No driver is hotter in the Sprint Cup Series than Jeff Gordon. The four-time champion won his third race of the season, Gordon’s second in three weeks, to tie him for the most trips to Victory Lane in 2014. If not for an electrical/battery connection last week, this could’ve been Gordon’s fourth win and third straight of the season.
Michigan International Speedway is a bragging-rights track for the manufacturers, as it is the closest to Detroit. So, wins there mean a lot. If history repeats itself, yesterday’s victory for Gordon will be historically significant. Each time he previously won at Michigan (1998 & 2001), Gordon went on to win the Sprint Cup championship.
The 24 Axalta Chevrolet was dominant but not in total control of the race. Long runs were best for Gordon, as they have been most of the season. However, like the last time the 24 visited Victory Lane, the final restart of the race saw Gordon power past the leader at the time from the second spot and lead everyone to the checkered flag.
With three races left until The Chase For The Sprint Cup begins, Gordon is the undisputed leader. Nevertheless, he’s been here before only to see his lead and championship hopes evaporate. However, this season certainly seems different. The 24 team has more momentum than it’s had in a long time.
The Other Leaders
Three other drivers have three wins each, as Gordon does. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski are all favorites to challenge Gordon for the championship.
The question is: Will any of them be able to avoid difficulties in the last ten races?
Johnson is the most likely to cruise through The Chase to win his seventh Sprint Cup title. But, Earnhardt has a much-different vibe in 2014 than he’s ever had. As for Keselowski, he rebounded from trouble yesterday, and has quietly climbed to third in the current standings.
3 For The Rest
It’s a big week for the number 3. Gordon has 3 wins. He leads by 3 points in the standings. There are 3 races remaining before The Chase.
Those 3 races are vital for drivers on the bubble – Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle are inside the Top 16, but none have a win. Kenseth is the biggest surprise of that group. He won 7 times in 2013, but has only finished as high as third in 2014.
Kenseth is 5th in overall ponts, so a win at either Bristol, Atlanta or Richmond will lock him in The Chase.
Ryan Newman and Johnson were racing hard in the final few laps, a little too hard for Newman’s liking. Johnson was in the process of recovering from anther bad finish, when he caught Newman for 9th place in the final few laps.
The two drivers bumped each other a few times, due to Johnson’s relentless pursuit to claim as many spots as possible. Newman, who is never passive on the track, wasn’t happy about the altercations, and let Johnson know about it after the race. TV cameras captured a discussion between the two drivers, but little audio was shared.
Johnson gave an interview about the race and the discussion, but Newman declined. As we head to Bristol next week, expect these two to find each other on the track. That’s how racing works.
- Johnson’s problem this week was his gear shifter. It broke, and he was trying to fix it himself, at one point, with a pair of pliers.
- Kyle Busch is fortunate to have a win and be locked into The Chase. A flat tire caused him to hit the wall and be irrelevant for the third straight week. (Theres’ the 3 again). His last three finishes are 42, 40, and 39.
- Kurt Busch worked his way to the front, as the laps would down. The elder Busch battled for the lead, but couldn’t keep his car from getting loose. He hit the wall and finished 31st.
- Rookie sensation Kyle Larson had been inside The Chase standings for most of the year, but he’s on the outside looking in now. A tire issue that caused him to crash and catch on fire relegated Larson to a last place finish.
- Joey Logano led the most laps (86). But, he was no match for Gordon or Kevin Harvick with the multiple late-race restarts. Logano finished 3rd.
- Kevin Harvick had not pit crew issues and finished 2nd for the fifth time, since his win at Darlington Raceway in April.
The World’s Fastest Half-Mile will host NASCAR next weekend. Saturday night will showcase the Sprint Cup cars. Coverage on ABC begins at 7:00 ET.