Jeff Gordon Wins Kmart 400
%mlink(STRY:; PHOTO:DTC103-061001; AUDIO:%)
BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) _ Jeff Gordon survived two restarts and a tense battle with Ricky Rudd over the final two laps to win the Kmart 400 on Sunday, giving Hendrick Motorsports its 100th victory.
Gordon was off to another dominating performance _ he led 137 of the first 174 laps _ when an error on the final pit stop cost him the lead.
He led Rudd and Sterling Marlin into the pits on lap 175 but came out sandwiched between the two. That’s when his crew radioed him to come back in because the lug nuts were loose.
Rudd, who had his own tire problems, followed him in and, after a second stop, the two went back on the track in 10th and 11th place with Marlin as the leader.
But they sliced their way through the field _ running three-wide across Michigan International Speedway at times _ and were right behind Marlin when a caution came out on lap 189.
It returned to green-flag racing with seven laps left and Gordon got a tremendous jump on the restart, passing Marlin in Turn 1 and taking Rudd with him.
Moments later, Shawna Robinson, the first woman in a Winston Cup race in 12 years, brought out the seventh caution flag of the race with a spin in Turn 2.
After two laps under caution, NASCAR returned the field to green with four laps left.
That’s when Gordon and Rudd began their stirring duel.
Rudd looked to make a pass several times, then made his move coming out of Turn 4 with one lap to go. His Ford Taurus went high on the track and looked past Gordon, then changed direction by sliding low and passing Gordon’s Chevrolet on the inside inches before the finish line.
Gordon wasted no time in retaking the lead, sweeping up high onto the track in Turn 1 to pass Rudd. He then drifted down the track to block Rudd from making another move and held him off around the track and at the finish line by .085 seconds.
Marlin finished third in a Dodge and was followed by Jeremy Mayfield, Ryan Newman and Hut Stricklin.
Robinson, in a Ford Taurus splashed with pink paint, finished 34th.
Gordon, who led 143 of the 200 laps, won for the second consecutive week and for the 56th time in his career.
It was a momentous victory for car owner Rick Hendrick, a car dealer from Charlotte, N.C., who started his race team in 1984. Back then, he had five employees and a rented 5,000-foot garage.
Today, Hendrick Motorsports boasts more than 300 employees working on a 67-acre complex that houses a gift shop and a museum.
He joins Petty Enterprises (271) and Junior Johnson (139) as the only drivers to have more than 100 wins. Along the way his drivers have won four Winston Cup championships, and with Gordon’s victory Sunday, it looks like he could be on his way to another.
The victory moved Gordon into the points lead, 26 ahead of Dale Jarrett.
Unfortunately, Hendrick couldn’t be at the track to celebrate. His father, ``Papa″ Joe Hendrick, is scheduled to have heart surgery on Monday so Hendrick remained in North Carolina to be with him.
So the three Hendrick cars, including Terry Labonte and Jerry Nadeau, donned stickers on their Chevrolet’s that said ``Get Well Pop.″