Thursday, February 22, 2018
Sports

Jeff Gordon earns Kansas victory, 89th in Sprint Cup

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Jeff Gordon took the lead with eight laps to go and held off pole-sitter Kevin Harvick, who led much of the race, to win Saturday night's 5-Hour Energy 400 at Kansas Speedway.

Gordon, the Sprint Cup points leader, beat Harvick out of the pits on his final stop and took the top spots after all of the other cars who waited later to take fuel made their stops.

Brad Kese­lowski was the last to stop for fuel, giving up the lead with nine laps remaining.

Gordon entered the race with the points lead but, under NASCAR's new format for the season-ending Chase for the Championship, put himself in far better position with his 89th career Cup victory.

"We've been bringing fast race cars to the track every single week," Gordon told Fox sports in Victory Lane. "Kevin was tough. He was so strong, I did not know if I could hold him off. And I almost didn't at the end. When I caught traffic, the car just got extremely loose on me. And he was just coming. So luckily we got the checkered flag."

Gordon, 42, won for the first time since October at Martinsville and became the ninth driver to win this season. He said that despite his spot in points coming in, a weight was lifted off his shoulders as he crossed the finish line. He won for the third time at Kansas.

Harvick led a race-high 120 laps but said he ran out of gas coming to pit road and that slowed his final pit stop. He charged in the final laps and closed in on Gordon but could not catch up in time.

"I slipped there with about 10 or 11 laps to go and lost all the ground that I had made up," Harvick said. His spot in the Chase is secure, with two victories this season.

Kasey Kahne finished third followed by Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Danica Patrick and Tampa's Aric Almirola. It was a career-best finish for Patrick, in her second full season. She was eighth in the 2013 Daytona 500, where she earned the first pole for a woman in series history.

"My goal in the beginning of the race was rally just to stay in that lead group," Patrick said. "You're going to move up, you're going to move down, but generally average out to where I was starting (ninth). I feel like we did all of that."

Logano on rise: Everywhere Joey Logano looked last year, he seemed to find trouble. Or it found him first.

Logano and former teammate Denny Hamlin collided in consecutive weeks at Bristol and California. Hamlin ended up with a back injury.

Two weeks later, Logano watched as his No. 22 Team Penske Ford barely made it through inspection in time to get on the track at Texas. When Logano arrived the next week at Kansas, both he and teammate Brad Keselowski's teams had been hit with fines and penalties for using illegal parts.

The 2013 season was just eight weeks old.

"We were in the middle of all the drama it seemed like every week — no matter what it was," Logano said with a smile.

But he fought through the adversity. Logano won at Michigan from the pole, setting a track qualifying record of 203.949 mph. He made the Chase for the first time.

And now Logano, in his fifth full Cup season and second with Team Penske, is locked into the new Chase format as one of two drivers with two victories, as long as he starts each race.

"A lot of things stacked up against us at this point last year," Logano said, "but we still had a lot of speed in our cars. … That says something about a team right there, and now this year, so far — knock on wood — we've been able to cut out the drama, and you see those results for some of that reason and also having another year under your belt with the team."

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