Jeff Gordon kept his chances at securing his fifth ever Sprint Cup championship alive after winning the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway Sunday night. NASCAR’s new 10-race Chase format sees four drivers get knocked out after every third race, with Dover being the first of the elimination races.
Drivers knew going into the race at Dover that they may be knocked out from the Chase if they didn’t earn enough points, making the closing laps of the race a nail biter for the teams and fans. Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports and Team Chevy teammate Kasey Kahne was almost knocked out after falling four laps behind. He eventually rallied back for a 20th-place finish, earning him just enough points to secure the last of 12 spots in the Chase.
Drivers who were knocked out this round include Kurt Busch, AJ Allmendinger, Greg Biffle and Aric Almirola. Allmendinger fell just two points short of Kahne to get cut off from the Chase, while Busch was six off, Biffle seven and Almirola 18. Drivers who will advance include Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin.
Following the race at Dover, the Chase points will be reset. After the next three races at the Kansas, Charlotte and Talladega, those four Chase drivers who have racked up the least points will be knocked out of contention, leaving eight drivers total.
Gordon’s win marks the end of Team Penske’s reign over the Sprint Cup field, who have won four of the past five races. Brad Keselowski, who won the recent races at Chicagoland and Richmond, put a solid effort forward for Penske though, finishing second behind Gordon. Gordon led the final 71 laps of the race, adding to the 43-year old’s victories at Kansas, Indianapolis and Michigan so far this year. The recent success has led some to say Gordon may lock in his fifth championship and maybe even hit the 100 career victories mark this year.
Jimmie Johnson was the second Chevy car on the podium apart from Gordon. Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top five, while non-chase driver Kyle Larson finished sixth. The next round of Chase eliminations will begin when the series heads to Kansas Speedway for the Hollywood Casino 400 on October 5.