Jeff Gordon Wins Tuesday Matinee At Atlanta

Jeff Gordon celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway Tuesday. Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR

Jeff Gordon had the most dominant car during Tuesday’s running of the 52ndannual AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but teammate Jimmie Johnson made him work for the win in the closing laps.

Gordon led seven times for a race-high 146 laps, taking the lead for the final time on lap 276 of the 325-lap event. Following the final pit stops of the day with 42 laps to go, Johnson closed to within a few car lengths to Gordon’s back bumper, but was unable to pass the No. 24 Chevrolet. However, in the closing laps Johnson muscled his No. 48 to Gordon’s door and battled side-by-side with his teammate and car owner for several laps before giving way to Gordon.

“We used it up there in the end and I was slipping and sliding,” Gordon said about the final laps. “The track really changed a lot after that rain delay. Our car was real, real tight and we had to free it up. That was a lot of fun racing with him (Johnson). I was slipping and he was slipping. The throttle control was very tough there at the end. There were a couple of moments where I really thought he got us.”

Gordon’s Crew Chief Alan Gustafson was especially proud of the team’s performance at Atlanta due to the fact that 1.5-mile tracks make up a large percentage of the venues in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

“This was one of the race tracks we felt to be an elite team and contend for the title; we had to do well on this style of track,” Gustafson said. “I’m pleased to do that.”

Following the race, Gordon discussed the conditions that make Atlanta such a racer’s track.

“I think that any track that we go to that has pavement that is of this consistency, that is this worn, that has aged, and is abrasive like this, and as long as Goodyear can find a tire that can hold up in these kinds of conditions, then this is the ultimate track and it’s the ultimate place,” said Gordon. “When you’ve got a track that cars are running on the bottom, middle, the top at both ends of the racetrack, and the drop off of speeds from the beginning to the end of the run; that to me is what you want to see in a racetrack.”

The top three finishers all sported Chevrolet bow-ties, with Tony Stewart finishing third. Stewart echoed Gordon’s sentiments about Atlanta being a great track for drivers.

“I will say this: if Ed Clark (president and general manager of Atlanta Motor Speedway) decides to repave this racetrack, I will personally shoot him myself,” Stewart jokingly said. “This place is so racy, so much fun. It’s like Jimmie said, here more so than anywhere we go to, you actually have to take care of your tires and kind of budget them for your run. That’s what makes it fun here.”

Jeff Gordon celebrates in Victory Lane after the win. Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR

Gordon won his 85th-career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the same track that he started his career at in 1992. He moves to third in all time Sprint Cup wins, trailing only Richard Petty and David Pearson. For a variety of reasons, Atlanta holds a special place in Gordon’s heart.

“I’ve always enjoyed this racetrack,” said Gordon. “My first Busch (now Nationwide Series) win came here and that’s kind of where Rick (Hendrick) recognized me and where we kind of connected. I ran my first race here, winning some big races here, clinching the championship or celebrating championships here. This place has always been a place I’ve enjoyed going to. Plus I think it’s a great racetrack. The surface, and the slipping and the sliding around, and having to run up against the wall in one and two and on the bottom in three and four. It’s a very challenging racetrack and it can be your best friend or worst enemy. It’s been a good track for me over the years.”

Early in the event, it appeared Kyle Busch would run away with it, possibly winning the Sprint Summer Showdown and a total payout of $3,000,000. The Las Vegas native led 19 laps and ran among the leaders for much of the first half of the event, but sustained damage to his No. 18 machine following contact with the wall.

Rain, which had delayed the race by two days, slowed the field to a crawl just past the 200-lap mark. That allowed the leaders to hit pit road, although the intensity of the rain picked up.

That eventually led officials to red flag the race for 24 minutes, 22 seconds.

J.J. Yeley, who had chosen to remain on the track, held the lead while Landon Cassill likewise stayed out and held the second spot during the lengthy delay.

When action resumed, Yeley and Cassill peeled off to make their pit stops, putting Matt Kenseth out front, with Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Johnson and Clint Bowyer moving into first through fifth, respectively.

Barely two laps later, the race was once again halted for wet conditions.

Bowyer’s hopes for making the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup took a huge hit when he and Juan Pablo Montoya tangled with less than 100 laps remaining.

“I was tight up off the corner,” Bowyer said. “You can’t race around a jackass; you just can’t.

“He dive-bombs the restarts, and before you know it, he’s in the way up there … I’m just tired of it.”

Matt Kenseth led 64 circuits and at times was the car to beat. However, Kenseth and his team struggled to keep up with the ever-changing track conditions that Atlanta presents to all drivers and faded to ninth in the finishing order.

