Gordon breaks records with overdue win in Pocono race
By RICK MINTER / Universal Uclick
Jeff Gordon’s drought-breaking 86th career Sprint Cup victory likely will be remembered as a bittersweet one for the veteran driver.
The same rainstorms that played into Gordon’s victory at Pocono Raceway also brought lightning that killed one fan and injured nine more, one of whom was in critical condition on Monday.
Gordon lined up sixth for what turned out to be the race’s final restart, but surged into the lead when the front two cars of Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth collided on the start.
Before racing could resume, storms hit the track, and the race was called after 98 of 160 laps.
“It’s nice to know that things can still go our way,” Gordon said. “The way our year has gone, we’ll definitely take it like this. With all the things that have gone wrong for us this year, I’m hoping that this is the one that makes up for it all.”
When he was told of the situation with the fans, Gordon acknowledged the impact on his victory, one that put him in great position to claim one of the two wild card slots for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“That’s the thing that’s going to take away from the victory, is the fact that somebody was affected by that,” he said. “I mean, the fans here are so loyal and avid … so you hate to hear something like that.”
Gordon’s victory was record-setting on two fronts. He now has six at Pocono, the most of any driver, and his 86 Cup wins give him undisputed possession of third place on the all-time list. Although NASCAR’s official records say otherwise, Bobby Allison and most of the sport’s historians say he has 85.
And this win didn’t come out of the blue. Gordon had a strong enough car at Pocono to drive to the front from his 27th starting position, and he’s been competitive in recent weeks.
“All I will say is we’ve been on a nice streak of finishes,” he said. “Even though they haven’t been wins, they’ve been really solid finishes, top 5s, top 10s, that have gotten us further up in the points. That is something to build on, ’cause this year, the way things have gone, we haven’t had a lot to build on.
“The last several weeks, we’ve had something to build on.”
Two of Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammates escaped Pocono in better points positions than they might have had. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 32nd after breaking a transmission, but retained the series points lead. And Kasey Kahne finished second on a flat tire to maintain his position as the top-seeded wild card contender.