Jeff Gordon went into today’s Pennsylvania 400 with one thought in mind, needing to win. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase has placed a large emphasis on wins, and Gordon was without one until Sunday. Gordon, with help from a wreck and the elements captured a win in the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway. The last time that the four time Sprint Cup Series champion won a race was the September 11, 2011 race at Atlanta.
The way the NASCAR Chase is set up is the top ten drivers with the most points get in, and then the two wild card spots go to the drivers with the most wins. Kasey Kahne holds the first Wild Card spot with two wins. This win puts Gordon in the second Wild Card spot, ahead of Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano. Gordon and Newman are tied in the standings both with 611 points, but Gordon takes the spot because he has more top fives then Newman. Gordon and Newman have the same number of wins, seconds, thirds and fourths. (Gordon with 4 top five finishes, Newman with 3)
Gordon’s season was looking grim, and his hopes of making the Chase were dwindling week after week. It seemed like the 41 year old NASCAR veteran of 21 years might miss the Chase for only the second time in his career.
The race had a delayed start of 90 minutes due to rain with officials knowing there was more rain on the radar heading towards the track. It was a mistake by fellow Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson on lap 91 that helped Gordon to victory lane. Johnson got loose in Turn 1 on a restart on lap 91 and knocked Matt Kenseth into the outside wall. Gordon saw the cars wrecking around him and managed to not get caught up in the wreckage and surged to the front.
Gordon said, “I’ve never seen the seas part like that…I got a good restart, so I really got up to fifth as we were getting into the braking zone going into 1. I don’t know what happened to the 48. I just saw he got loose, and when he got loose, it took everybody that was in front of us up the race track or into the wall….I just made it right to the bottom, stood in the gas and drove out … and we were leading.”
Rain came down and NASCAR parked the cars on lap 98 after they ran 7 laps under caution. Gordon happened to be in the lead, and that made all the difference.
NASCAR called the race a few minutes later. “It’s nice to know that things can still go our way” Gordon said “The way our year has gone, we’ll definitely take it like this. I tell you what, with all the things that have gone wrong for us this year, I’m hoping that this is the one that makes up for it all.”
Gordon had won his first race of the season and made his mark to be included in the Chase but… There are still five races left this season. He is currently 13th in the point standings but Carl Edwards still is ahead of him in the standings in the 12th spot. All Edwards would need to do is win a race and finish with more points then Gordon to steal the spot away from him. A lot of changes can still happen in the next five weeks, and Edwards and Gordon are not the only ones fighting for the second wild card spot.Anything can happen, its all in the drivers and crews hands to see who will qualify for a spot in the Chase when the regular season ends at Richmond.
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