You wouldn’t think the man hoisting the checkered flag had done it 92 prior times in the Sprint Cup Series.
Jeff Gordon, in his final race at Martinsville Speedway in his final full-time season in the Sprint Cup Series, held off Jamie McMurray in a two-lap shootout to grab the victory in the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500. It’s the 93rd win of his legendary Sprint Cup Series career, ninth at Martinsville and most importantly a victory that will carry Gordon to the Championship Four at Homestead-Miami Speedway in three weeks.
“Oh my gosh,” Gordon said in disbelief in Victory Lane. “This is one of the most memorable experiences of victory I can ever think of. My final year, final start at Martinsville, the meaning behind this win, what was on the line. How we had to do it, the drama that there was. This team just seems to persevere.” Locked into Homestead, Gordon will rest easy the next two weeks at Texas Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway.
“Unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable,” Gordon said. “I keep thinking I’m going to pinch myself and wake up but I hope tomorrow I wake up next to that Grandfather clock.
“I don’t know what it feels like to be a rock star, but that’s as close as it can get I think because that’s a rock-star moment right there.”
In the eyes of many, Gordon’s emotional return to Victory Lane will be ranked No. 1 on the weekend’s headlines. However, another raging headline will be the growing feud between Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth that took a vicious turn with 46 laps to go.
Logano, leading a race-high 207 laps, was lapping Kenseth’s damaged No. 20 past the start-finish line before Kenseth hooked Logano into the turn 1 wall, taking Logano out of the race and forcing NASCAR to park Kenseth for the remainder of the afternoon.
The payback from Kenseth brews from a late-race spin at Kansas Speedway while the two raced for the win.
“I think what happened at Kansas is a completely different deal,” Logano who returned to the half mile track to finish 37th. “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. Here, it was just a complete coward move, especially for a championship racecar driver and race team. Just a complete coward. I don’t have anything else to say.”
Logano was on track to a fourth consecutive win, one that would have clinched the 25-year-old into Homestead.
“It’s a chicken-you-know-what move,” he continued, “to completely take out the leader when your race is over. We’ll move on.”
Kenseth came in to Martinsville already eliminated from the Chase following a dreadful Contender Round and was limping following a lap 436 crash on the backstretch that also took Chasers Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch out of contention.
“I had two chances to win in the last three weeks,” Kenseth said, “and got wrecked out of both of them going for the lead. One from [Logano] and one from Brad [Keselowski]. That’s disappointing. I should have never been in that spot trying to move that car around and to the finish.”
The highly dramatic accident awarded Gordon the top spot and moved non-Chaser McMurray into contention for his first win in more than two years.
“When Jeff gave me the outside [lane],” McMurray said who came home a strong second, “I somewhat wanted that. I struggled on the inside. Had a lot on my mind there. I drove as hard as I could.”
Denny Hamlin came home third despite a spin on lap 114. Out of title contention, Hamlin commented on the Kenseth-Logano incident.
“Joey didn’t choose to call me until the Chase started, in fear of getting wrecked,” Hamlin said, regarding a past on-track incident with Logano. “I think, in my opinion, you got to control that a little bit better and talk to the person. But if you’re just going to stick your nose in there and say, ‘Ah, well, that’s the way it’s going to be,’ you’re going to have to expect contact.”
Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch ran into a slippery situation on lap 172, hitting a line of water and spinning into Austin Dillon, collecting teammate Carl Edwards.
“Yeah, it was damp. There was water,” Busch said who rebounded to finish fifth. “I could see it at the end of the race. With the lights the way they were, you could see the little bit of shine there.”
Sitting nine points above the cutoff spot of fifth, Busch commented on Gordon’s lock into Homestead.
“That puts him on to Homestead,” he said. “That’s a car we’re going to have to race no doubt about it. I said that if Jeff made it to Homestead that he will be a guy that I do believe couldn’t beat the [No.] 22 straight up. But if the [No.] 22 isn’t there, Jeff is going to be a contender.”
Martinsville showed once again the importance of staying out of trouble as 18 cautions waved for 109 laps. Danica Patrick and David Gilliland had multiple incidents of contact which started on lap 158 with Gilliland pushing Patrick into the turn 2 wall and ended with a lap 419 attempted payback from Patrick which took her car out of the race.
Greg Biffle also had a rough day, spinning three separate times in turn 2, finishing three laps down in 26th.
The final stages of the race saw a strategy move made by both Hamlin and AJ Allmendinger, who each stayed out while the leaders took to pit road.
Allmendinger took the top spot from Hamlin and led for 19 laps before Gordon got by and led the rest of the way. He finished 11th.
Rounding out the top six were Dale Earnhardt Jr. in fourth and Martin Truex Jr. in sixth, who said he had a “possible winning move” on Gordon in the closing stages.
“I got to say congratulations to Jeff,” said Truex who starts the Eliminator Round with another strong run. “What an awesome career he’s had. It was fun racing with him today. There was a time at the last restart I almost got a run on him to pass him. That would’ve been possibly the winning move.”
Completing the top 10 were Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart.
2015 GOODY’S HEADACHE RELIEF SHOT 500 RACE RESULTS
About the author
Growing up in Easton, Pa., Zach Catanzareti has grown his auto racing interest from fandom to professional. Joining Frontstretch in 2015, Zach enjoys nothing more than being at the track, having covered his first half-season of 18 races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2017. With experience behind the wheel, behind the camera and in the media center, he thrives on being an all-around reporter.
