Jeff Gordon finally conquered his winless demons for the season as well as his winless streak at Texas Motor Speedway.
After some gutsy calls by crew chief Steve Letarte, keeping Gordon out on the track for position several times during the race, Gordon finally brought the National Guard GED Plus No. 24 Chevy to the checkered flag.
This is Gordon's first win of the 2009 season, and breaks Gordon's unbelievably lengthy winless streak of over 47 races.
In fact, the last time Gordon visited Victory Lane in a points race was late October 2007 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Gordon did, however, win one of the Gatorade Duels, a non-points race, prior to this year's running of the Daytona 500.
Texas Motor Speedway is also one of only two tracks where Gordon had never scored a victory. With this race win, Homestead is the only track on the NASCAR circuit left for Gordon to conquer.
Throughout the race, crew chief Letarte constantly encouraged his driver, telling him over and over that he "was looking good." Letarte did, however, try to keep the mood light, making some disparaging comments about how chilly it was on the pit box.
Gordon and Letarte also seemed in sync throughout the race, keeping up with the car and the changing track conditions. This was in stark contrast to last season when every adjustment seemed to send them spiralling backwards.
Gordon did have a bit of a challenge from his own teammate and fan favorite Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the final stages of the race. In a late pit stop towards the end of the race, Earnhardt took just two tires, putting him in front of Gordon out of the pits.
But Gordon was able to power past Junior, retaking the lead and checking out from the rest of the pack.
Then on lap 294, Carl Edwards gave Gordon a run for his money and took the lead away. On that run, Gordon reported his car was extremely tight and pushing. Even Tony Stewart was able to pass him.
The caution flag fortuitously waved, however, as David Stremme spun in Turn Three. Gordon pitted and his team got him back out in the first spot.
Letarte congratulated his crew, saying "all that hard work in the winter" had truly paid off.
Unfortunately, Edwards did not fare as well and his crew hung a lug nut. This put him back in the pack, leaving Gordon to contend with Stewart and teammate Jimmie Johnson instead.
As the laps wound down, Johnson powered past Stewart and set out to challenge Gordon. But in the clean air, Gordon's car set sail and left Johnson wondering how on earth to catch his teammate and mentor.
Although Johnson came dangerously close in the final laps, Gordon battled mightily, never wanting a win so badly.
As Gordon asked "where did that boy come from?" referring to Johnson, Letarte congratulated him on driving a "hell of a race."
Gordon had not forgotten how to do a victory burnout, grabbing the checkered flag and smoking his tires down the track.
Unfortunately, wife Ingrid and daughter Ella Sofia were not at the track this weekend to witness "papa's" good run. But Gordon said hello and sent his love in his post-race interview.
Even team owner Rick Hendrick missed the race and the victory. Gordon did talk with Hendrick via cell phone in Victory Lane, receiving heartiest congratulations.
In spite of the lack of family or team owner to celebrate with him, many other drivers and team members came over to congratulate Gordon and Letarte on the end of the winless streak.
Gordon also relished firing off the guns in Victory Lane, celebrating with his crew chief in their matching Stetson hats.
With this monkey finally off Gordon's back, he can now truly celebrate his lead in the points standings. He and team 24 can can also toast their best season in years, rivaling only the 2007 season when Gordon did battle with teammate Johnson for the championship.