By Dale Money: Gordon, added to the Chase field by NASCAR Chairman Brian France because of a cheating scandal last month at Richmond, Va.,took a leap into the championship picture Sunday with a win at Martinsville, his first of the season, this moved him from fifth to third in the Sprint Cup standings with three races remaining.
He passed Kenseth for the lead with 21 laps remaining and did not look back from there. In five of the seven Chase races thus far, he has finished seventh or higher. His worst finish was 15th at New Hampshire.
“Matt drove a really first-class caliber race today and I didn’t know if we were going to get him, but it sure was awesome when we finally did and just kind of hoped there were no cautions,”Gordon said.
The win was Gordon’s eighth career victory at Martinsville, but first since he swept the two races at the track in 2005. He’s tied with teammate Jimmie Johnson for Martinsville wins, both trail Richard Petty (15) and Darrell Waltrip (11) on the career list. Kenseth has never won at Martinsville.
Johnson and Kenseth dominated the first half of the race, with Johnson leading 123 laps and Kenseth 95. Kenseth led 74 straight laps at one point, but got off pit sequence with the leaders and faded to 16th during a long green-flag run. Thanks mainly inpart to an array of cautions Kenseth was able to slowly work his way back toward the front and regain the lead when Johnson,Gordon and others had to pit.
There were 17 caution flags for 111 laps, but the last one flew on Lap 417, leaving a 67-lap green-flag run to the finish.
Matt Kenseth and Johnson left Martinsville tied atop the standings headed into Texas and among the other 11 Chase drivers, only Gordon (27 points behind), Kevin Harvick (28) and Kyle Busch (36) are within a race of the co-leaders in a format that awards a maximum of 48 points a race. Matt Kenseth picked up an extra bonus point with most laps lead with 202.
Kenseth also owns the tie breaker by winning one more race in the Chase.
“Whenever your team puts you in front for that last run and you’re out there leading, you get beat, you’re always a little bit disappointed,” Kenseth said. “I just got beat by honestly experience and a better driver of this track. I was hesitant to change my line and do the things he was doing because what I was doing got me there. Just got too tight at the end. Wish I could do it over”.
Greg Biffle angrily confronted Jimmie Johnson after the race,and accused him of ramming the 16 car and tearing of the rear bumper. After he grabbed Jimmies shoulder to get his attention, the two drivers exchanged words,as Greg was about to walk away, Jimmie inturn grabbed his arm to continue the conversation,Greg abruptly ended it right there and has since apologized on his Twitter account.