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Jeff Gordon wins at Martinsville, helps Chevrolet clinch Manufacturer championship

MARTINSVILLE, Va. –  Jeff Gordon earned his first victory of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season and the 88th of his career after leading 78 laps on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS now has eight victories at the .526-mile oval, which ranks him tied for first with teammate Jimmie Johnson among active drivers and third all-time. Martinsville also becomes the site where Gordon has the most victories.

With the win, Gordon helped Chevrolet clinch its 37th NASCAR Sprint Cup Manufacturer’s Cup. He also improves to third in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings and gives Hendrick Motorsports its 21st Martinsville victory and its 217th overall. This also marks the organization’s fifth seasonal sweep of the .526-mile oval (four previous sweeps in 1989, 2003, 2005 and 2007).

Gordon was joined inside the top 10 by his Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson (fifth) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (eighth). Kasey Kahne was involved in an early-race incident and crossed the stripe in 27th.

Here are the recaps by team:

Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS
Race finish: 27th.
Chase standings: 13th.
Race recap: Kasey Kahne drew an early qualifying spot on Friday at Martinsville and as a result started Sunday’s race from the 25th spot. Starting in traffic at the Virginia short track wasn’t ideal for the driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS, but he quietly navigated his way through traffic. By Lap 155, Kahne had cracked the top 10 and was running ninth. He reported to crew chief Kenny Francis that his No. 5 Chevy SS was handling well.  Kahne and Francis opted for four tires during a caution period 10 laps later, and that put the No. 5 team back in 18th. Two laps after the restart, Kahne was involved in a multi-car incident. The No. 5 team used several subsequent caution periods to address the damage, and with 50 laps to go, Kahne was only running two laps down at the .526-mile oval. Unfortunately for Kahne, however, a long green-flag stretch in the closing laps thwarted his ability to make up those laps. He finished 27th.

Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS
Race finish: First.
Chase standings: Third.
Race recap: Jeff Gordon opened Sunday’s Sprint Cup event from the ninth position and worked through an initial loose-handling condition to run third by Lap 48. The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet SS continually pressured the front-runners and eventually took the lead by Lap 282. Crew chief Alan Gustafson reminded Gordon to save his brakes and his tires as the race wound down. All the while, Gordon continually was focused upon having access to the inside line. That is where drivers made up the most ground, particularly during restarts, and there were 15 cautions in the first 365 laps on Sunday. With 38 laps to go, Gordon again found himself running second, navigating lapped traffic and trying to contend for the lead, which he took 17 laps later.  Gordon held on for his eighth career victory at Martinsville.

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS
Race finish: Fifth.
Chase standings: Second.
Race recap: Jimmie Johnson lined up from the outside pole position on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway and was pacing the field three laps later. Johnson heeded the advice of crew chief Chad Knaus to save his tires and brakes, and persistently tried to get his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS onto that bottom lane, particularly for restarts. The driver of the No. 48 Chevy SS led 125 laps early in the 500-lap event before being shuffled into the top 15 thanks to multiple caution periods and frequently restarting on the outside lane. With 25 laps to go, Johnson worked his way back into the top four and crossed the finish line fifth. Johnson now is tied with 2,294 points with Matt Kenseth, but Kenseth takes the No. 1 ranking based on his 2013 victories.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS
Race finish: Eighth.
Chase standings: Seventh.
Race recap: Dale Earnhardt Jr. lined up 12th on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway and initially reported a tight-handling condition to crew chief Steve Letarte. Earnhardt told Letarte his No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS was experiencing a tight-handling condition under throttle. Letarte used several subsequent pit stops during caution periods to address the issue. Earnhardt’s car performed better on long green-flag runs, but those were hard to come by as the yellow flag was waved 15 times during the first 365 laps at Martinsville. Earnhardt cracked the top 10 with 40 laps to go and improved to finish eighth.

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