By AMANDA VINCENT
As the skies got increasingly darker over Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, a historic NASCAR short track not illuminated, Jeff Gordon claimed his first win of his final season of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition on Sunday in the Goody’s Headache Shot 500. The win was Gordon’s ninth at Martinsville, the most among active drivers, and it secured his spot as one of the four drivers to race for the Sprint Cup in the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 22.
Jamie McMurray finished second, and Denny Hamlin took third in a race that saw him spin and receive two pit road speeding penalties. Dale Earnhardt Jr and Kyle Busch rounded out the top-five.
“Those last couple of laps, I give a lot of credit to Jamie McMurray,” Gordon said. “He raced me hard and clean, there. Oh, man, I’ll tell you, it’s just never over. What a battle. What a team. People don’t give this team enough credit, and we seized an opportunity right there. I don’t think this opporunity would present itself the next couple of weeks. We’re going to take advantage of this one, and I don’t have to worry about that.”
Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano dominated the race before being involved in late-race incidents, both of which also involved Matt Kenseth, a rival of Logano’s since an incident two races earlier at Kansas Speedway. Prior to their late-race wrecks, Logano led a race-high 207 laps in the 500-lap race, while Keselowski led 143.
The wreck that involved Keselowski and Kenseth also included Kurt Busch and came on lap 435.
“I got hit from behind and pushed me into the 20 (Kenseth) and my right-front wheel hit Kenseth’s left-rear and it just broke the right-front suspension off the car. The car wouldn’t turn and just kept going straight until I couldn’t do anything, and I started wrecking everybody. I just didn’t have any steering wheel left.”
Kenseth’s time in the garage for repairs were short-lived before he returned to the track and wrecked with Logano on lap 453.
“I think what happened at Kansas is a completely different deal,” Logano said. “We were racing for the win and he blocks you a few times and then we raced hard and he blocked me the last time and we spun out. That’s what happened there. Here, it was just a complete coward move, especially for a championship race car driver and race team. Just a complete coward. I don’t have anything else to say.”
After the incident with Logano, NASCAR parked Kenseth and called him to the NASCAR trailer, along with his crew chief Jason Ratcliff and his car owner Joe Gibbs.
“Well, it’s a really disappointing day,” Kenseth said. “I thought we were going to have a shot at the win, there, and they (Keselowski and Logano) were jacking up the restart real bad to let each other in as teammates, which is fine, and I probably went in there and I got on the other side of Joey, and I was going to try to race him for the win and Brad wiped me out for some reason. I’m not really sure why. And then we had so much damage on the right-front, I should have probably just put it in the garage and just got into (turn) one and couldn’t get it to turn and ran Joey over, so disappointing ending for sure.”
After a 12-and-a-half minute red flag, Hamlin and A.J. Allmendinger stayed out to resrtart the race on the front row. When the race restarted, Allmendinger took the lead from Hamlin. Gordon then moved into second and passed Allmendinger for the lead with 22 laps to go.
After Gordon moved into the lead, McMurray took second. He kept Gordon in his sights but was unable to get by for the lead and the win.
Martin Truex Jr. finished sixth, Ryan Newman was seventh, and Kevin Harvick finished eighth. Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart rounded out the top-10, both in backup cars because of wrecks earlier in the race weekend.
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