Gordon pulls away late for win at Kansas Speedway
KANSAS CITY, Kansas (AP) — Jeff Gordon grabbed the lead in the final laps at Kansas Speedway on Saturday and held on for his first victory of the NASCAR season and 89th overall.
The 42-year-old Gordon held off a hard-charging Kevin Harvick on the final lap to win and thereby book himself a place in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field.
Gordon won for the first time since October at Martinsville and became the ninth driver to win in the first 11 races this season.
Kasey Kahne was third, followed by Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Gordon built a points lead this season on the strength of four top-fives and seven top-10s in the first 10 races — including second-place finishes at Texas and Richmond — but he knew how much one win would ease pressure of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team.
“This is so sweet,” he said. “What a huge weight lifted off this team’s shoulders. We needed to get to Victory Lane.”
After the start of the race was delayed 35 minutes by rain, the first Sprint Cup night race at Kansas soon left drivers in the dark after the lights went out on the back stretch. NASCAR polled drivers if they wanted to continue and they agreed.
Harvick led the first 41 laps before briefly falling into the middle of the pack. Harvick worked his way to the front in the No. 4 Chevrolet and opened a commanding lead over Gordon and Logano.
With two wins already, Harvick has been a force in his first season at Stewart-Haas Racing, but his dominant Chevrolet ran out of gas on his last pit stop and lost time that he couldn’t recover.
“I should have been paying attention to my pit road lights and should have got off pit road better,” he said. “I made a mistake at the end and it cost us a chance to stay out in front of the 24.”
Jamie McMurray and David Gilliland both had their cars erupt in flames in separate accidents. Gilliland was slow to exit his No. 38 Ford and gingerly walked away from the smoldering wreckage. He was checked out and released from the infield care center.
“It was the hardest hit I’ve had in a long time,” he said.
McMurray had a solid run derailed when he smacked the wall and the back of his No. 1 Chevrolet caught fire.
“I heard a small pop, and then just lost all the steering and got into the fence,” he said.