Alright, I can honestly say this week’s piece is going to have a lot of emotion, because quite frankly, there was a lot of it on Sunday. The start of the new round in the Chase had everyone on even ground, 4000 points for each of the top-8 drivers.
I’ll start with that, now to set the stage for part one, which I am calling “Retaliation.”
In the second round of the Chase, the story was Joey Logano sweeping the entire three-race run. However, to go along with that, was the controversy at both Kansas and Talladega, where he would get into Matt Kenseth. His bump and spin at Kansas got under the skin of the driver of the No. 20 Toyota, and the pit road rub at Talladega only added salt to the wound. Kenseth would end up on the outside of the Chase after last weekend, while Logano was riding momentum never seen in the Chase Grid format.
That is, until Sunday, at lap 455. Kenseth was already involved in the previous caution that began when Kurt Busch hit Kenseth through the first two turns, which sent him spinning and collected many others. His race was done at that point, at least in theory.
Fast forward a few laps, Logano is out front, and he goes to the outside of the No. 20. On the radio, Logano’s spotter kept saying he was inside…inside, and inside still.
Then, it happened. Kenseth put the bumper to him, and around went both the No. 22 and the No. 20. The fans at Martinsville went insane, almost as if it was a resurrection of Dale Earnhardt in the most unexpected of drivers. Kenseth was parked for the accident, which was a moot point since the wreck punctured the radiator and the damage was too much to continue anyway.
Kenseth on the radio said he lost the right-front tire.
I’m sorry; if you’re gonna try to hide the truth about what happened, do a better job. It was clear that Kenseth wrecked him, and the fans all knew it. Do not be surprised if penalties are coming, especially considering Kenseth, along with his crew chief and car owner all got called to the NASCAR hauler after the race.
Meanwhile, the beneficiary of all this, was Jeff Gordon.
It’s been made perfectly clear that this is his final season at the wheel, and through 32 races he stayed competitive, but winless. However, he made the Eliminator Round, and knew of all tracks that he could lock himself into the title round, the best opportunity was at Martinsville. His eight wins were tied for most among active drivers. But now, with one pass, and the desire to still perform at the highest level, Gordon stands tall among the best at this small track.
When that flag waved for him in victory, the crew waited for him to burn down the tires on his car. But instead, he parked at the finish line, unstrapped, and got out to feel the energy of the crowd. The fans went crazy, because they knew that the guy who they used to hate only had three more races left in his career. But now, one of those races will be possibly the one that gives him a championship.
He took in every cheer, ovation, hug and high-five. Gordon has said numerous times this track is his favorite on the circuit. Sunday cemented it, and every individual knew what it meant to him.
When the checkered flag waves at Homestead on November 22, Gordon’s career will come to a conclusion. The “Wonder Boy” as he was named by Earnhardt, who is now known as “Big Daddy” thanks to his kids, Ella and Leo, will try to ride off into the sunset and into the broadcast booth next year as a champion one final time.
The “Drive for Five” is still alive.
RESULTS: 1-Gordon 2-McMurray 3-Hamlin 4-Earnhardt Jr. 5-Kyle Busch 6-Truex Jr. 7-Newman 8-Harvick 9-Kahne 10-Stewart
NOTABLE FINISHES: 12-Johnson 15-Edwards 32-Keselowski 34-Kurt Busch 37-Logano 38-Kenseth
CAUTIONS: 18 for 109 laps. Laps: 1-7 (Green/Yellow start); 52-56 (Competition); 103-112 (#26 Spin-T2); 114-119 (#10, 11, 15, 31, 42 and 43 Accident-T3); 128-134 (#17 Accident in Turn 3 ); 137-141 (#9 and 98 Accident-T3); 158-161 (#10 and 38 Accident-T2); 172-179 (#3, 18, 19, 27, 47 Accident-T2); 187-191 (#15, 42 and 55 Accident-T3); 238-242 (#16 Spin-T2); 282-286 (#16 Spin-T2); 379-387 (No. 32 Accident inTurn 3 ); 419-425 (#10 and 38 Accident in Turn 4 ); 430-434 (#9, 23 and 38 Accident-T4); 436-443 (2, 20, 22, 24, 41 Accident-FS); 455-459 (#20 and 22 Accident-T1 [Red Flag-12 mins, 46 secs.]); 467-470 (#55 Spin-T2); 495-498 (#9 Accident-T1).
LEAD CHANGES: 21 among 9 drivers. J. Logano 1-8; M. Truex Jr. 9-35; J. Logano 36-43; J. Gordon 44-53; J. Logano 54-59; Kurt Busch 60-81; J. Logano 82-158; A. Dillon 159-164; J. Logano 165-198; K. Harvick 199-236; B. Keselowski 237-239; J. Logano 240-255; B. Keselowski 256-282; J. Logano 283-292; B. Keselowski
293-388; J. Logano 389-393; B. Keselowski 394-410; J. Logano 411-453; J. Gordon 454-456; D. Hamlin 457-459; A. Allmendinger 460-478; J. Gordon 479-500.
TIME OF RACE: 3 Hrs, 46 Mins, 35 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 69.643 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.335 Seconds
CHASE GRID: 1. Gordon, 4047 points*; 2. Kyle Busch, -8; 3. Truex Jr, -8; 4. Harvick, -10; 5. Edwards, -17; 6. Keselowski, -34; 7. Kurt Busch, -36; 8. Logano, -38; 9. Hamlin, -1796; 10. Newman, -1816; 11. Earnhardt Jr, -1826; 12. McMurray, -1846; 13. Kenseth, -1850; 14. Johnson, -1854; 15. Menard, -1870; 16. Bowyer, -1923.
*Locked into Championship Round