Gordon a contender after chase history
Posted: Thursday, September 8, 2011 7:08 am
By PAUL NEWBERRY
AP Sports Writer
HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) — With his car sliding all over the track, Jeff Gordon held off teammate Jimmie Johnson over a thrilling last 10 laps Tuesday to win the rain-delayed NASCAR race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Gordon won for the third time this season and 85th time in his career, breaking a tie with Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip for third on the career list.
Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105) are the only drivers in Cup history with more victories than Gordon.
“I totally forgot about that,” said Gordon, who received a special plaque from NASCAR during the victory ceremony in front of the main grandstand. “Eighty-five, wow! That is un-un-believable. With the kind of day we had, the kind of year we’re having, I feel rejuvenated.”
He sure earned this win, fending off the defending five-time champion. Johnson put his Chevrolet in front of Gordon’s No. 24 car a couple of times but couldn’t hold on through the corners. At the end, with both drivers racing as hard as they could on fading tires, their cars came close to getting sideways several times.
Johnson made one last run for the lead on the final lap, but had to back off to keep from putting his car in the wall. Gordon pulled away to win by 0.598 seconds.
“I’m so glad I grew up racing on dirt,” Johnson said. “I could have spun out four or five times at the end.”
The AdvoCare 500 was only the second Cup race since 1978 to be run on a Tuesday. It was originally scheduled for Sunday night, but rain from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee forced a two-day postponement.
Gordon, a four-time champion, had already locked up a spot in the Chase for the championship, but this performance stamped him as a prime contender to end Johnson’s unprecedented title run.
Then again, Johnson looks pretty strong, too. He moved past Kyle Busch to take the top spot in the season standings, leaving little doubt that he’s still the one everyone’s chasing.
“The reality is we have a lot to be proud of,” said Johnson, who has only one victory this season but always seems to run near the front. “We know we have a very good chance of winning.”
Tony Stewart was feeling a lot better about his chances after making up more than 8 seconds on the leaders in the final laps to finish third.