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Gordon back in victory lane at long last

Jeff Gordon was celebrating his first win in 66 races - almost two years - after managing to hold off Kyle Busch in Phoenix.
Carl Edwards might have been on pole position, but everyone knew that the man to beat at Phoenix in the second round of the NASCAR Sprint Cup series was Kyle Busch, who had already claimed wins in both the Truck and Nationwide events that weekend and now had his sights on a clean sweep.

Kyle rapidly moved into the lead of the race on lap 6 and held it to the first caution of the day on lap 20 for debris. Several drivers opted to pit but others chose to stay out, aware that a scheduled 'competition caution' was due on lap 40; in fact, that turned out to be sooner than expected after Robby Gordon spun on lap 34 and NASCAR decided that would do as the competition yellow after all.

That left Carl Edwards in the lead ahead of Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch; Kyle, meanwhile, was making a bit of a dog's dinner of the early stages of the race and fell back through the field after a touch from Kevin Harvick sent him up the banking and scraping along the wall on lap 39, although it did not appear to do any lasting damage.

It was not a good day for the younger stars, with Joey Logano off the pace thanks to a valve spring or rocker arm gone bad on the #20 that the team could do nothing about; and on lap 50, Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne got a slight connect with Travis Kvapil that caused him to spin, sending him rear-first into the wall and causing extensive damage to the back of the #21.

Kurt Busch stayed out during the ensuing pit stops and duly inherited the lead, while Carl Edwards took two tyres and emerged in the midfield in 15th, soon finding himself in a cluster of cars that included Kyle Busch still in recover mode from his earlier brush. As Edwards passed on the inside, Busch suddenly moved down the track and side-slammed the #99 in what spectators immediately took to be a deliberate move: Edwards was sent on to the infield grass and then slide up the race track, trapping Jeff Gordon against the wall at slow speed in the process while behind other cars had to make evasive action - resulting in Kevin Harvick sliding through an impressive amount of tyre smoke but fortunately avoiding any significant damage.

It looked set to trigger off a new NASCAR feud between Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards: "My first impression was that Kyle was just frustrated that Ryan [Newman] got by me and he turned down [on me on purpose]," Edwards said later. "But I looked at that and it looked like he might have just gotten loose."

Edwards' second impression proved correct and Kyle - unusually - was immediately apologetic toward Edwards after the race. "The car got out from underneath me right around the backstretch and I made a mistake and got into Carl Edwards there and completely destroyed his day," Busch said. "I made a mistake today. I've admitted that, I don't know how many times."

Any chance that this was going to be the big event of the afternoon was quickly dashed at the restart, which saw Brian Vickers and Matt Kenseth make contact that resulted in Vickers blowing a tyre out of turn 2 and spinning round against the wall: with the field still closed up from the restart, there was mayhem behind as cars dived for cover and made a serious hash of it, tearing up several cars including those of Jamie McMurray and Jeff Burton. In all, at least 14 cars were involved in some sort of collision during the next few seconds: others caught up included Clint Bowyer, Robby Gordon, Andy Lally, David Reutimann and Travis Kvapil.

"We used to not start double-file," Vickers pointed out, suggesting that starting side-by-side on a tight one mile oval like Phoenix was going to result in problems. "I think they make it exciting for the fans. But, you know, yeah, you're going to create other situations because of it."




Related Pictures

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Jeff Gordon - #24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet   [pic credit: NASCAR/Getty]
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS, will be on the front row after qualifying for second position Friday, July 31, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. Harvick leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, qualifies for sixth position Friday, July 31, 2015 for Sunday`s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. Busch is eighth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, poses with the Coors Light Pole Award after qualifying for the pole for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway on July 31, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 Maxwell House Toyota, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Crispy Toyota, speak in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway on July 31, 2015 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo Credit: Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, poses with the trophy in Victory Lane with wife Samantha and son Brexton Locke after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, places the winner`s decal in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana (Photo Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, celebrates with the chequered flag after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, celebrates by kissing the bricks after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, stops in his pit on his way to a ninth place finish Sunday, July 26, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, races to an eighth place finish with third place finisher Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS Sunday, July 26, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s/Budweiser Chevrolet SS, races to a third place finish Sunday, July 26, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
A detailed view of the Brickyard 400 trophy prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Stanley Toyota, and Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, take the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 26, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 25, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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