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Gordon back in victory lane at long last

Jeff Burton, whose #31 was seriously torn up, was annoyed with drivers racing so hard to early in proceedings. "I'm not pointing fingers at anybody. We all race. Certainly if people are wrecking, it's too aggressive, there's no doubt about that," he said. "I can't control other people; I can only control us ... I thought we had a car that could win this race and we're sitting here in the garage. It's real disappointing."

After a red flag period to allow NASCAR to clean up the track, racing was back on, with still more than three quarters of the race length to go. The man with the speed now was Jeff Gordon, who took to the front and pulled out a good lead, but some debris on the front grille caused him to fall away and Tony Stewart led for a while, he and Gordon eventually pulling away from the rest of the pack during a decent period of green flag racing at last.

A sixth caution on lap 127 resulted from a heavy smash into the wall for David Ragan as the result of a blown tyre, which saw the car briefly catch fire. When racing resumed, Gordon and Stewart once again led ahead of Jimmie Johnson and the Busch Boys. The green lasted through the next round of pit stops, which cost Stewart three positions and left him complaining that the adjustments had made the car go loose, meaning that he was one of the happier people on track to see a caution shortly afterwards on lap 218 for the final expiry of Joey Logano's struggling engine.

The restart saw Jeff Gordon ahead of Kyle Busch with Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart behind them, and Jimmie Johnson back in ninth after a particularly sluggish pit stop - shades of last year's pit road problems for the #48, it seems, despite the close-season reshuffle at Hendrick Motorsports.

At least such things didn't appear to be affecting his team mate Jeff Gordon ... Except on the very next green flag pit stop on lap 283, Gordon had a poor stop and lost the lead to Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch and the critical moment in the race. Hostilities were postponed for the eighth yellow of the afternoon for Andy Yally going into the wall, and then at the restart Kyle Busch saw his opportunity and blasted past Smoke for the lead - Gordon going with him, but now a distance behind the #18 and faced with the prospect of having to overtake Kyle on track at some point in the remaining 20 laps, a tall order at the best of times.

Yet there was no question that the #24 was the better, faster car and slowly Gordon reeled in Busch and sat on his bumper, finally administering the lightest of taps on the rear of the #18 coming out of turn 4 on lap 303 that forced Busch to run wide out onto the front-straight and gave Gordon a glimpse of daylight ahead. Gordon struggled to hold his line and make the pass, sliding up the track which ironically gave Kyle more trouble than it did Jeff - and as a result, Gordon was back in front and running for the chequered flag.

"I just beat Kyle Busch!" yelled Gordon after the finish, "Pinch me, man. Pinch me!" He was right to be ecstatic. Not only was he the only driver to beat Kyle all weekend, it had brought to an end a 66-race winless streak that last lasted for almost two years to notch up his 83rd career victory - tying the legendary Cale Yarborough in fifth in the all-time race winners rankings.

"God, it feels so amazing," he said in victory lane. "I can't tell you how amazing this feels." He even gave a name check to Twitter, saying: "I've been tweeting lately for the first time and all of the stuff that people have been saying, the motivation has been unbelievably inspiring."

Gordon's win spearheaded an extremely impressive day for his team and even for the Stewart-Haas team with which Hendrick have a technical partnership, all six cars finishing 13th or better at Phoenix. "As a group we came here and started today with our tail between our legs [after a poor Daytona 500 showing] and it's nice to finish up the day with one in victory lane and one in third," said Jimmie Johnson, concluding that it was "a good day for HMS."

Kyle's bid for a clean sweep might have been frustrated - "There's always got to be the one car out there to ruin the whole weekend," Busch laughed, adding that today "it was the #24" - but he will be happy that the win puts him at the top of the Sprint Cup points standings, 3pts ahead of his brother.

Race results

1. #24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 312 laps Running (48/2 pts)
2. #18 Kyle Busch Toyota 312 laps Running (43/1 pts)
3. #48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 312 laps Running (42/1 pts)
4. #29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 312 laps Running (41/1 pts)
5. #39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet 312 laps Running (40/1 pts)
6. #4 Kasey Kahne Toyota 312 laps Running (38/0 pts)
7. #14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet 312 laps Running (38/1 pts)
8. #22 Kurt Busch Dodge 312 laps Running (37/1 pts)
9. #43 A.J. Allmendinger Ford 312 laps Running (35/0 pts)
10. #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet 312 laps Running (34/0 pts)
11. #11 Denny Hamlin Toyota 312 laps Running (34/1 pts)
12. #17 Matt Kenseth Ford 312 laps Running (33/1 pts)
13. #5 Mark Martin Chevrolet 312 laps Running (31/0 pts)
14. #56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota 312 laps Running (30/0 pts)
15. #2 Brad Keselowski Dodge 312 laps Running (29/0 pts)
16. #9 Marcos Ambrose Ford 312 laps Running (28/0 pts)
17. #27 Paul Menard Chevrolet 312 laps Running (27/0 pts)
18. #13 Casey Mears Toyota 312 laps Running (26/0 pts)
19. #42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet 312 laps Running (25/0 pts)
20. #16 Greg Biffle Ford 312 laps Running (24/0 pts)
21. #47 Bobby Labonte Toyota 310 laps Running (23/0 pts)
22. #34 David Gilliland Ford 310 laps Running (22/0 pts)
23. #9 Bill Elliott Chevrolet 309 laps Running (21/0 pts)
24. #32 Mike Skinner Ford 308 laps Running (0pts)
25. #37 Tony Raines Ford 306 laps Running (19/0 pts)
26. #31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet 276 laps Running (18/0 pts)
27. #33 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 260 laps Running (17/0 pts)
28. #99 Carl Edwards Ford 252 laps Running (17/1 pts)
29. #0 David Reutimann Toyota 246 laps Running (15/0 pts)
30. #83 Brian Vickers Toyota 238 laps Running (14/0 pts)
31. #71 Andy Lally * Chevrolet 237 laps Running (14/1 pts)
32. #7 Robby Gordon Dodge 236 laps Running (12/0 pts)
33. #20 Joey Logano Toyota 213 laps In Pit (11/0 pts)
34. #78 Regan Smith Chevrolet 213 laps Running (10/0 pts)
35. #1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 126 laps In Pit (9/0 pts)
36. #6 David Ragan Ford 125 laps In Pit (8/0 pts)
37. #46 J.J. Yeley Chevrolet 72 laps Out of Race (7/0 pts)
38. #60 Landon Cassill Toyota 68 laps In Pit (0pts)
39. #38 Travis Kvapil Ford 66 laps Running (0pts)
40. #21 Trevor Bayne Ford 49 laps Running (0pts)
41. #66 Michael McDowell Toyota 43 laps In Pit (4/1 pts)
42. #36 Dave Blaney Chevrolet 27 laps Out of Race (2/0 pts)
43. #87 Joe Nemechek Toyota 22 laps Out of Race (0pts)





Related Pictures

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Jeff Gordon - #24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet   [pic credit: NASCAR/Getty]
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, passes Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, to take the lead and win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and team owner Tony Stewart celebrate winning in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with his wife DeLana and son Keelan in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, leads Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, Miss Sprint Cup Kim Coon, Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, pose for a photo prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 GameStop/Rock Candy Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

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