The first round of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Chase is in the books and driver Jeff Gordon capped it off big. The driver of the No. 24 car powered by Brad Keselowski during the later stages of the race and never looked back. The checkered flag finished up the first three race round of the chase with Gordon taking the last winning transfer spot.
The win was a dominate one for the driver who finally won another race at Dover International Speedway in the running of the AAA 400. Gordon’s last win at the track came back in 2001 following a string of three races in a row in 1995 and 1996. According to Gordon's team owner the victory was classic old school “Gordon” who must have found the “fountain of youth!”
“He found the fountain of youth somewhere,” team owner Rick Hendrick said after the race as he jumped into victory lane with Gordon as the driver celebrated with his family. “I can remember back when he was winning 10 or 12 races a year, he didn’t get out of the car and jump on the roof and have as much fun in victory lane as he is right now. He’s really enjoying himself.”
Gordon, now 43 years old, leaped out of the car and celebrated with his team and family in victory lane following the win. He grinned and commented that he was not sure about the “fountain of youth” but was sure that his team worked hard to put him and his car in a position to move onto the second round of the Championship Chase.
“I don’t know what I found, but I think a lot of it has to do with Alan Gustafson and all the guys on this 24 team,” he said. “I think this is huge. We came in here with a little bit of extra pressure because we weren’t guaranteed to be in after where we were at New Hampshire last week. It was about making a statement, and I don’t know how you make a bigger statement than the one this team just made.”
Dover International, also nick-named the Monster Mile, is known for dramatic wrecks and driver’s needing to save on fuel during the final stages of a race. Once Gordon was given the green light on fuel he kept a constant lead during the final stages of the race.
Prior to that the driver, who started in the sixth position, worked his way to the front as a challenger but slipped back in the running a few spots as his car came to him following pit stops. The No. 2 car driven by Brad Keselowski seemed to be a strong challenger but Gordon as able to reel him in. The margin of victory over Keselowski ended up being 4.35 seconds. It was a victory that Gordon said that Keselowski made him work for!
"The No. 2 was really good on short runs, but we could run him down," Gordon said.
"Of course he made us work for it there at the end because he was so good on short runs and he got to me. I was really, really tight in traffic there at the end. I didn’t know if we were going to pull it off."
The AAA 400 ended up being a clean race with only a few cautions. The final 140 laps were run under green flag racing. Three of the five cautions in the race came for debris on the track. The other two cautions were brought out by incidents with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and J.J. Yeley. The race ran its scheduled 400 laps and was a relatively short one of just over three hours.
With Gordon taking the checkered flag the four drivers not making it to the second round of the chase were determined. AJ Allmendinger, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle and Aric Almirola became the first four drivers in NASCAR history to be knocked out of Championship eligibility under the new Championship format.