Gordon wins at Kansas, teammates finish in top 10
By Jessica Ruffin
SPARTA, Kan. – With eight laps to go on Saturday night under the lights, Jeff Gordon took the lead and held on to take the checkered flag at Kansas Speedway. With his third career win at Kansas, Gordon now is the all-time winner at the 1.5-mile speedway. More importantly, the points leader now can breathe a sigh of relief because the win virtually guarantees him a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
"I'm going to be 43 this year, but this team makes me feel like I'm 25,” Gordon said after recording his 89th career NASCAR Sprint Cup victory and No. 220 for Hendrick Motorsports.
Teammates Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. joined Gordon in the top 10. Kahne crossed the line third, while Earnhardt and Johnson finished fifth and ninth, respectively. Saturday’s race marked the second time that all Hendrick Motorsports drivers have finished in the top 10 at Kansas.
Here is a look at how the Hendrick Motorsports lineup fared at the 1.5-mile speedway.
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 FARMERS “THANK A MILLION TEACHERS” CHEVROLET SS
RACE FINISH: Third
RECAP: Kasey Kahne lined up 17th at Kansas Speedway and was quiet on the radio for the first 45 laps. The driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance “Thank A Million Teachers” Chevrolet SS came in for his first green flag pit stop at Lap 41 for fuel, tires and a chassis adjustment. The adjustments seemed to benefit the No. 5 team, as Kahne moved into the 11th position by Lap 57. By Lap 71, he had cracked the top 10 and was running seventh. Kahne continued his forward march, moving into the top five by Lap 101. Five laps later, he was running second and told crew chief Kenny Francis that his car was feeling decent. A quick pit stop at Lap 111 allowed Kahne to hold onto his runner-up position for the restart at Lap 119. He continued to race in the top three, taking the lead at Lap 139. Francis opted for a two-tire pit stop at Lap 156, which won Kahne the race off pit road and allowed him to hold onto the lead. He continued to race in the top five and was running third by Lap 186, where he ultimately finished at the 1.5-mile speedway. This was Kahne’s first top-five finish of the season.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AXALTA CHEVROLET SS
RACE FINISH: First
RECAP: Jeff Gordon rolled off the grid 13th at the 1.5-mile speedway and cracked the top 10 by Lap 10. The driver of the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet SS continued his forward march, passing a competitor at Lap 23 for sixth place. When drivers began to come into pit road for green-flag pit stops, Gordon elected to stay out for an additional lap, giving him the lead. He continued to race in the top 10, moving into the top five by Lap 67. A successful restart at Lap 75 allowed Gordon to crack the top three. Unfortunately, pit sequence and handling issues set Gordon back several positions and he was forced to restart 19th at Lap 119. Undaunted, Gordon maneuvered his No. 24 Chevy SS through traffic with success, cracking the top 10 again at Lap 175. With 67 laps to go, he was running sixth and moved into the third position by Lap 213. Twenty laps later, Gordon moved into the runner-up position and continued to decrease the lead between him and the leader. With eight laps to go, Gordon took the top position and took the checkered flag at Kansas Speedway.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET SS
RACE FINISH: Ninth
RECAP: Jimmie Johnson lined up 14th at the 1.5-mile speedway and stayed toward the middle of the pack for the first 45 laps. Once the drivers began to make green-flag pit stops, crew chief Chad Knaus instructed Johnson to stay out for another lap. The risk paid off, as the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS was on pit road when the caution flag was waved at Lap 47. The late pit stop allowed Johnson to restart from the fifth position at Lap 53, and by Lap 58, he was running third. Johnson slipped to the back of the field temporarily, but was undaunted in his forward march. Despite a broken clutch, he was back in the top 10 by Lap 120 and ultimately cracked the top five at Lap 149. Johnson stayed off pit road on Lap 183, which allowed him to take the lead. Johnson pitted late in the race for fuel only and had to climb back into the top 10. He rejoined his Hendrick Motorsports teammates there with 38 laps to go and finished ninth at the 1.5-mile speedway.
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET SS
RACE FINISH: Fifth
RECAP: Dale Earnhardt Jr. lined up 22nd at the 1.5-mile speedway and immediately began his forward march. The driver of the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS used the low line to move nine positions by Lap 20. By Lap 55, he had cracked the top 10. Earnhardt continued to maneuver through traffic, taking the fifth position by Lap 103. An efficient yellow-flag pit stop at Lap 112 won Earnhardt the race off pit road. He lined up his Chevy SS first for the restart at Lap 119 and continued to race in the top three with teammate Kasey Kahne. By Lap 150, he was running second to Kahne. With four fresh tires, Earnhardt lined up from the fourth row for the restart at Lap 161. He continued to race in the top 10 and with 60 laps to go, he was running third. He finished fifth at the 1.5-mile speedway.