Jeff Gordon takes the win and the lead

By Joe Dunn joe@onpitroad.com

In a strange twist of events that began with a group of field fillers starting up front and the Chase contenders in the back, Jeff Gordon went from 42nd to 1st on Sunday.
It was obvious from the beginning of qualifying on Saturday that the top 35 teams guaranteed to start the race had little concern with a serious qualifying effort. The top eight fastest cars were the go or go home teams. In past years they were called the field fillers, but that is another term that Nascar is trying to avoid. On the pole sat Michael Waltrip who has only managed to qualify for 11 of 30 races thus far this season. Of the top 8 qualifiers, only Dave Blaney managed a decent finish, hanging in the front most of the race to finish 3rd. that finish moved Blaney into the top 35 ranks.
For the first 29 laps the lead changed 14 times among 11 drivers as they were constantly racing 2-3 and sometimes 4 wide. On lap 30, it appeared that half of the crowd rose to their feet in celebration as Dale Earnhardt Jr. moved his red #8 Chevy past teammate Martin Truex Jr. to take the lead. On lap 94 Jeff Burton’s car went up in a cloud of smoke and the first RCR/DEI motor failed. It didn’t take long for the engine failures to move through the field. On lap 114 Martin Truex’s #1 blew up, followed on lap 137 by Teammate Dale Jr. By the end of the day only the 07 of Clint Bowyer was the only car RCR car to survive the engine failures finishing 11th.
The BIG one came on lap 146 as something broke on the bobby Labonte car forcing it to slide down the track and into the path of Kyle Busch’s car. Also collected in the wreck were Robbie Gordon, Reutimann, Reagan, McMurray, Kenseth, Menard, Stremme, Sadler, Villeneuve, Hamlin and Michael Waltrip. Once it all cleared and racing went back to green, Tony Stewart emerged as the leader and appeared to be a strong contender for the win.

Jimmy Johnson began leading a charge in the inside line, Stewart moved low to block Johnson and then attempted to slide back up. But this time Ryan Newman, with a push from teammate Kurt Busch slid past Gordon for the lead. Newman held on for 7 laps until Stewart lined up behind Johnson and they moved past Newman. Johnson held that lead until Jeff Gordon made his move exiting turn 4 on the final lap. It was that late effort that gave way to the Gordon victory.
The win moved Jeff Gordon ahead of his teammate Johnson, into first place in the points. The series moves on to Concord, North Carolina this week for the Bank Of America 500 at Lowes Motor Speedway.