Jeff Gordon wrapped up a near perfect weekend Sunday, starting from the pole and racing to an overpowering victory in the NASCAR Dodge/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway.
Gordon picked up his fourth victory on the 1.99-mile, 10-turn road course, winning for the third time from the pole. The victory also extended his own Nextel Cup record for road racing wins to eight and gave him three for the season and 67 for his career.
"We've had some bad finishes lately and we wanted this one real bad," said Gordon, who got out of his No. 24 Chevrolet soaked with sweat and just about spent after leading 92 of 110 laps on a hot afternoon at the scenic wine country circuit.
"I drove out and got as big a lead as I could and gave a lot of it up there at the end," said Gordon, who had his overheated driver's seat iced down during his last pit stop. "It was real tough."
It didn't look that way.
Gordon beat surprising Jamie McMurray, in only his second start at the Sonoma track, to the finish line by 1.032 seconds -- about 10 car lengths, with road racing specialist Scott Pruett third.
McMurray said he never thought he had a shot at Gordon.
"He was just so strong out there," last year's top rookie said. "I think that Jeff was kind of cruising there at the end."
Kurt Busch started third and vaulted past both Gordon and Rusty Wallace to grab the lead on the first lap, but Gordon quickly moved back into the top spot and stayed there the rest of the way except during pit stop sequences.
He made his final stop on Lap 68 during one of six caution periods. When he got back on track, Gordon found himself behind Casey Mears and rookie Kasey Kahne, both of whom had pitted earlier.
Gordon quickly disposed of Kahne on the restart on Lap 70, but it took him until Lap 74 before he could work his way past former open-wheel racer Mears. Once Gordon got back on top, he was never challenged again.
Meanwhile, McMurray got past Wallace and Mears to grab second on Lap 79, then spent the rest of the race trying without success to cut into Gordon's lead.
Wallace, another of NASCAR's best road racers, was right behind Pruett in fourth when he ran out of gas after crossing the finish line a lap from the end.
He wound up 28th as Michael Waltrip, who started 40th in the 43-car field, took over fourth place.
Series leader Jimmie Johnson, Gordon's teammate, finished fifth. Dale Earnhardt Jr. recovered from two spins to finish 11th, but fell from seven to 27 points behind Johnson in the season standings.
Robby Gordon, who won both Nextel Cup road races last year -- at Sonoma and Watkins Glen, N.Y. -- had a miserable day.
He slid off course and hit a tire wall after losing a tire earlier in the race, then had two more flat tires and wound up 34th.
Boris Said, another road racing specialist, finished sixth, followed by Mears, Mark Martin, Jeff Burton and Elliott Sadler, rounding out the top 10.
NASCAR Note: Tony Stewart and Brian Vickers collided on the course at Infineon Raceway on Sunday, and that led to a clash off course.
Vickers said Stewart ran into him early in the race, then knocked him off course in the 85th lap of the Dodge/Save Mart 350.
"Then after the race he came over to the car and then it just went from there," Vickers, a 20-year-old rookie, said. "I was still strapped in my car with my helmet off. He reached for me and knocked the breath out of me. . . . He hit the armrest and he reached in the car and he grabbed me in the chest and when he did hit me, it was kind of open palm.
"My team grabbed him and pulled him off of me."
A NASCAR spokesman said there would be further investigation into the incident before a decision is made on possible penalties.
Stewart has a history of physical confrontations, including striking a photographer in 2002 and slapping a reporter's cassette recorder from his hand in 2001.
Stewart, who also ran into Ward Burton early in the race, finished 15th.
Vickers finished 22nd.