Jeff Gordon did a Victory lap carrying a flag bearing Dale Earnhardt's familiar No. 3 to commemorate tying Earnhardt's 76 career wins.
Gordon Grabs 76th Victory at Phoenix to Tie Earnhardt
PHOENIX, AZ (April 21, 2007) - Four-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion Jeff Gordon swapped the lead with two-time champion Tony Stewart in the closing laps and drove away to win the Subway Fresh Fit 500 Saturday night at Phoenix International Raceway.
Gordon was almost trapped in the pits when a caution fell near the end but came out of the pits at the tail end of the lead lap. When race leader stewart and the other front-runners pitted, Gordon wound up back front, where he started and finished the race.
Stewart made a dramatic and gutsy pass of Gordon right after the restart but Gordon passed him back for the victory.
The win, Gordon's 76th, tied him with the late Dale Earnhardt on NASCAR's all-time win list.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was among the first to congratulate Gordon in Victory Lane.
"Congratulations to Jeff (Gordon, on his 76th win)," said Earnhardt Jr. "He's a class act - and I'm happy for him. I ran over to Victory Lane to shake his hand and let him know. I know a lot of fans of my dad's aren't the biggest Jeff Gordon fans, but he and my dad were business partners on a lot of things and worked together a lot more than most people realize. I saw him with the flag on the big screen. That's cool - they must have had that thing around for a lot of races."
It was Gordon's first win at Phoenix. Trailing Gordon and Stewart across the finish line was Denny Hamlin, who had perhaps the fastest car most of the night but was penalized for speeding down pit road. Jimmie Johnson was fourth and Matt Kenseth was fifth. Kenseth's Ford prevented a top-five sweep by Chevrolet.
Jeff Green, driver of one of the single-car efforts, finished sixth, ahead of Kyle Busch.
Bobby Labonte was eighth, Johnny Sauter ninth and Kevin Harvick 10th.
Hamlin and polesitter Gordon dominated the early laps, with Hamlin leading most of them.
Johnson's Chevy was plagued with battery problems at the git-go and the defending champion had to switch to his backup battery.
Johnson continued to race near the front.
Two cautions for debris and a third for a crash bunched the field as teams worked to sort out handling characteristics on the Car of Tomorrow.
Harvick, who swept both races (NASCAR Busch and NASAR NEXTEL Cup) at this track last fall, inherited the lead just before the field restarted after the second debris caution.
Hamlin was penalized for entering the pits too fast and had to start from the rear of the field.
Harvick had raced his way into the second spot, just ahead of Johnson, Martin Truex Jr., Gordon, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart.
Several cars were damaged in an early crash when David Ragan spun his car trying to avoid Stewart. Ragan's spinning car gathered David Stremme and Casey Mears, causing some damage to those cars.
A fourth caution for debris slowed the field again shortly before midway and Stewart took the lead from Harvick with 157 laps remaining.
At this point in the race, Hamlin had battled his way back through the field to 12th position.
Checkered Flag Fast Facts
Green Flag Fast Facts
- Jeff Gordon won the Subway Fresh Fit 500, his 76th victory in 481 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races.
- Gordon moved into a tie with Dale Earnhardt for sixth on the all-time wins list.
- This is his first victory and seventh top-10 finish in 2007.
- This is his first victory and 14th top-10 finish in 17 races at Phoenix.
- Jeff Gordon has won at least one race in each of the past 14 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series seasons (1994-2007).
- This is the first victory from the pole in 22 races at Phoenix International Raceway.
The Race: Subway Fresh Fit 500 (Car of Tomorrow race)
The Place: Phoenix International Raceway
The Date: Saturday, April 21
Green Flag: 8:30 p.m. (ET), 9:30 p.m. (AT)
TV: FOX, 8 p.m. (ET), 9 p.m. (AT)
Track Layout: 1-mile oval
Distance: 500 kilometers/312 miles/312 laps
2006 Winner: Kevin Harvick
2006 Pole: Kyle Busch
Phoenix Pre-Race On-Track Schedule (local/PT time): Thursday—Practice, 12:45- 2:15 p.m.; Qualifying, 5:10 p.m.; Friday—Practice, 1:30-2:20 p.m.; Final Practice, 4:50-5:50 p.m.
