Jeff Gordon advances to next round of Chase with first Dover victory since 2001

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Following his crash with less than 10 laps to go last weekend at New Hampshire, there was a little bit of doubt for Jeff Gordon as he sought to advance to the Contender Round in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Today at Dover, that doubt was completely and thoroughly erased.

Shortly after the race hit 100 laps to go, Gordon took the lead from Brad Keselowski on the outside at Lap 306 and went on to win the AAA 400 – his first victory at Dover International Speedway since 2001.

“I knew we could compete with the 2 car [Keselowski],” Gordon said to ESPN in Victory Lane. “The 2 was really good on short runs but we could run them down. He made us work for it there at the end…He got to me and I was really, really tight in traffic there at the end, so I didn’t know if we were gonna pull it off.”

Meanwhile, Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Kasey Kahne, survived a compelling battle with Kurt Busch and A.J. Allmendinger for the 12th and final advance spot.

Kahne fell as far as four laps down at one point following a mid-race pit stop under green for a loose wheel, but managed to beat Allmendinger for the advance position by two points with a 20th-place finish.

“I had to push hard,” Kahne said. “I’m glad NASCAR just let us go and let us race for it. It was pretty interesting, but I’m glad we made it. We had to fight hard, and I think we had a Top-2 or 3 car today – just didn’t get to show it.”

Also failing to make the Chase were Greg Biffle (finished 21st) and Aric Almirola (finished 28th).

Kevin Harvick dominated the first half of the race despite developing an apparent left-front suspension issue around Lap 145. He ceded the lead to Keselowski at Lap 148, but when a caution came out for debris at Lap 175, Harvick was able to regain the lead in the pits.

He would hold it into a wave of green flag stops in which he himself pitted on Lap 249. But shortly after returning to the track, the left front tire went down on his No. 4 Chevrolet and led to a caution.

Harvick sustained left-front splitter damage as well and made multiple stops under the caution for new left-side tires and repairs. But he still stayed on the lead lap, even though he was forced to take the Lap 260 restart in 21st; he made some progress before finishing 13th.

Keselowski took over the lead thanks to Harvick’s issues and quickly ran away from second-place Kyle Busch off the restart. But Gordon would take second from “Rowdy” at Lap 274, and began to loom large in Keselowski’s rear view mirror as the run progressed.

Gordon soon caught the rear bumper of Keselowski, and then started the race-winning pass down the frontstretch before clearing Keselowski off of Turn 2.

While Gordon ruled at the front, Kurt Busch began to drop back into the lower reaches of the Top 20, allowing Kahne to take over the 12th spot on the Chase Grid despite running one lap down to the leaders at the time.

After the final green-flag stops cycled through, Gordon resumed leading and Kurt Busch found himself just one point behind Kahne for that 12th and final advance spot.

Kurt got by teammate Tony Stewart for 13th place with 49 laps left, earning back the advance position momentarily. But 12 laps later, Harvick passed him, putting Kahne one point above the cutoff again.

Gordon then put Kurt one lap down with less than 30 to go, and with 18 to go, Stewart got around Kurt for 14th. While that occurred, Kahne passed Biffle for 20th, pushing his points gap to several markers over Kurt, who eventually fell to 18th at the checkered flag.

While the Contender Round will see the points reset again to 3,000, here’s how the Challenger Round standings ended today at the Monster Mile:

1. Brad Keselowski – ADVANCED with Chicagoland win
2. Joey Logano – ADVANCED with New Hampshire win
3. Jeff Gordon – ADVANCED with Dover win
4. Kevin Harvick, +46 points over 13th place
5. Jimmie Johnson, +44 points
6. Kyle Busch, +34 points
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr., +27 points
8. Matt Kenseth, +20 points
9. Ryan Newman, +14 points
10. Carl Edwards +14 points
11. Denny Hamlin, +4 points
12. Kasey Kahne, +2 points

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES AT DOVER – AAA 400
Unofficial Results

1. Jeff Gordon, led 94 laps
2. Brad Keselowski, led 78 laps
3. Jimmie Johnson
4. Joey Logano
5. Matt Kenseth, led 2 laps
6. Kyle Larson
7. Martin Truex Jr.
8. Ryan Newman
9. Clint Bowyer, led 1 lap
10. Kyle Busch
11. Carl Edwards, led 1 lap
12. Denny Hamlin
ONE LAP DOWN
13. Kevin Harvick, led 223 laps
14. Tony Stewart
15. Brian Vickers
16. Paul Menard
17. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
18. Kurt Busch
19. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
20. Kasey Kahne
21. Greg Biffle
TWO LAPS DOWN
22. Jamie McMurray
23. A.J. Allmendinger
24. Austin Dillon
25. Danica Patrick
26. Marcos Ambrose
THREE LAPS DOWN
27. Casey Mears
28. Aric Almirola
FIVE LAPS DOWN
29. Justin Allgaier
30. Cole Whitt
31. David Ragan
SIX LAPS DOWN
32. Reed Sorenson
SEVEN LAPS DOWN
33. David Gilliland
NINE LAPS DOWN
34. Alex Bowman
35. Landon Cassill
36. Mike Bliss

37. David Stremme, Lap 389, Running
38. Travis Kvapil, Lap 389, Running
39. J.J. Yeley, Lap 387, Running
40. Mike Wallace, Lap 384, Running
41. Michael Annett, Lap 361, Accident
42. Josh Wise, Lap 197, Suspension
43. Timmy Hill, Lap 11, Vibration

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.