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I’m glad that Jeff won a race. That being said the fact that Logano is now at the bottom of the eight drivers in points (-28) only shows how absurd the Chase system is. Even Jeff Gordon fans have to admit how absurd it is that Jeff could potentially move on to the final round while Logano, who has won the last three races, started on the pole for this race and led 207 laps could potentially not move on to the next round. Most likely this won’t be the case as he should do well the next couple of races but you never know the way this stupid Chase system is set up. The point is, using Jeff Gordon as an example he’s won one race this season and really hasn’t been doing great overall but he potentially could be the Champion after all is said and done while drivers like Logano who has seven victories and has been at the top of the leader board for most of the season could be fifth (if I have that right). Keep in mind that I like both Gordon and Logano, I am merely using what happened at Martinsville to point out how illogically this Chase/Playoff system is. Don’t even get me going about seeing those idiotic Rutledge commercials.
Well, Kenseth got his revenge. Logano and Keselowski are both finished, and everyone is cheering loudly. Except me! What Kenseth did was dirty and quite honestly, very disappointing. Of course, judging by the cheers Kenseth received, and from all the comments on any article already posted on ESPN’s and FOX’s websites, what he did was more than acceptable. I will be surprized if NASCAR takes any action. After all, this is making Brian smile!
To Gina and Bill, I hope Gordon gets his fifth championship! And I know now, only too well, what it’s like to cheer for a driver that is so hated by the fans! I apologize that I never cheered for Gordon all those years, as Mark Martin was “The Man” to me. With no Fords running in the final (there is no way either of the two Penske cars will make it now), I’ll cheer for Jeff.
Oh boy, where to start here…………….good for Gordon, he needed this big time and I hope he does go out on top. Now to the Kenseth deal, I figured something was going to come about but not this magnitude. Logano did deserve something in the form of payback because, no matter how you may think, what he did to Kenseth at Kansas was 100% intentional. He spun Matty on purpose and basically took away Kenseth’s chance at a championship. Keep in mind I do not condone what Kenseth did but I understand it. Logano’s car has a brake pedal in it, too, and he was faster than Kenseth at Kansas but he chose to spin the boy instead and opened up a can of worms that we’ll see in the next two weeks if he can worm his way out of. Also, Logano’s old man needs to be kept on a short leash or in the bleachers.
I agree with Joey… What Kenseth did at Martinsville was totally different from what happened in Kansas. I’m hoping Nascar parks Matt for a race or two.
I’ve never pulled for Jeff Gordon but I admit I was puling for him at the end of the race. His win is a great story.
This format is ridiculous and it is impossible to govern. The sport has been spiraling down to this level over the last 3 seasons (maybe longer). I will be real interested to see how NASCAR handles it since they are directly responsible for this situation by be unwilling to discipline drivers in the past. And so what if they did? There is still something wrong when one race can derail an entire season. It opens the door for crap like this to happen. How do you even begin to officiate this mess.
BTW, thanks Ken, glad to have you on the team for the rest of the season. With this format anything is possible although rarely fair.
I hope NASCAR is proud of the fact that they’ve created a playoff system where paybacks really can’t be punished. Whether you agree or disagree with what Kenseth did today, it was a smart payback move on his part because NASCAR can’t do anything about it. If they take points away, so what? He’s out of the championship battle anyway, so it really doesn’t matter. Fines have never hurt any NASCAR driver (unless you’re Carl Long), and probation is rather meaningless. They very well may punish Kenseth with points and a fine, but it won’t hurt him.
NASCAR’s chase is feeling more like the TV show “Survivor”…do just enough to make sure you advance to the next round, and make sure you don’t anger anybody along the way because they can turn around and knock you out of contention!
I really hope Jeff Gordon wins the championship. He doesn’t really deserve it with the season he’s had, but it would help to make up for the 3 other championships he would have won if the chase had never been instituted.
What Nascar can and should do is suspend Kenseth for a race or two. It’s what they did to Kyle Busch when he intentionally wrecked Ron Hornaday in the CWTS. The precedent has been set, not that Nascar pays much attention to consistency. It would have been different if Matt had put the bumper to Logano to pass him, but what Kenseth did was plow Logano into the wall. I’m not a Logano fan, though I don’t dislike him, but what Kenseth did was blatant and unnecessary and beyond what should be considered acceptable.
I love Survivor.
What to say, sad times for the human race. A guy leading the race and a race high 0f 207 laps gets taken out by a lapper and people cheer. They cheer because he is still getting hate mail because of last week in Dega, their God did not win, and in some way this is poetic justice,? How flipping sick to the bone is that? Matt has been whining for two weeks over his miscalculation of two racings blocking and drivers holding their line, he without question wrecks the race leader as a lapper and lies thru his teeth. Come on man. WTF? Nasty, dirty business.
And of course Nascar is peeing themselves because Jeff and his lackluster season is now considered Championship material based on the format. No offense fans, but it is true. This whole thing is a debacle, I am embarrassed to be a fan, I am embarrassed by my fellow fans. I believe Nascar is ruining this sport. Apples and oranges what happened two weeks ago and today.
This is the perfect opportunity to sent the mentally unstable Matt for a long vaction and hope he is well for the 2016 season. They don’t have the balls, but I wish they would. Let Jesus Joe and his uncontrollable bunch of girls deal with the sponsors and the aftermath of Matty getting hopefully parked for the rest of the season.