Scratch Sprint Cup points leader Jeff Gordon off the list of winless drivers in 2014.
Gordon became the first three-time winner at Kansas Speedway, capturing Saturday night’s 5-Hour Energy 400 Benefitting Special Operations Warrior Foundation.
“This is so sweet,” Gordon said. “What a huge weight lifted off this team’s shoulder. We’ve been leading the points, but we needed to get to victory lane and they proved they were capable of doing that. Great, great job by them (his team). … We’ve been building up to this all season long.”
Gordon, who previously won the first two Sprint Cup races at the 1.5-mile track in 2001 and 2002 becomes the ninth different winner in this season’s first 11 races. It was his first win since at Martinsville last fall.
Gordon won his 89th career Sprint Cup race, holding off a late charge from runner-up Kevin Harvick. Gordon beat Harvick to the finish line by less than two car lengths.
“I knew he had a fast race car,” Gordon said. “We’ve been bringing fast race cars every single weekend. It’s just given me so much confidence in the race cars and the race team.
“Kevin was tough. He was so strong. I did not know if I could hold him off at the end. … He was just coming. Luckily, I got the checkered flag.”
Harvick led the most laps, nearly half of the 267-lap race, with 119 laps in front of the pack. Gordon, meanwhile, led just nine, including taking over the lead for good eight laps from the finish.
“We slipped there with about 10 or 11 laps left to go and lost all the ground I made up, but I made it all back up again,” Harvick said. “It was a weird night, but I’m proud of everybody on this team.”
Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Kasey Kahne, earned his best and first top-five finish of the season, winding up third, followed by outside polesitter Joey Logano in fouth and another HMS teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., in fifth.
“We were really close,” Kahne said. “I had a really good car, it was fun to race up front. I passed cars and raced hard all night long. … And Jeff Gordon won, so it was a great night for Hendrick Motorsports.”
In fact, HMS drivers finished in three of the top five and all four were in the top nine.
Sixth through 10th were Carl Edwards, Danica Patrick earned the best finish of her Sprint Cup career by finishing seventh, followed by Aric Almirola, HMS driver and defending Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson in ninth and Matt Kenseth in 10th.
Kyle Larson was the highest-finishing rookie, ending up in 12th place.
The start of the race was delayed slightly to let a passing storm cell pass by the racetrack. And while local radar showed additional storms in the area, the rest of the race was not affected.
There were eight caution periods that slowed traffic for 47 laps, with one brutal wreck primarily involving David Gilliland, AJ Allmendinger and Justin Allgaier on Lap 187.
Allgaier’s car was tapped in the rear, sending him directly into the path of Gilliland’s car, which hit the outside retaining wall almost head-on.
Gilliland’s car was destroyed, with the front end crumpled almost to the bottom of the windshield, and the rear part of the car all but obliterated. Virtually all that was left with some semblance of recognizability was the driver compartment.
Gilliland was helped from the car and walked with assistance to the waiting ambulance, while Allmendinger and Allgaier appeared to be uninjured.
On Lap 60, David Ragan, Ryan Truex, Michael Annett and Landon Cassill were involved in a wreck, leaving all of them with significant damage.
Kurt Busch struggled, with a pair of solo spins in the race. While his Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet suffered minimal damage, it appeared he battled handling problems much of the race, resulting in his 29th place finish.
Also of note, making the first Sprint Cup start of his career, Ryan Blaney – son of veteran racer Dave Blaney – finished 27th.
Here’s the final finishing order in Saturday’s 5-Hour Energy 400:
1 Jeff Gordon
2 Kevin Harvick
3 Kasey Kahne
4 Joey Logano
5 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
6 Carl Edwards
7 Danica Patrick
8 Aric Almirola
9 Jimmie Johnson
10 Matt Kenseth
11 Ryan Newman
12 Kyle Larson
13 Brad Keselowski
14 Brian Vickers
15 Kyle Busch
16 Greg Biffle
17 Paul Menard
18 Denny Hamlin
19 Austin Dillon
20 Tony Stewart
21 Martin Truex Jr.
22 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
23 Clint Bowyer
24 Marcos Ambrose
25 Michael Annett
26 Casey Mears
27 Ryan Blaney
28 Cole Whitt
29 Kurt Busch
30 AJ Allmendinger
31 Joe Nemechek
32 Reed Sorenson
33 Josh Wise
34 Travis Kvapil
35 Alex Bowman
36 Justin Allgaier
37 David Gilliland
38 David Ragan
39 Jamie McMurray
40 Timmy Hill
41 J.J. Yeley
42 Landon Cassill
43 Ryan Truex
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