Four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon was the man to beat at Phoenix on Sunday. Gordon’s Chevrolet led more laps than anyone else and, with eight to go, passed Kyle Busch’s Toyota to seal the win. Busch was attempting to score his third victory of the weekend after winning Friday night’s Truck race and Saturday’s Nationwide round, but he couldn’t hold off the resurgent Gordon. Defending champion Jimmie Johnson finished third from Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman, while Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne crashed out.
“At the end Jeff just had a better car than us,” said Busch. “I thought I had a big enough lead that I could hold him off, but he just ran me down and flat out passed me (below). He was really, really fast.”
Gordon’s well-deserved win broke a streak of 66 races without success. It was also his 83rd career victory, pulling him into a tie with Cale Yarborough for fifth on NASCAR’s all-time winners’ list behind Richard Petty, David Pearson, Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison.
“To do it that way and beat Kyle Busch who’s been so hot this weekend and is so tough to beat is fantastic,” Gordon beamed. “Man, what an awesome feeling it is when you’ve got the car right like that. With 20 laps to go it’s your job to get it done and you’ve got the car and team to go do that.
“I thought even if I catch him what am I going to do with him? Into [turn] one I got up to him. They said ‘clear’ and I went because I knew I had to get away from him as fast as I could. It’s been a long time and I’m going to savour this one.”
This is Gordon’s 19th year in NASCAR’s top league and he will celebrate his 40th birthday in August. He won four championships during his first nine seasons, but since then his best year was 2006 when he finished second in the points. Gordon was third in 2004 and ‘09 and sixth last year. At this stage after round two of 36 Kyle Busch leads the Sprint Cup points from brother Kurt, while Gordon lays sixth. It’s early days of course, but Gordon could be a serious championship contender this year.