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Gordon wins NASCAR finale in Homestead

by Pete McCole
Sunday, November 18, 2012

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Jeff Gordon takes the checkered flag
Getty Images for NASCAR
Jeff Gordon found a little redemption for a season he'd like to forget on Sunday, stretching his fuel to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup series finale in the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Gordon and his crew played their fuel strategy to perfection and were in the right place at the right time to take over the top spot when Kyle Busch pitted for fuel with 14 laps to go and easily cruised to the checkered flag by well over a second on Clint Bowyer.

Ryan Newman, Busch and Greg Biffle made up the rest of the top five, while Brad Keselowski wrapped up the Sprint Cup title with a 15th-place finish after Jimmie Johnson dropped out with mechanical problems with 40 laps to go.

For Gordon, it was his 87th-career Sprint Cup victory and his first at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where the team was celebrating their 20th year with their primary sponsor, DuPont.

"This is just huge,” said Gordon. “Man, it's been an emotional week and a hard one; one of the hardest ones I've ever gone through just looking back on my decision.

“I knew we had a great race car going into the race. At times I didn't think we had a winning car, but you know what, we played the strategy perfectly, and we had a really good car. This is a great way for us to end this season.”

Ingrid Vandebosch kisses her husband Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 DuPont 20 Years Celebratory Chevrolet
Getty Images for NASCAR
It was just one week ago that Gordon retaliated against Bowyer after the two made contact in the closing laps at Phoenix International Raceway, drilling Bowyer into the wall and touching off a brawl in the garage between the two driver’s pit crews.

Bowyer, who at the time was third in the Chase for the Sprint Cup battle and a legitimate contender for the title, was knocked out of the title hunt while Gordon was fined $100,000, docked 25 points, and place on probation until December 31.

Now, here they were again, in the closing laps of the race, running first and second.

Busch was in command for much of the race, leading six times for a race-high 191 laps, taking the lead from Johnson following a round of pit stops with 53 laps to go.

But Busch’s pit cycle was going to put him short on fuel unless a late caution flag came out, putting Busch and second-place Martin Truex, Jr. right in the crosshairs of Gordon, who had just barely enough fuel to make it to the end thanks to a caution flag on lap 155 that allowed him to save some fuel.

On lap 255, Busch was forced to pit to pit for gas, putting Gordon in front with Bowyer running second.
With Gordon in fuel-conservation mode, Bowyer began to close in, leading many to wonder if Bowyer would be looking for some payback if he managed to catch Gordon.

But the much anticipated Gordon/Bowyer rematch didn’t happen – Gordon maintained his advantage all the way to the finish.
It was an unlikely end to one of Gordon’s worst performances in the Chase - his 10th place showing in the final points standings his lowest since missing the Chase field entirely in 2005 and finishing 11th. Gordon one won other race this season earlier this year at Pocono and just barely made the Chase by edging out Kyle Busch for the final spot.

The next race at Chicago he pounded the wall and finished with a DNF in 35th and just like that – his title hopes were over. 

Gordon spent the next eight races largely under the radar, until his run-in with Bowyer last week at Phoenix.
Gordon would later say he regretted his actions, but it was clear that his performance in the Chase had him frustrated.
“It's like our whole season wrapped up in one week,” said Gordon. “I mean, definitely the emotions, and you can try all you want to try to move past the moment, but man, it just ate me up inside all week.  I just kept going back and forth about the decisions that I made and wishing I had made different decisions to backing up reasons why I made the decisions I made, and I just kept going back and forth from being disappointed, being angry, feeling that I had a right.  I didn't have a right.  So that just ate me up all week.”

After getting taken out at Phoenix, Bowyer dropped to fourth in the Championship standings, but his second place finish, coupled with Jimmie Johnson’s DNF, put him second in the points, but left wondered what could have been

“I would’ve loved to have won that race, especially to beat him (Jeff Gordon),” said Bowyer. “To end up second in points and beat guys like Jimmie Johnson to do it. There’s several races -- had I had to do over again -- I wish they would’ve been different. Talladega was the biggest one. We just got behind at Talladega and never could really bounce back. I’m proud of everybody, because we were there all season long.”

