"I'm just thrilled to be at 85 in the company that I'm with. Bobby and Darryl, and you look at being behind David and Richard, it's something very significant," said Gordon. "Something I'm very proud of. And with the kind of racing that we have right now, though, I gotta say I think we can get free and clear of Bobby, if we have a few more things go our way."
The latest victory - his third of 2011 - puts Gordon through to the Chase based on points rather than clinching based on the fall-back of taking up one of the wildcards for most wins in the season. Kevin Harvick is similarly also now confirmed on points after finishing seventh, while Kurt Busch (fourth place) and Ryan Newman (20th) and now also locked in.
Brad Keselowski's sixth place might be a bit of a let down compared with his run of wins and top three finishes, but it's still good enough to clinch his place (most likely based on the wins wildcard) as well as maintaining his impressive momentum going into the Chase.
Tony Stewart is not yet locked in the Chase but his strong third place at Atlanta has certainly strengthened his hand going into the final pre-Chase race at Richmond on Saturday. This proved to be Stewart's best showing since finishing second at New Hampshire in July, since which time he's had a quite horrible slump that threatened his position in the Championship play-offs.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is also yet to clinch a place in the Chase after managing only 19th this week, but looks likely to do so at Richmond. And Denny Hamlin is now looking in a strong position to claim the final wins wildcard, with none of the other one-race winners (David Regan, Paul Menard, Marcos Ambrose) able to finish ahead of him to claim it. However, they could still pull off an upset if any of them were to win at Richmond and become two-time winners; and Clint Bowyer, AJ Allmendinger or Greg Biffle could also crash Hamlin's hopes if they became first-time winners on Saturday night.
But all those Chase calculations are for next weekend. For today, there is just relief that the race was finally able to be run and completed, and that it turned out to be a bit of a corker despite expectations thanks to old pros Gordon and Johnson showing the rest of the field how to have a thrilling battle without having at it at the same time.
Full race results and positions