It's only fitting that Jeff Gordon's last season in contention for a NASCAR Sprint Cup will see him enter the final race with a chance for the championship, secured after his victory Sunday at the Goody's 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
Gordon held off Jamie McMurray and Denny Hamlin to win Sunday's race, starting off the Eliminator Round with a dramatic performance that marked his first win of the 2015 season. It couldn't have come at a better time, and NASCAR showed Gordon's celebration after the big win:
A sub-headline to Gordon's victory was a controversial moment between Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth, the latter of whom plowed into Logano's back-left bumper as Logano led with 48 laps to go. The collision took Logano out of Sunday's and has him in dead last among the eight drivers left with two Eliminator Round races to go.
Take a look below for the latest Sprint Cup grid:
|Sprint Cup Chase 2015: Points Standings after Martinsville|
|3||Martin Truex Jr.||4,039|
|NASCAR.com (Highlighted driver secured spot in Championship Round)|
Whether it's right or wrong, revenge is one of the central themes of NASCAR and it reared its ugly head again Sunday. Kenseth's move seemed like a response to Logano spinning him out at Kansas Speedway two weeks ago.
That moment occurred with fewer than 50 laps to go, as Logano tried to pull away from Kenseth for the race lead. With Kenseth already out of the Chase, he deliberately wrecked Logano, as NASCAR on NBC showed:
That wreck secured the fact that Logano wouldn't win his fourth straight race after sweeping the Contender Round. Needless to say, Logano wanted to have words with Kenseth after the moment as Jay W. Pennell of Fox Sports reported:
Other drivers still alive in the Chase weren't able to avoid issues as well, including Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch. While Keselowski finished 32nd after needing car repairs, Busch was cited for speeding on pit road and finished 34th.
Before the race even concluded, Keselowski took to Twitter to express his confidence in the next two races:
There's no doubt that Sunday's race at Martinsville produced plenty of controversy and even more struggles for many of the eight drivers still fighting for the Chase. But it can't take away from Gordon's ninth career victory at Martinsville.
Any NASCAR fan knows very well just how important Gordon has been to the sport over the years, and there's no better way for him to go out than with a Sprint Cup championship. With Sunday's win, he's guaranteed to at least have a shot at that, three races from now.
On to Texas
|Remaining Sprint Cup Chase Schedule|
|Eliminator||AAA Texas 500||Sunday, Nov. 8 at 2 p.m.|
|Eliminator||Quicken Loans 500||Sunday, Nov. 15 at 2:30 p.m.|
|Championship||Ford Ecoboost 500||Sunday, Nov. 22 at 3 p.m.|
There won't be a shortage of things to talk about around the world of NASCAR as it gears up for the second of three Eliminator Round races next Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.
The AAA Texas 500 will allow another driver to guarantee his place in the Championship Round, assuming it's not Gordon or one of the already eliminated drivers who wins. Logano will be looking to do just that, while others like Keselowski and Busch will hope to shake off a disappointing race at Martinsville.