Jeff Gordon picked the perfect time to win his first race of 2015, locking himself in the final round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup after driving to a thrilling victory at Martinsville Sunday.
The result means Gordon will have the chance to fight for his fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway in his final full-time season as the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet SS. Gordon’s victory wasn’t the only big news to come out of Martinsville, though.
Team Penske’s Joey Logano was leading the race and headed for his fourth win in a row when he went to pass Matt Kenseth – who was several laps down due to earlier contact with Logano’s teammate Brad Keselowski. Kenseth then turned into Logano and pushed his No. 22 Ford into the wall, putting out the caution and ending both drivers’ races.
The wreck was Kenseth’s retaliation for Logano wrecking him just two weeks ago at Kansas Motor Speedway – a shunt that put Kenseth out of the race and effectively ended his championship bid. But whereas the Kansas incident was the result of both drivers racing hard, the wreck at Martinsville was clearly retribution.
“I think what happened at Kansas is a completely different deal,” Logano told NASCAR.com. “We were racing for the win, and he blocks you a few times, and then we raced hard and he blocked me the last time and we spun out. That’s what happened there.
“Here it was just a complete coward move, especially for a championship race car driver and race team,” he added. “Just a complete coward. I don’t have anything else to say. It’s a chicken-you-know-what move to completely take out the leader when your race is over.”
Logano finished the race 37th and is now eighth in the Chase standings – despite going on an unprecedented three-race winning streak prior to Martinsville. That puts him 28 points out of fourth, the last position to advance to the Championship Round, making a win at Texas or Phoenix crucial.
After the restart, Gordon made his pass for the lead with 22 laps to go. He then held off Jamie McMurray following a restart with 2 laps to go before taking one of the most important wins of his long and successful career.
“Yeah, baby, yeah — we go to Homestead!” Gordon said over his team radio after the win. “That was huge! That was huge! Boys, I love you guys.”
It was a good day for Team Chevy, with McMurray finishing second and fellow Chevy driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. taking fourth. Chase drivers Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick also finished in the top ten, claiming sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively.