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Jeff Gordon wins at Martinsville; qualifies for championship race

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Jeff Gordon won the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville (Virginia) Speedway, edging Jamie McMurray be two car lengths. Gordon’s victory was the 93rd of his career and makes him the first of four drivers to qualify for the championship race at Homestead, Fla. on November 22.

Among those still competing in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers, Kyle Busch finished closest to Gordon in fifth place. Martin Truex, Jr. was seventh and Kevin Harvick eighth. Carl Edwards was 14th.

The final 100 laps were the most bizarre races of the season, or other seasons for that matter. Gordon seemed destined to have a good finish, but without the car necessary to win. Teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano were poised to finish in the top two until some obvious payback took place less than 50 miles from the finish.

Matt Kenseth became involved in a wreck with Keselowski, sending Keselowski to a 32nd place finish. Kurt Busch was caught up in the wreck and finished 34th. Later, as leader Logano sought to put Kenseth a lap down with 46 laps remaining, Kenseth and his damaged car steered Logano’s car into the wall, ending the day for both.

Kenseth has a recent history with both Keselowski and Logano, especially the latter. Kenseth was on his way to victory on October 18 in Kansas City, when Logano nudged him from behind, costing Kenseth the win and the chance to advance in the Chase.

Logano called Kenseth a “coward” for the move. Many of the thousands in attendance thought differently and were celebrating even before the cars came to rest.

In all likelihood, Logano, Busch and Keselowski will each need to win one of the two remaining races to advance to Homestead and join Gordon in the championship race.

During his 23-year career, Gordon has been the subject of many boos from fans of Dale Earnhardt, Sr. and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., as well as fans of a few other drivers. The popularity of Gordon’s victory at one of NASCAR’s traditional tracks was unimaginable just a few years ago.

Perhaps the knowledge that this is his final season may account for some of the fan sentiment.

“This has turned into a fairy tale year,” said Gordon from Victory Lane. “Homestead is going to be an unbelievable weekend.”

Before getting to Homestead and the Ford Ecoboost 400, the competitors will be at Texas Motor Speedway next week for the AAA Texas 500. The penultimate race will run on November 15 at Phoenix International Raceway for the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500.

With his spot secure, Gordon can now focus on winning his fifth championship and send him into retirement with the fairy tale ending he described earlier.

It would likely be another highly popular victory.

The final standings from Martinsville can be found here.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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