“After the rain we didn’t do anything to the car,” said Kenseth. “We just put a set of tires on it and it was junk. We adjusted on it a little bit and put another set on, but we got really loose at the end and couldn’t keep up.”

Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-five, with Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Kenseth and A.J. Allmendinger taking home top-10 finishes.

With only one race remaining prior to the cutoff for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, the points race gained some clarity following Atlanta. Gordon, Harvick, Busch and Ryan Newman all clinched top-10 positions in the Chase, while Keselowski locked himself into one of the two Wild Card positions.

The race, originally scheduled for a Sunday night start, was postponed until Tuesday morning due to persistent rain from Tropical Storm Lee. A light mist continued through much of the event, bringing out the caution on two occasions. The race was also red flagged for nearly 25 minutes just past the halfway point.

The win was Gordon’s fifth checkered flag at AMS, moving him into a tie with Bobby Allison for fourth-most all time at the 1.54-mile speedway.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Atlanta Motor Speedway – Hampton, GA
AdvoCare 500 Unofficial Results – Sept. 6, 2011

Fin Start No. Driver Points Car Laps Completed Status Earnings
1 5 24 Jeff Gordon 48 Chevrolet 325 Running $329,786
2 17 48 Jimmie Johnson 43 Chevrolet 325 Running $253,761
3 20 14 Tony Stewart 41 Chevrolet 325 Running $216,208
4 10 22 Kurt Busch 40 Dodge 325 Running $175,525
5 7 99 Carl Edwards 40 Ford 325 Running $171,441
6 14 2 Brad Keselowski 39 Dodge 325 Running $141,933
7 21 29 Kevin Harvick 37 Chevrolet 325 Running $159,361
8 13 11 Denny Hamlin 37 Toyota 325 Running $151,550
9 6 17 Matt Kenseth 36 Ford 325 Running $153,886
10 11 43 A.J. Allmendinger 34 Ford 325 Running $141,386
11 4 83 Brian Vickers 33 Toyota 325 Running $128,714
12 15 16 Greg Biffle 32 Ford 325 Running $114,925
13 27 31 Jeff Burton 31 Chevrolet 325 Running $109,925
14 8 56 Martin Truex Jr. 31 Toyota 325 Running $106,775
15 12 42 Juan Pablo Montoya 29 Chevrolet 325 Running $136,183
16 25 1 Jamie McMurray 28 Chevrolet 325 Running $131,589
17 32 5 Mark Martin 27 Chevrolet 325 Running $104,175
18 22 27 Paul Menard 26 Chevrolet 325 Running $103,175
19 29 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 25 Chevrolet 325 Running $102,350
20 9 39 Ryan Newman 24 Chevrolet 325 Running $133,100
21 18 9 Marcos Ambrose 23 Ford 324 Running $122,741
22 37 51 Landon Cassill 0 Chevrolet 324 Running $108,333
23 3 18 Kyle Busch 22 Toyota 324 Running $136,941
24 24 20 Joey Logano 20 Toyota 324 Running $98,325
25 31 55 J.J. Yeley 20 Ford 324 Running $104,208
26 40 32 Mike Bliss 0 Ford 324 Running $100,483
27 35 36 Mike Skinner 0 Chevrolet 323 Running $98,672
28 38 13 Casey Mears 16 Toyota 321 Running $87,400
29 43 95 David Starr 0 Ford 320 Running $84,225
30 42 71 Andy Lally 15 Ford 319 Running $97,075
31 16 00 David Reutimann 13 Toyota 315 Running $114,333
32 30 46 Scott Speed 0 Ford 310 Electrical $84,750
33 26 78 Regan Smith 11 Chevrolet 284 Running $109,920
34 1 4 Kasey Kahne 11 Toyota 269 Engine $102,725
35 19 6 David Ragan 9 Ford 249 Engine $92,200
36 2 33 Clint Bowyer 9 Chevrolet 243 Accident $128,258
37 36 34 David Gilliland 7 Ford 174 Transmission $82,950
38 23 47 Bobby Labonte 6 Toyota 91 Accident $109,170
39 33 7 Robby Gordon 5 Dodge 34 Rear Gear $82,700
40 34 87 Joe Nemechek 0 Toyota 27 Ignition $82,550
41 28 66 Michael McDowell 3 Toyota 23 Rear Gear $82,375
42 41 55 Travis Kvapil 0 Ford 17 Electrical $82,280
43 39 60 Dave Blaney 1 Chevrolet 2 Vibration $82,641

 

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