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GORDON WINS AT MARTINSVILLE; KENSETH DELIVERS PAYBACK TO LOGANO
Here’s a quick weekly glance at the elimination-style Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff format that makes a stop at Texas Motor Speedway for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500, the middle race of the Eliminator 8 segment.
WHO: The eight-driver championship field remaining in the three-race Eliminator Round segment consists of Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing; Jeff Gordon of Hendrick Motorsports; Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch of Stewart-Haas Racing; Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski of Team Penske; and Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing.
WEEKEND RECAP: Gordon’s final Sprint Cup Series season will have him vying for the fifth series championship of his illustrious career. Gordon edged Jamie McMurray by .335 of a second to win Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 and securing one of the four berths to vie for the series championship Nov. 22 at Homestead-Miami >Speedway by virtue of the triumph. "This is the sweetest, most amazing feeling,” Gordon said. “I am so proud of this team. You want to talk about holding back emotions; right now man, wow, we're going to Homestead! I can't believe it." Click here to see Gordon’s reaction. The win was Gordon’s first of the season and 93rd of his career, and he can thank Matt Kenseth for helping his cause. Gordon benefitted from Kenseth delivering his payback to Logano, who led a race-high 207 laps and was comfortably in the lead on Lap 454 of 500 when the fireworks erupted. Two weeks ago at Kansas in the Contender Round, Kenseth was spun and wrecked by Logano while leading the race that eventually cost him a chance to advance to the Eliminator Round and a payback seemed imminent. Kenseth made what appeared to be a deliberate move to put Logano’s championship aspirations in doubt if he does not win one of the next two races. Kenseth, driving a damaged car that was the result of contact from Logano’s teammate Keselowski on a restart, was about to be lapped by Logano on the high side. Kenseth made contact with him, driving him into the wall and ending Logano’s day with a 38th-place finish. Check out the controversial contact here from NASCAR.com. "I think what happened at Kansas is a completely different deal," Logano said. "We were racing for the win, and he blocks you a few times, and then we raced hard and he blocked me the last time and we spun out. That's what happened there. Here it was just a complete coward move, especially for a championship race car driver and race team. Just a complete coward. I don't have anything else to say. It's a chicken-you-know-what move to completely take out the leader when your race is over."
HOW THEY STAND: Gordon has clinched one of the four berths in the championship race Sunday, Nov. 22, at Homestead-Miami Speedway with his win at Martinsville. Three other Chase contenders got off to solid starts in the Eliminator Round with top-10 finishes as Kyle Busch finished fifth, Truex Jr. sixth and Harvick eighth. Despite a 14th-place finish, Edwards remains in decent shape as result of the accidents that put Keselowski (32nd), Kurt Busch (34th) and Logano (38th) in an immediate deep hole. A win, or a top-five finish at the minimum, is paramount for all three at the AAA Texas 500 to keep their championship hopes alive.
UP NEXT: The Eliminator Round continues Sunday with the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway (1 p.m. CT, TV: NBC, Radio: PRN, SiriusXM).
UPCOMING: Following Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, the Eliminator Round will culminate Sunday, Nov. 15, with the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway (TV: NBC, Radio: MRN, SiriusXM). These three races will determine which four drivers will advance to the Nov. 22 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (TV: NBC, Radio: MRN, SiriusXM) and vie for the series championship.