Kyle Busch ended up 0-3 on the weekend despite leading the most laps Sunday’s race and Saturday’s Nationwide Series race and leading 45 laps in Friday’s truck series race, finishing second on both. Busch’s lone win in all three series was in the Sprint Cup race at Richmond back in April.

“I think I’ve said it the last five weeks right -- that’s our year -- that’s our year again tonight,” said Busch, who will finish the season 13th in points. “It just didn’t have enough there at the end to play the fuel mileage game. Guess we should have thought about that a little bit more.

“These guys work so hard all year long and it’s just a shame that we’re not able to come out here and be able to put it to victory lane like we should and like we know how to do.”

Truex, Jr., Aric Almirola, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished out the top ten.

Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 15 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet DuPont 20 Years 'Celebratory' 47/1 267 Running
2 6 15 Clint Bowyer Toyota 5-hour Energy 42/0 267 Running
3 19 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet U.S. Army 42/1 267 Running
4 8 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's 42/2 267 Running
5 13 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M / SP Richards 39/0 267 Running
6 7 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 39/1 267 Running
7 5 43 Aric Almirola Ford Smithfield 37/0 267 Running
8 23 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Budweiser 36/0 267 Running
9 26 78 Kurt Busch Chevrolet Furniture Row 35/0 267 Running
10 16 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet National Guard / Diet Mountain Dew 34/0 267 Running
11 18 27 Paul Menard Chevrolet Menards / Duracell 33/0 267 Running
12 4 99 Carl Edwards Ford Fastenal 32/0 267 Running
13 2 9 Marcos Ambrose Ford Black & Decker 32/1 267 Running
14 1 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot / redbeacon.com 30/0 267 Running
15 3 2 Brad Keselowski Dodge Miller Lite 29/0 267 Running
16 9 55 Mark Martin Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 28/0 267 Running
17 35 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Mobil 1 27/0 267 Running
18 11 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Best Buy 27/1 267 Running
19 33 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 25/0 267 Running
20 14 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats 24/0 267 Running
21 12 5 Kasey Kahne Chevrolet Farmers Insurance 24/1 267 Running
22 17 22 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Shell / Pennzoil 0 267 Running
23 20 21 Trevor Bayne Ford Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center 0 267 Running
24 41 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Express 20/0 267 Running
25 32 47 Bobby Labonte Toyota Clorox 19/0 265 Running
26 38 93 Travis Kvapil Toyota Burger King 18/0 265 Running
27 30 83 Landon Cassill Toyota Burger King 17/0 265 Running
28 21 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 16/0 264 Running
29 28 13 Casey Mears Ford GEICO 15/0 264 Running
30 24 51 Regan Smith Chevrolet Phoenix Construction 14/0 264 Running
31 34 34 David Ragan Ford CertainTeed / 31-W Insulation 13/0 263 Running
32 31 36 Dave Blaney Chevrolet Florida Lottery 12/0 263 Running
33 40 38 David Gilliland Ford Long John Silver's 11/0 262 Running
34 37 10 David Reutimann Chevrolet TMone.com 10/0 261 Running
35 39 37 J.J. Yeley Chevrolet C&C Audio Video & Appliance, Inc. 9/0 261 Running
36 10 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 9/1 224 In Pit
37 42 32 Ken Schrader Ford Federated Auto Parts 7/0 219 Out of Race
38 22 30 David Stremme Toyota Swan Racing 6/0 183 Out of Race
39 27 6 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Ford Fifth Third Bank 0 157 In Pit
40 36 26 Josh Wise * Ford MDS Transport 4/0 38 In Pit
41 25 98 Michael McDowell Ford Phil Parsons Racing 3/0 34 In Pit
42 43 23 Scott Riggs Chevrolet North Texas Pipe 2/0 23 In Pit
43 29 119 Mike Bliss Toyota Plinker Tactical 0 16 Out of Race

* Denotes Rookie

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