Gordon wins over race qualifiers

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 28, 2005

The Associated Press

MARTINSVILLE, Va. - Jeff Gordon held on in a three-lap dash with Tony Stewart, who still grabbed a 15-point lead over third-place finisher Jimmie Johnson in the Chase for the championship Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.

Gordon, a four-time champion who didn't qualify for the 10-race, Nextel Cup playoff, completed a sweep of the season's two races on the .526-mile speedway - the oldest, shortest and tightest run in NASCAR's premier stock car series.

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As he did in April, Gordon said he was dedicating the victory at the Subway 500 to the 10 people killed a year ago when a Hendrick Motorsports plane crashed on the way to the track.

‘‘It's been awhile,'' Gordon said in Victory Lane after his 73rd career victory, fourth this year and first since May 1 at Talladega. ‘‘What a great, great feeling.''

The runner-up finish was the second in a row for Stewart here. He led 247 laps in the spring before a tire came off with 70 laps to go. This time, he led 283 of the first 343 laps, then wasn't nearly as dominant after his last two pit stops.

But his dominance did give him 10 bonus points - 5 for leading a lap and 5 for leading the most in the race - to take first place to himself with four races left.

He and Johnson came in tied for the lead in a very tight championship chase.

Greg Biffle, who was third to start the day, just 11 points behind, wound up 20th.

, and fourth-place Ryan Newman, who was 17 points back, ran 10th to grab third place.

The race was especially tough for Chase contenders Mark Martin, Carl Edwards and Rusty Wallace, who started the day fifth-through-seventh in the points standings and all had difficulties. Martin finished 34th, Edwards was 26th, one lap down, and Wallace was running fifth when he crashed on a restart with 19 laps to go. He finished 19th.

The race changed dramatically when the 13th caution flew on lap 343 after a spin by Casey Mears. Gordon assumed the lead when he and five others didn't follow the other top contenders onto pit road. Also staying out were the Roush Racing trio of Biffle, Martin and Matt Kenseth. Stewart came off pit road running seventh.

He made quick work of the first six cars, but had Johnson directly behind him and seemed content to wait for Gordon to fade. Gordon was racing on tires more than 50 laps older than Stewart's, but still built a 3 1/2-second lead.

Johnson then finally caught and passed Stewart and was trailing Gordon by more than 5 1/2 seconds with the 16th caution came out for debris on the track on lap No. 436.

Gordon won the race off pit road, followed by Johnson and Stewart, and never gave up the lead again. He beat Stewart to the finish line by .235 seconds.