Gordon Wins Talladega, Grabs Points Lead
Sunday, October 7, 2007; 8:17 PM
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Jeff Gordon surged past Jimmie Johnson on the final lap at Talladega Superspeedway then held off his teammate Sunday to become the career victory leader at restrictor-plate tracks.
Gordon, who scored his 12th victory on a plate track, used the win to move back on top of the points standings with six races remaining in the Chase for the championship. He leads Johnson by nine points.
But the four-time series champion had a bizarre race by his standards, electing to run near the back of the pack to avoid projected hairy racing conditions created by the Car of Tomorrow.
Gordon had a horrible qualifying effort _ he started 34th _ and it put him at the back and he never tried to move too far to the front. He then suffered a late-race setback when he pulled out of his pit with a hose hanging from his car, earning a pass-through penalty that seemed to take him out of contention.
"That was the hardest three-quarters of a race that I've ever had to run before," he said. "Our qualifying determined what our strategy was going to be, and we laid in the back."
But Gordon is the best at working the draft, and he'd moved into the top 15 as the race neared its completion. With six laps to go, he was in the middle of a Hendrick Motorsports charge that saw Johnson, Gordon and Casey Mears surge to the front of the pack.
Gordon was stuck behind Johnson, though, and waited until the last lap to make a move toward the front. He finally jumped up high, squeezing in between Johnson and the Penske cars of Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch.
Just as Johnson tried to block him, two-time series champion Tony Stewart slid onto Gordon's bumper and gave him a huge push into the lead. Johnson couldn't get by him again, and Gordon crossed the finish line for his fifth win of the season.
He led just one lap _ the last one _ to complete a season sweep at Talladega.
"We avoided the wrecks and all of a sudden found ourselves in the top 15 with about 25-30 to go, and we held on there," Gordon said. "What I don't understand is how I got by my teammate. I got a couple of pushes. When it got three-wide, I thought, `This is my opportunity.' Luckily when I got high, and Jimmie tried to block me, the 20 was there and had nowhere to go. He's the one who pushed me to the front."
Johnson finished second, Dave Blaney was third in the best finish this year for a Toyota driver. Title contender Denny Hamlin was fourth and was followed by Ryan Newman, who was leading late in his Dodge, and Mears.
Chase driver Kurt Busch was seventh and Stewart, who was in position to win this race very late, had two strategic moves backfire and was shuffled back to eighth.