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Gordon grabs first win of year

Posted: Monday, April 11, 2005

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Jeff Gordon showed that he might be the new king of short-track racing Sunday, coming from four laps down early on to win his sixth NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Martinsville Speedway.

Fourth on a restart with 46 laps to go, Gordon wasted no time.

He followed Mark Martin past Ryan Newman on the 461st lap, went underneath Martin to move into second place three laps later and passed Sterling Marlin for the lead with 34 laps remaining.

From then on, it was smooth sailing to his 71st career victory and second in six races this year. It was his sixth victory at 0.526-mile Martinsville, the shortest and trickiest track in the premier series. Only Rusty Wallace, with seven, has more among active drivers.

For Gordon and all of Hendrick Motorsports, it was an emotional day. The last time the series was at this track, a plane carrying 10 friends and family of the organization crashed nearby, killing everyone on board.

''There's something special about this place and we lost so many incredible people, part of this organization and racing community and I think it's only fitting for us to get this victory,'' Gordon said after getting a huge embrace from team owner Rick Hendrick in Victory Lane.

''I know how much it means to Rick and his family and all those other families, and it means a lot to this race team,'' Gordon said.

Hendrick's son, Ricky, was among those killed in the crash.

The only drama for Gordon as he pulled away from the field was getting around defending series champion Kurt Busch, who was running with the leaders with 53 laps remaining until Gordon nudged him into the wall.

Running three laps down, Busch made Gordon work to get around him, even banging into him during side-by-side racing on the front stretch.

Once Gordon got around Busch, though, he was gone, and even the 16th caution flag with less than 10 laps to go didn't hinder him. He pulled away from Kasey Kahne with three laps to go and won by 0.593 seconds.

Gordon's Chevrolet and Kahne's Dodge were followed across the line by Martin's Ford, the Dodge of Newman and Marlin, also in a Dodge.

Early on, Gordon seemed to be out of contention after less than 50 laps. He pitted under a green flag because of a vibration after 47 laps, went three laps down, then lost another lap before beginning to rally.

With the fastest car on the track, Gordon had little trouble beating the leaders to the first turn as the lead lapped car on restarts. By lap 277, he was the ''lucky dog,'' allowing him to go to the tail of the lead lap, where he was already in 18th place and on his way to the front.

The race had a disappointing finish for the Joe Gibbs Racing tandem of Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart, who led for a combined 279 laps.

Labonte was leading when the race came out of a caution with 105 laps to go, but his car suddenly slowed and he faded quickly to mid-pack.

Stewart, who led four times for 247 of the first 389 laps, was running in the top five with 70 laps to go when his car suddenly slowed in the fourth turn. By the time he got into the first turn, everyone found out why: his right front tire came off his Chevrolet and went bounding down the track.

The 16 cautions slowed the pace for 91 laps.

Jimmie Johnson, who finished eighth, remained the series leader by 160 points over Greg Biffle, who was 29th. Elliott Sadler finished ninth and moved up two spots to third in the standings, 182 points back.

At Martinsville Speedway

Martinsville, Va.

Lap length: 0.526 miles

(Start position in parentheses)

1. (16) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 500, 72.099 mph, $186,051.

2. (35) Kasey Kahne, Dodge, 500, $143,915.

3. (22) Mark Martin, Ford, 500, $109,625.

4. (2) Ryan Newman, Dodge, 500, $132,241.

5. (4) Rusty Wallace, Dodge, 500, $111,308.

6. (20) Sterling Marlin, Dodge, 500, $109,758.

7. (13) Ricky Rudd, Ford, 500, $104,439.

8. (37) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 500, $120,041.

9. (25) Elliott Sadler, Ford, 500, $114,091.

10. (10) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 500, $103,508.

11. (18) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 500, $118,186.

12. (12) Jason Leffler, Chevrolet, 500, $69,375.

13. (26) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 500, $118,133.

14. (32) Dale Jarrett, Ford, 500, $106,733.

15. (3) Jeremy Mayfield, Dodge, 499, $111,095.

16. (30) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 499, $98,895.

17. (24) Casey Mears, Dodge, 499, $95,688.

18. (19) Kyle Petty, Dodge, 498, $84,958.

19. (9) Kurt Busch, Ford, 498, $119,325.

20. (43) Robby Gordon, Chevrolet, 498, $67,700.

21. (1) Scott Riggs, Chevrolet, 498, $95,858.

22. (14) Jeff Green, Dodge, 497, $99,286.

23. (23) Mike Wallace, Chevrolet, 497, $70,450.

24. (11) Ken Schrader, Dodge, 497, $69,200.

25. (29) Jamie McMurray, Dodge, 496, $77,275.

26. (7) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 493, $128,861.

27. (17) Travis Kvapil, Dodge, 490, engine failure, $77,810.

28. (41) Kevin Lepage, Dodge, 489, $65,010.

29. (8) Greg Biffle, Ford, 487, $82,825.

30. (31) Michael Waltrip, Chevrolet, 477, $95,414.

31. (33) Scott Wimmer, Dodge, 466, $85,097.

32. (5) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 436, $111,661.

33. (6) Bobby Labonte, Chevrolet, 435, engine failure, $102,225.

34. (42) Dave Blaney, Chevrolet, 416, $72,075.

35. (27) Brian Vickers, Chevrolet, 412, $72,025.

36. (15) Mike Bliss, Chevrolet, 410, overheating, $63,975.

37. (38) Hermie Sadler, Ford, 340, accident, $63,925.

38. (36) Carl Edwards, Ford, 321, $81,875.

39. (21) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 304, overheating, $71,815.

40. (28) Bobby Hamilton Jr., Chevrolet, 151, overheating, $63,740.

41. (40) Johnny Sauter, Dodge, 55, brakes, $63,690.

42. (39) Randy LaJoie, Chevrolet, 26, engine failure, $63,640.

43. (34) Mike Garvey, Dodge, 18, brakes, $63,053.

Race Statistics

Time of Race: 3 hours, 38 minutes, 52 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 0.593 seconds.

Caution Flags: 16 for 91 laps.

Lead Changes: 17 among 11 drivers.

Lap Leaders: Riggs 0, Mayfield 1-47, R.Wallace 48-94, Labonte 95-116, Stewart 117-129, R.Gordon 130-133, Stewart 134-183, Kenseth 184, Stewart 185-203, Mayfield 204-224, Stewart 225-389, Labonte 390-399, Kurt Busch 400-415, Martin 416, Kurt Busch 417-433, Newman 434-458, Marlin 459-464, J.Gordon 465-500.

Point Standings: 1. Johnson 977. 2. Biffle 817. 3. E.Sadler 795. 4. Martin 779. 5. Stewart 774. 6. J.Gordon 772. 7. R.Wallace 771. 8. Newman 753. 9. Kurt Busch 746. 10. Jarrett 732.



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