Pre-Race Point Standings:click here
Qualifying: Thursday, April 19 (SPEED at 9 p.m. AT, 8 p.m. ET)
Practice: Friday, April 20 (SPEED at 5:30 p.m. AT, 4:30 p.m. ET)
Final Practice: Friday, April 20 (SPEED at 9 p.m. AT, 8 p.m. ET)
Pre-Race: Saturday, April 21 (SPEED at 7 p.m. AT, 6 p.m. ET)
Race: Saturday, April 21 (FOX at 9 p.m. AT, 8 ET)
Keys to Winning
- Jeff Gordon won the Budweiser Pole for the Subway Fresh Fit 500, his third NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Bud Pole of the season and 59th of his career.
- Gordon moves into a tie with Darrell Waltrip for fourth all-time in career poles won.
- This is Gordon’s third pole at Phoenix International Raceway. He also won the pole here in November 2006 and April 2005.
- Gordon’s average start at Phoenix is now 9.2.
- Gordon’s last pole was Bristol in March. He also started from the pole at Texas, but qualifying was canceled due to weather.
- Gordon has started in the top five in six of the eight races this season.
- No driver has ever won from the pole at Phoenix.
- Gordon finished 12th and fourth, respectively, the previous two times he has won the pole at Phoenix.
- This is the second time Jamie McMurray has started from the second starting-position this season (Martinsville).
- This is McMurray’s second top-10 start in eight races at Phoenix.
- Denny Hamlin, who qualified third, won his first career pole at Phoenix in 2005 and has three top-10 starts in his four races here.
- Drivers that did not qualify include: Jeremy Mayfield; Michael Waltrip; John Andretti; Brian Vickers; AJ Allmendinger ; Mike
Bliss; Brandon Ash.
Although Phoenix International Raceway is one of three 1-mile oval tracks in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, it has characteristics unlike any of the others. The track has different banking in Turns 1 and 2 than in Turns 3 and 4. It also has a ‘dogleg’ in the backstretch that makes navigating the track more difficult.
In addition, this will be the first Car of Tomorrow race at a 1-mile track. So what will be expected?
First and foremost, teams need to take their information from the recent Richmond test and try to find the right setup. Teams that can find the right package will be able to get out front.
Look for teams to put in a lot more practice laps on Thursday and Friday as they try to find the right combination for the optimum car setup.
Teams with the best car setups will be able to come out of Turns 2 and 4 in better shape than their competitors. The teams that can turn the center of the corners better will be able to generate good forward traction coming out of the corners and build momentum for the straightaways.
- The Car of Tomorrow returns to action this weekend at Phoenix, the first time it will race on a 1-mile track. The new car
was used during races at Bristol and Martinsville and resulted in winning margins of 0.064 and 0.065 seconds. Teams tested
their COT at Bristol before the races to learn different car setups. Teams recently completed a similar test at Richmond
International Raceway. “There are definitely some things from Richmond that we’re able to bring to Phoenix to get the car
to roll through the middle (of the turns),” said Steve Letarte, crew chief for Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet). "Richmond
is a really tight race track and to get a car to turn there has really given me some optimism going to Phoenix.”
- Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet) attended the 2007 CMT Music Award Show on Monday night in Nashville, Tenn. Burton presented the Video Director of the Year Award along with country music artists Blake Shelton and Taylor Swift.
- Kenny Wallace (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet) will join brother, Rusty, for the newest episode of “NASCAR Angels”, which will
be filmed in Phoenix this week. The show gives deserving families, who help in the community, an opportunity to meet their
NASCAR heroes while their vehicle is fixed by Angel Automotive Technicians. This week, the Wallace brothers, and NASCAR.COM reporter Shannon Wiseman, will be helping T/Sgt. Keith Brown of the U.S. Air Force. T/Sgt. Brown has managed deployment of 147 armed convoy missions into Iraq and recently returned from a tour of duty.
