Sunday, February 25, 2018
Sports

Jeff Gordon's Pocono win marred by fan's death in lightning strike

LONG POND, Pa. — In a race marred by the death of a fan hit by lightning, Jeff Gordon earned his first victory of the season Sunday, taking advantage of an accident involving teammate Jimmie Johnson.

Gordon was ahead when the race was called because of a downpour preceding the fatal storm.

After the Pennsylvania 400, officials at Pocono Raceway said one person died and nine others were injured after a lightning strike in the parking lot behind the grandstand.

"You hate to hear something like that," Gordon said. "Certainly our thoughts are with them."

Gordon earned his 86th career victory and first since September 2011 at Atlanta to thrust himself into wild-card contention in the Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship.

This was the first time his wife and both of his young children joined his celebration.

"That experience to me today means so much more than anything else," he said.

Johnson inadvertently gave his Hendrick Motorsports teammate the help he needed. Johnson's No. 48 had a flat tire off a restart and slammed Matt Kenseth into the wall. Kenseth slid down the track and took out Denny Hamlin and three other cars.

With an unexpected opening triggered by the accident, Gordon, who started 27th, zipped through the holes in traffic in his No. 24 Chevrolet.

It couldn't have come at a better time. The skies opened and cars were ordered off the track. The race was called moments later with 98 of 160 scheduled laps completed.

It was a belated present for Gordon a day after his 41st birthday.

The win moved him into the second wild-card spot that would guarantee a berth in the Chase field. He and Ryan Newman are tied for 13th with 611 points. Each has one win; the next tiebreakers are most second-place finishes, most thirds and so on. Gordon owns the spot with two fifth-place finishes to Newman's one.

Gordon, who also won a rain-shortened race at Pocono in 2007, passed Bill Elliott for most wins at Pocono with six.

Gordon had winless seasons in 2008 and 2010 — a late-career drought far removed from the years when he was a regular in Victory Lane. He had double-digit victories in three straight seasons (1996-98) and seemed a lock to hit 100 victories by 35 and put himself behind only Richard Petty on the all-time list.

Kasey Kahne, who owns the other wild-card spot with his two wins, finished second, followed by Martin Truex, Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart.

Kahne refused to rule out another Gordon championship run if he stays in the Chase field.

"Absolutely. It's Jeff Gordon. Look what he's done," Kahne said.

After the wreck, Hamlin was taken to the infield care center and complained of discomfort around his abdomen but was released.

Johnson blamed a flat tire for sparking the accidents.

"I shouldn't feel bad about that, but not much you can do with a right-rear flat," he said.

As for the lightning strike, it wasn't immediately clear if all 10 people were hit in the parking lot behind the grandstands, nor how many strikes occurred.

Track president Brandon Igdalsky said a fan died at Pocono Medical Center, but he provided no further details.

Comments

Captainís Corner: For next few months, trout is a great target

It is prime time for catching quality trout, our most abundant fish, pretty cooperative and easy to catch most of the time. Make long casts and move lures slowly to connect with big Tampa Bay trout. Lures work just as well as bait for trout. Go with ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Any deadline move wonít be cure-all for Lightning

Any deadline move wonít be cure-all for Lightning

The Lightning could very well add another defenseman by Monday's trade deadline, whether it's one of the bigger fish, such as Erik Karlsson and Ryan McDonagh, or a depth piece, such as Mike Green.Either way, one addition won't automatically cure some...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Itís all about that pace for Gasparilla 8K champs

Itís all about that pace for Gasparilla 8K champs

TAMPA — Brandon's Jake Turner and Orlando's Erica Weitz said they were not thinking too much about winning Sunday's Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 8K.They said they were thinking more about "pacing."But at 9:15 a.m. when the horn sounded an...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Sara Hall sets course record in womenís Gasparilla half-marathon

Sara Hall sets course record in womenís Gasparilla half-marathon

TAMPA — Stephanie Bruce returned Sunday to defend her title at the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic half-marathon. She ran a blistering pace, shaving 50 seconds off her time from last year to finish well under the course record.Still, it was ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Gasparilla Distance Classic journal: 36 years and counting for announcer Phil Stewart

Gasparilla Distance Classic journal: 36 years and counting for announcer Phil Stewart

TAMPA — Like many others who travel from far and wide for the Gasparilla Distance Classic, Phil Stewart hops on a plane bound for Tampa every February. Usually, Stewart says, it's a welcome reprieve from the frigid D.C. weather."It's ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays Journal: A key step back for Venters, sharp day for Snell, big blast by Cron

Rays Journal: A key step back for Venters, sharp day for Snell, big blast by Cron

FORT MYERS – The big heartwarming story will be when – and thus if – LHP Jonny Venters makes it back to the majors for the first time since 2012, having battled through three elbow surgeries.But Sunday was worth a headline, too, as ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Elkanah Kibet wins the menís Gasparilla half-marathon

Elkanah Kibet wins the menís Gasparilla half-marathon

TAMPA — A week ago, Elkanah Kibet felt his calf tighten while training for the Publix Gasparilla Classic half-marathon. At first, Kibet tried to ignore the injury, hoping the pain would away.Instead, it became sorer.Kibet, 32, had massages, eve...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Meet the aptly named Friend of Gasparilla Distance Classic weekend

Meet the aptly named Friend of Gasparilla Distance Classic weekend

TAMPA — Runners in the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic know The Voice. Year after year, it comes back to them like home. They hear her before they see her as they head up or back on Bayshore Boulevard. The Voice makes them feel part of somet...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Gasparilla Distance Classic: A day (or two) at the races

Gasparilla Distance Classic: A day (or two) at the races

Meet the various people who take in the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic race weekend, whether on the sidelines or pounding the pavement.Woman's best friendAt about the one hour, 45-minute mark of Saturday's 15K, an Australian shepherd wearing a se...
Updated: 6 hours ago
On what Odorizzi has to feel good and bad about after trade from Rays to Twins

On what Odorizzi has to feel good and bad about after trade from Rays to Twins

Two things were pretty clear in talking to RHP Jake Odorizzi this morning in Fort Myers about being traded from the Rays to Twins.He couldn't be much happier than to be a new that that has legitimate playoff aspirations, and that he feels for those h...
Updated: 9 hours ago