A fast final pit stop propelled Jeff Gordon to victory Saturday night at Kansas Speedway.
Gordon was running second to Kevin Harvick, but faster service accompanied with hesitation by Harvick getting off of pit road jumped Gordon ahead when green-flag stops cycled around. Though Harvick would charge, Gordon never relinquished the lead going on to win his first race of the year.
"Kevin was really tough," Gordon said. "He was so strong, I did not know if I could hold him off. I almost didn't there at the end."
Starting on the pole, Harvick was dominant early, leading after 89 laps. But when a caution fell during a pit stop on Lap 110, Harvick lost valuable track position and mired in traffic for most of the night, his car was not the same.
Though winless, Gordon entered Kansas atop the Sprint Cup standings. He increased his lead to 15 points over second-place Matt Kenseth
"What a huge weight lifted off this team's shoulders," Gordon said. "We've been leading the points, but we needed to get to Victory Lane. But they proved they were capable of doing it. What a great job by them."
Kasey Kahne finished third, with Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr. completing the top five.
Danica Patrick finished a career-best seventh, surpassing an eighth in the 2013 Daytona 500. At one point, Patrick ran as high as third Saturday and was among the fastest drivers on the track, passing Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Earnhardt all within a few laps.
"I've always believed in myself," Patrick said. "I've always believed that in the right situation, that I can do it. And it's with all respect that these little moments like when you drive by Jimmie Johnson on the outside, stuff like that, that makes me really proud of myself and little moments like that that give me a little bit more confidence."
Photo credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
The 5-Hour Energy 400 was slowed twice by vicious wrecks. The first occurred when Jamie McMurray punctured a tire and slammed the Turn 3 just past halfway, igniting a fire in the No. 1 Chevrolet. McMurray drove to pit road where he eventually scrambled to safety thanks to the aid of his crew guys. He was nonchalant about the incident, calling it a "small fire" in an interview on Fox.
The second accident of note saw a spinning Justin Allgaier, having been clipped by AJ Allmendinger, slide across the front stretch and into the path of David Gilliland resulting in serious damage to both machines. Allgaier and Gilliland were shaken, but uninjured.
"It was the hardest hit I've had in a long time," Gilliland said.