- Casey Mears (No. 25 National Guard/ GMAC Chevrolet) will trade in his stock car for a Super Dual Sport Dune Buggy for a few
days this week. Mears will not be competing in an off-road race, rather will spend a few days riding around the Glamis Sand
Dunes in Southern California. “It’s just a way for me to play and relax away from the track,” Mears said. “I love the West Coast,
and I always try to take advantage of any opportunity I have to spend a few days out there, especially when I can get to the
dunes and tear around a little bit.” Mears got a custom-built dune buggy at the end of 2006 with a GPS, full-blown stereo system and two-way radio.
- Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) finished eighth at Texas Motor Speedway to regain the lead in the Raybestos
Rookie of the Year Standings. Montoya leads David Ragan (No. 6 AAA-Show Your Card & Save Ford) by four points, 81-77. The
finish was Montoya’s second top 10 of the season and moved him to 13th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings. Paul Menard (No. 15 Menard’s Chevrolet), finished 15th at Texas, his highest finish of the year, and is in third place with 43 points. David Reutimann (No. 00 Domino’s Toyota), 37 points, and AJ Allmendinger (No. 84 Red Bull Toyota), 22 points, did not make Sunday’s race.
- Johnny Sauter’s (No. 70 Yellow Transportation Chevrolet) 22nd-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway was good enough to keep
his team in the top 35 in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup owner points and guarantee a starting spot in Saturday night’s race. The Gene
Haas-owned team holds the 35th, and final, guaranteed starting spot for the third consecutive week. Also important for the
team was that Ken Schrader finished 31st in the No. 21 Motorcraft Ford owned by Glen Wood. Because of the 27-point
differential in Sunday’s race, Sauter and Haas were able to open a comfortable lead in the point standings over the Wood Brothers Ford.
Scott Riggs and the No. 10 Valvoline-Stanley Tools Dodge owned by Jim Rocco hold the 37th position in the owner standings, 43 points behind Sauter.
- If history is any indication, the winner of Saturday night’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 will win the 2007 championship.
In 1957, 1977, 1987 and 1997, the winner of the eighth race of the season went on to win the series championship. Buck Baker,
the 1957 champion, won at Asheville-Weaverville Speedway, Cale Yarborough won at Bristol Motor Speedway in 1977, Dale
Earnhardt won at Martinsville Speedway in 1987 and Jeff Gordon won at Martinsville in 1997. The only blip in the trend came in 1967 when David Pearson won at Greenville-Pickens Speedway, but finished seventh in the standings.
Photo Gallery - Saturday, April 21
Jeff Gordon and Jamie McMurray led the field to the green flag to start the Subway Fresh Fit 500.
Tony Stewart leads Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the middle part of the race.
Gordon's pit crew gave him great pits stops for the entire race.
Jeff Gordon leads Stewart and Denny Hamlin to the checkered flag.
Gordon climbs from his car in Victory Lane.
More Victory Lane...
Photo Gallery - Friday, April 20
Race polesitter Jeff Gordon prepares for final practice - where he remained on top of the speed chart...Phoenix is one of three
series tracks Gordon has yet to win on...
Robert Yates Racing teammates Ricky Rudd (left) and David Gilliland (right) talk during a break in Friday practice.
Photo Gallery - Thursday, April 19
Virginia son Denny Hamlin wears a Virginia Tech cap Thursday at Phoenix in memory of those killed at the campus Monday.
Jimmie Johnson makes some notes during a break.
Jeff Gordon signs autographs after winning the Budweiser Pole Award for the Subway Fresh Fit 500.
Mark Martin climbs in his car for qualifying.
Jeff Gordon celebrates his 59th career Budweiser Pole Award.
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