66 The Magic Number For NASCAR Driver Gordon
AVONDALE, AZ (AP) — Jeff Gordon passed Kyle Busch with eight laps left and stretched his lead from there at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, ending his win-less streak at 66 races.
PIR has been the place to end long streaks lately. Ryan Newman ended a 77-race winless streak at PIR in the autumn and Carl Edwards stopped his run at 70 races without a win.
Gordon, who started 20th, was knocked into the wall by Edwards, had to pull behind another car to shake a piece of debris from his grill and avoided a massive wreck that led to a 14-minute red flag. He still managed to lead the most laps and was able to pull alongside then bump Busch out of the way late to win for the first time since April 2009 at Texas.
It was Gordon’s 83rd career victory, drawing him level with Cale Yarborough for fifth all-time.
Busch held on for second, falling just short of winning all three NASCAR races in the same weekend for the second time in his career. Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman rounded out the top five in a 312-lap race around PIR’s mile oval, the last on the current surface.
PIR will undergo a $10 million repaving and reconfiguration project before the fall race, a move that isn’t popular with many of the drivers.
The old bump-and-crack-filled surface held up well in its final weekend with a flurry of records.
Clint Bowyer set the qualifying mark in trucks on Friday, then Busch did it in Nationwide on Saturday. Edwards set a new Sprint Cup qualifying record at the track, hitting 137.279 mph to barely edge Kurt Busch on a day when 15 drivers eclipsed the previous record set by Edwards in the fall.
Conditions were a little different for Sunday’s race.
A big storm came through the Valley of the Sun overnight, leaving a dusting of snow on the mountains above the track and washing away all the rubber that had built up on the track the previous two days. That meant a change in setups for all the teams, more grip for the tires and, fitting for the way the weekend went, more speed.
And it seemed the extra speed was hard to handle, leading to numerous early cautions, including one that took out Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne.
Edwards never got much of a chance to make it two straight wins at PIR. After leading several laps early, his No. 99 car got sent to the infield grass around Lap 60 when Kyle Busch’s car got loose and hit him on the right side.
Edwards tried to keep going, but smoke started billowing out of the left side of his car and he was unable to turn, slamming into Gordon and sending both of them into the wall. He returned to the track later and finished 28th.
The big wreck came just a few laps later, when Brian Vickers got loose after making contact with Matt Kenseth coming out of Turn 2. That set off a chain-reaction wreck that involved 13 cars and brought out the red flag, along with the wreckers.
Once track officials finally cleared the track, the drivers were treated to a series of long runs.
Stewart, Gordon and Johnson traded leads after that, and Kyle Busch took it briefly after a slow pit stop by Gordon.
Gordon didn’t take long to make up the ground and stalked Busch for a few laps before making his move and setting off a raucous celebration with his crew.
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