RIDGEWAY, Va. – Jeff Gordon will race for a championship in his final full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
The driver of the No. 24 AARP Member Advantages Chevrolet SS found Victory Lane at Martinsville Speedway for the ninth time in his career Sunday afternoon, moving him into sole position of the most wins at the track among active drivers.
Importantly, it also advanced him to the final round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup – he will be one of four drivers racing for a shot at the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"We're going to Homestead!” Gordon exclaimed over the radio. "That was huge. I love you guys. Great job. Way to hang in there!"
For a gallery looking at his emotional Victory Lane celebration, click here.
Next of the Hendrick Motorsports teammates to take the checkered flag behind Gordon was Dale Earnhardt Jr. in fourth. Kasey Kahne joined them in the top 10 with a ninth-place result, and Jimmie Johnson finished 12th.
Below is a detailed look at how the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers fared Sunday at Martinsville.
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 GREAT CLIPS CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Kahne began Sunday’s race from the rear of the field due to moving to a backup No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS following an incident during qualifying. But by Lap 75, he was already one of the biggest movers of the race, making his way to 24th. On Lap 113, he cracked the top 20 for the first time, but when he did not pit when several other competitors did during a caution, he moved all the way up to 13th. He remained inside the top 20 and nearing the top 15 for the next stretch of racing, and at the midway point of the race, he was running 12th. Just before Lap 300, however, Kahne began losing position and had to battle back to find the top 20 on Lap 345. From there he kept climbing in the standings, finding eighth place with 56 laps remaining, and finding himself in seventh when a red flag waved due to an incident with 37 laps left. He ultimately finished ninth.
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 AARP MEMBER ADVANTAGES CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Gordon started Sunday’s Eliminator Round opener from the top five, but he wasn’t settling for fifth place. By Lap 35, Gordon was third, and five laps later he was the runner-up. Just before the competition caution, Gordon took over as the race leader, leading 10 laps in the process. Through a string of cautions, Gordon maintained his top-five – and often top-three – position. But when yet another caution flag flew at Lap 237, Gordon headed to pit road, and when the race went green once again he fell back to ninth. The driver of the No. 24 AARP Member Advantages Chevrolet SS continued to push back to the front, and on Lap 333 he was once again inside the top five. That is where he remained for the majority of the remainder of the race, never falling outside of the top 10 and making it all the way back to second with 55 laps remaining. When an incident involving the leader caused a red flag to wave with 37 laps remaining, Gordon moved into the race lead once again. He headed to pit road, however, when the race went yellow again to take four fresh tires, and that put him in third for the ensuing restart. Another caution flag waved with Gordon still in third, but after the next restart, he moved into second with 27 laps to go, and five laps later he retook the lead. He held on, surviving one more restart when a caution flag waved with seven laps to go, to find Victory Lane.
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Johnson rolled off the grid just outside the top 20 Sunday alongside teammate Earnhardt, but he was already inside the top 15 by Lap 17. Just before the competition caution at Lap 50, Johnson entered the top 10. When the race went green once again, Johnson moved all the way up to fifth on lap 60. He continued battling inside the top 10 until heading to pit road during a caution when several other competitors did not, pushing him back outside the top 20. Once again he got to work, and his move toward the front was aided by a two-tire stop during another caution, allowing him to move all the way up to seventh by Lap 163. He turned that into a top-five position within five laps, and at the midway point of the race he was running fifth. Johnson lost a handful of spots to just outside of the top 10 while positioning on the track, but when a caution flag flew at Lap 380 with Johnson in 13th, No. 48 crew chief Chad Knaus told Johnson that the team put the No. 48 Chevy SS back to where it was at the start of the race. From there, Johnson kept pushing back toward the top 10. With 56 laps to go, Johnson was three-wide battling for position and made some contact with the wall but stayed in line with the field, though he fell back to ninth. He ultimately finished 12th.
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 NATIONWIDE CHEVROLET SS
RECAP: Earnhardt rolled off the grid just outside the top 20 Sunday alongside teammate Johnson, though 40 laps into the event he was inside the top 15. As a string of cautions began after the competition caution at Lap 50, Earnhardt headed to pit road when many leaders did not, putting him back outside the top 20. But he kept working and moved all the way up to sixth by Lap 168. Once again Earnhardt headed to pit road during a caution that put him back in the pack, however, and on Lap 200 he was once again back outside the top 20. But he continued to battle, and just 37 laps later he was already back inside the top 10. Earnhardt stayed inside the top 15 as he raced to gain position in the second half of the race, and with 56 laps remaining he went three-wide to gain position and moved all the way to fifth. When a red flag waved after an incident with 37 laps remaining, Earnhardt was in fourth. That is ultimately where he would finish.