Parks Pit Report: 5-Hour Energy 400

The weight on this team's shoulders is finally gone.  Jeff Gordon can say he's  race winner, and he's in the Chase.
The weight on this team's shoulders is finally gone.  Jeff Gordon can say he's  race winner, and he's in the Chase.

The weight on this team’s shoulders is finally gone. Jeff Gordon can say he’s race winner, and he’s in the Chase.

This season, the motto is simple and clear:  winning is everything.  For the last few years, it’s been all about “points racing” and then when it comes time to have the Chase, then go out and win.  Winning certainly still has been key for seeding in the Chase, but even a strong points day meant a lot.

Not this year.  When the Chase became a 16-driver field, and wins gave drivers a near guaranteed spot in the title hunt, things picked up in a hurry.

But then there are some drivers that have great points days, even lead the points, but know that no wins by the time the Chase comes could mean being on the outside looking in when the title run begins.

The best case for this by far is Jeff Gordon.  This season he’s outright been 20 times better than he has the previous two or three years.  This year he’s been leading the points and has been running at the end of every race, but unfortunately he did not break through and get that victory that has become so important this season.  The team is always at the top of their game, but couldn’t break through that glass ceiling.

Then came Saturday night in Kansas.  This track has always been great for him and the team, but he had not won a race at this track since going back-to-back in 2001 and 2002.  However, this season was so grand, it was only a matter of time before this team hit the right combination.

Everything fell into place that night.  The team brought a fast car right off the truck, practiced strong, qualified well, and stayed at the front all night.  When the team needed fast pit stops, they delivered, and the final stop made the most difference, putting him ahead of Kevin Harvick when the final pit cycle was complete.  He continued to pull away, and despite having to negotiate lapped traffic in the late stages, Gordon made it to the flagstand first, taking his first win of 2014, and making sure his name was in the running for this year’s championship.

Those that know me are aware I am a huge Jeff Gordon fan, I don’t hide the fact he’s the one I hope wins every week.  So this win for me is great to have watched from start to finish.

He is a four-time champion, but those titles came in a different era.  Those were WINSTON Cup championships.  He truly wants to win a Sprint Cup title, in the Chase format.  Not just for himself, but for his wife and his kids.  If he can do that, his career would come full circle.

Then, and only then, will I decide on a new driver to root for, because at that point, Gordon will decide to hang up the helmet, thus ending a Hall of Fame career that has certainly made it’s mark on the sport.

RESULTS:  1-Gordon  2-Harvick  3-Kahne  4-Logano  5-Earnhardt Jr.  6-Edwards  7-Patrick  8-Almirola  9-Johnson  10-Kenseth

NOTABLE FINISHES:  13-Keselowski  15-Kyle Busch  18-Hamlin  20-Stewart  29-Kurt Busch

CAUTIONS:  8 for 47 laps.  Lap 48-52 (#15 spin-BS), 61-66 (#7, 34, 40, 83 accident-T4), 72-74 (#11 spin-T2), 111-118 (#9 spin-FS), 151-160 (#1 accident-T3), 181-184 (#41 spin-FS), 188-194 (#51, 38, 34, 47, 27, 14 accident-FS), 204-207 (#41 spin-T2).

LEAD CHANGES:  25 among 10 drivers.  Harvick 1-41, Logano 42, Edwards 43, Gordon 44, Keselowski 45-52, Harvick 53-73, Keselowski 74, Harvick 75-101, Edwards 102, Logano 103-112, Earnhardt Jr. 113-121, Logano 122-138, Kahne 139-156, Logano 157, Kahne 158-161, Logano 162-181, Johnson 182-183, Kyle Busch 184, Johnson 185-193, Logano 194-207, Harvick 208-237, Edwards 238-241, Kenseth 242, Johnson 243-255, Keselowski 256-259, Gordon 260-267.

TIME OF RACE:  3 Hrs, 7 Mins, 31 Secs.

AVERAGE SPEED:  128.149 MPH

MARGIN OF VICTORY:  0.112 Seconds

POINT STANDINGS:  1. Gordon, 394 points*; 2. Kenseth, -15; 3. Kyle Busch, -21*; 4. Earnhardt Jr, -26*; 5. Edwards, -27*; 6. Logano, -48*; 7. Johnson, -54; 8. Newman, -62; 9. Biffle, -66; 10. Vickers, -67.

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