drivers were taken out in crashes.  On Sunday Trevor Bayne turned across Travis Kvapil's nose and turned himself into the wall.

Forced to a backup car when brake failure caused him to wreck during Friday's practice, Bayne backed his No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford into the Turn 1 wall on Lap 50 after contact from Travis Kvapil's Ford.

"Either I came up, or he poked his nose in there at the last second on the top of us, getting into [Turn 1]," Bayne said. "After that, there was nothing we could do. I tried to stay in the gas and keep it turning, but it just backed into the wall.

"That's tough, coming off our high at Daytona, to come to this, but we've got a great race team behind us. We'll be back at Vegas next Sunday."

Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 20 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Drive to End Hunger 48/2 312 Running
2 4 18 Kyle Busch Toyota Combos 43/1 312 Running
3 28 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's / Kobalt Tools 42/1 312 Running
4 17 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches 41/1 312 Running
5 14 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Tornados 40/1 312 Running
6 3 4 Kasey Kahne Toyota Red Bull 38/0 312 Running
7 18 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Mobil 1 38/1 312 Running
8 2 22 Kurt Busch Dodge Shell / Pennzoil 37/1 312 Running
9 15 43 AJ Allmendinger Ford Valvoline 35/0 312 Running
10 35 88 D. Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet National Guard / Amp Energy 34/0 312 Running
11 12 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Freight 34/1 312 Running
12 24 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Crown Royal 33/1 312 Running
13 23 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet GoDaddy.com 31/0 312 Running
14 7 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 30/0 312 Running
15 9 2 Brad Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite 29/0 312 Running
16 30 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford Stanley 28/0 312 Running
17 13 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Vertis / Menards 27/0 312 Running
18 27 13 Casey Mears Toyota GEICO 26/0 312 Running
19 22 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 25/0 312 Running
20 10 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 24/0 312 Running
21 21 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota Clorox 23/0 310 Running
22 29 34 David Gilliland Ford Taco Bell 22/0 310 Running
23 39 09 Bill Elliott Chevrolet Security Benefit / Rydex / Billboa 21/0 309 Running
24 36 32 Mike Skinner Ford Cerwin-Vega Mobile / K1 Speed 0 308 Running
25 42 37 Tony Raines Ford Front Row Motorsports 19/0 306 Running
26 25 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 18/0 276 Running
27 16 33 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet Cheerios / Hamburger Helper 17/0 260 Running
28 1 99 Carl Edwards Ford Subway 17/1 252 Running
29 26 00 David Reutimann Toyota Best Western 15/0 246 Running
30 19 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 14/0 238 Running
31 41 71 Andy Lally * Chevrolet Super Eco-Fuel Saver 14/1 237 Running
32 31 7 Robby Gordon Dodge Speed Energy / Bashas' 12/0 236 Running
33 6 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot 11/0 213 In Pit
34 5 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row Companies 10/0 213 Running
35 8 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 9/0 126 In Pit
36 11 6 David Ragan Ford UPS "We Love Logistics" 8/0 125 In Pit
37 38 46 J.J. Yeley Chevrolet AAMCO Trans / Ohsweken 7/0 72 Out
38 37 60 Landon Cassill Toyota Big Red 0 68 In Pit
39 40 38 Travis Kvapil Ford Long John Silver's 0 66 Running
40 33 21 Trevor Bayne Ford Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto 0 49 Running
41 34 66 Mike McDowell Toyota HP Racing LLC 4/1 43 In Pit
42 43 36 Dave Blaney Chevrolet Accell Construction 2/0 27 Out
43 32 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota NEMCO Motorsports 0 22 Out

* Denotes Rookie

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