Winners: 2011 NASCAR Champions

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Austin Dillon
NASCAR Nationwide Series: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Tony Stewart

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Gordon snaps skid at Texas

It figures the one week I don't pick Jeff Gordon (I didn't pick anyone, since I kind of forgot to write a preview for the Samsung 500 ... oops), he picks up his first win in a year and a half.

Gordon led a race-high 105 laps, and his crew got him off pit road first before a restart with 26 to go on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. Gordon led the rest of the way, holding off a late charge from Jimmie Johnson to break a 47-race winless streak. With the win, Gordon has now won on every active Sprint Cup Series track except Homestead-Miami Speedway.

So that's 21 of 22 tracks, on top of races he won at Rockingham and North Wilksboro.

Gordon now has 82 career wins, putting him sixth on the all-time list. One more and he'll tie Cale Yarborough for fifth all-time. Another and he'll be right there with Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip. Three more wins, which could all easily come this season, and Gordon will sit third all-time in wins, behind David Pearson (105) and Richard Petty (200).

Still doubt Gordon's one of the all-time greats? Pretty soon, there'll be no debating it.

I'm not saying Gordon will supplant Pearson or Petty -- he's far too late in his career to hunt down Pearson, and no one will ever reach Petty's mark -- but Sunday served as notice for everyone who thought (or hoped) the No. 24 was past its prime. Gordon leads the points by 162 over Johnson, and though that'll matter little after Richmond in September, it's a testament to Gordon's determination and how that team has recovered this season.

Seven races into the season, Gordon's worst finish is 13th at Daytona. He's finished sixth or better in every other race so far this season, and his win came at a track that hasn't been kind to Gordon over the years.

Gordon has two dead-last finishes in his career. They both came at Texas.

But before we hand Gordon the Sprint Cup trophy for the fifth time in his career -- he would already have six if not for the Chase -- we still have to keep in mind guys like Johnson, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch. Johnson has perfected the Chase format, and if Edwards can overcome pit mistakes like the one that cost him on Sunday, the No. 99 crew will be tough to beat again.

Then there's Busch. Petulant child or not, Busch is a threat to win everywhere, every week. That makes him a championship contender, even if he's prone to bad days like at Martinsville or bonehead days like at Texas.

But to count out Gordon at this point, when he's arguably the class of the Sprint Cup field this season, is downright foolish. Like it or not, the No. 24 is back, and he's not going anywhere any time soon.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Samsung 500
1. Jeff Gordon**
2. Jimmie Johnson*
3. Greg Biffle*
4. Tony Stewart*
5. Matt Kenseth*
6. Mark Martin*
7. Juan Pablo Montoya
8. Kurt Busch*
9. Jeff Burton
10. Carl Edwards*
11. David Reutimann*
12. Denny Hamlin
13. Paul Menard*
14. David Stremme
15. Ryan Newman
16. Brian Vickers*
17. Sam Hornish Jr.
18. Kyle Busch*
19. Kasey Kahne
20. Dale Earnhardt Jr.*
21. Casey Mears
22. Clint Bowyer
23. Brad Keselowski
24. Michael Waltrip
25. Martin Truex Jr.
26. John Andretti
27. Kevin Harvick
28. Bill Elliott
29. David Gilliland
30. Joey Logano
31. Regan Smith
32. Elliott Sadler
33. Aric Almirola
34. A.J. Allmendinger
35. Max Papis
36. Reed Sorenson
37. David Ragan*
38. Jamie McMurray
39. Robby Gordon
40. Bobby Labonte
41. Marcos Ambrose
42. Mike Bliss
43. Dave Blaney

*led a lap (5 bonus points)
**led most laps (5 more bonus points)

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