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Jeff Gordon takes victory, Sprint Cup points lead

Jeff Gordon wins for the 91st time in his career and takes the points lead by three over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Associated Press

Jeff Gordon wins for the 91st time in his career and takes the points lead by three over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.

BROOKLYN, Mich. — Jeff Gordon hopes history repeats itself.

Gordon won Sunday's NASCAR Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway for his first victory at the 2-mile oval since 2001 — the year Gordon captured the last of his four Sprint Cup titles.

Now Gordon hopes his third win this season will be part of a march toward a fifth championship.

"This team is championship caliber but we have a lot of work to do," Gordon said, adding that winning another title is "going to be tough."

Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet was fast all weekend and he started from the pole position. But he had his hands full with Joey Logano's No. 22 Penske Racing Ford.

"It wasn't an easy victory even though we had a great race car," Gordon said.

Logano led a race-high 86 of 200 laps and, after the final restart, he and Gordon battled side by side for the lead.

But Gordon, 43, pulled away as Logano lost his momentum and fell to third place, behind Kevin Harvick.

"We can win a championship. I really feel we can do that. That's the message I want to put out there," Logano said. "We've got to find a little bit more speed to keep up with one car today — 24 car was the best, only because he was good on the long run. We weren't as good on the long run."

Paul Menard was fourth and Gordon's teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., finished fifth.

Another Gordon teammate, six-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, had a roller-coaster race. After Johnson started 30th, the gear shifter broke in his No. 48 Chevy, forcing his crew to perform makeshift repairs during a pit stop. But Johnson persevered to finish ninth.

Several cars were damaged in an early crash that started when Jeff Burton, driving for Tony Stewart, made slight contact with Stewart-Haas teammate Danica Patrick. Her No. 10 Chevrolet spun in the middle of the pack, collecting the cars of several drivers, including Matt Kenseth.

Stewart sat out the race in the aftermath of the Aug. 9 incident in which his car struck and killed driver Kevin Ward Jr., 20, while Ward was on foot during a sprint-car race in upstate New York.

In response NASCAR told its drivers last week that they'd face sanctions if, following a wreck, they left their cars before being told to do so by safety crews.

So Kyle Larson hesitated ever so slightly before getting out of his car after crashing into the wall Sunday.

But there are exceptions for emergency situations, and the flames visible at the front and back of Larson's Chevrolet certainly qualified.

"A little bit of a hesitation, but I had smoke in the cockpit," Larson said. "Once I got out I stayed as close as I could to the car. I had to get out with all of the smoke in there."

Larson was racing down the backstretch and heading a turn when his right front tire blew and sent the car into the wall.

Gordon won for the 91st time on the Cup circuit, and this is his first three-win season since 2011.

"It's great to see Jeff so happy, he's like a little kid again," said Gordon's team owner, Rick Hendrick. "He's excited to get to the track."

Gordon's victory means there will be a maximum of 15 winners in the first 26 races. That means that, assuming they attempt to qualify for the final three races of the regular season, the 12 winners this season — including Tampa's Aric Almirola — have wrapped up spots in the Chase for the Championship (see chart).

Gearhead stats

Winner's average speed: 141.788 mph

Time of race: 2 hours, 49 minutes, 16 seconds

Margin of victory: 1.412 seconds

Caution flags: Eight for 37 laps

Lead changes: 20 among eight drivers

Lap leaders: Logano 1-21; Newman 22-24; Johnson 25-37; Logano 38-55; Gordon 56; Logano 57; Gordon 58-63; Earnhardt Jr. 64-67; Johnson 68-75; Newman 76-78; Gordon 79-99; Newman 100-107; Logano 108-139; Ku.Busch 140-141; Gordon 142-164; Ku.Busch 165; Keselowski 166-167; Kahne 168-169; Logano 170-183; Gordon 184-200

Sprint Cup points

After 23 of 26 races. Sixteen drivers make the season-ending Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts. Back

Jeff Gordon*** 816—

Dale Earnhardt Jr.*** 813 3

Brad Keselowski*** 733 83

Joey Logano** 714 102

Matt Kenseth 709 107

Kevin Harvick** 687 129

Jimmie Johnson*** 686 130

Carl Edwards** 679 137

Ryan Newman 679 137

Clint Bowyer 672 144

Greg Biffle 660 156

Kasey Kahne 651 165

Each asterisk (*) equals one win.

Points unofficial; NASCAR posts official results today.

Chase at a glance

With Jeff Gordon's win Sunday, there will be no more than 15 winners in the first 26 races, which means we can finally stop saying that race winners have "virtually" clinched spots in the Chase for the Championship's new format. All winners thus far are in with three races left until the 10-race Chase. Here's the picture:

Clinched (in order of seeding)

Three wins: Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson

Two wins: Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards

One win: Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola, AJ Allmendinger, Kurt Busch

Contenders

In Chase as it stands: Matt Kenseth (709 points), Ryan Newman (679), Clint Bowyer (672), Greg Biffle (660)

Outside looking in: Kasey Kahne (651), Austin Dillon (638), Kyle Larson (636), Marcos Ambrose (616), Paul Menard (614)

Jeff Gordon takes victory, Sprint Cup points lead 08/17/14 [Last modified: Sunday, August 17, 2014 10:23pm]
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