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NASCAR: ‘Huge’ win qualifies Gordon for championship final

Gordon, who is retiring from racing at the end of the season, outraced Jamie McMurray to win the opening race of the Eliminator Round in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500. The victory automatically puts Gordon in the season finale, at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he will be one of the four drivers vying for the 2015 championship. After Sunday’s race, Gordon decided to have a bit of fun with media gathered around him.
“It was a joke,” Gordon said. “I’m coming back next year.”
If he is successful at Homestead, Gordon will win his fifth title in 24 years on NASCAR’s top-level racing series. Gordon, who was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers of all time in 1998, has numerous achievements and records in NASCAR including winning the Daytona 500 three times.
On Sunday, Gordon wasted little time in voicing his jubilation.
“Yeah, baby. Yeah,” he said just after beating McMurray across the finish line. “We go to Homestead.”
The Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 was the 93rd of Gordon’s career and his ninth at the Virginia track. After the race, Gordon fought for the words to recap the victory.
“This is the sweetest, most amazing feeling,” and emotional Gordon said, praising his team for the work they did on the afternoon. “You want to talk about holding back emotions. Right now, man, wow. We’re going to Homestead. I can’t believe it.”
Gordon, racing in his final NASCAR season, admitted the fact that it will all be over in three weeks is not registering as the season winds down. He said he is having a difficult time realizing what is happening.
“This is turning into one of these just incredible storybook finishes to this year, to this career,” said Gordon. “Of all the year, I mean, of all the years, I cannot believe this. I’m so excited it’s happening this year.”
With the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 win still a blur, Gordon gave praise to his team for giving his a car that was “pretty solid all day.” Gordon lead for 35 of the race total 500 laps and admitted “we fought though some things,” the pit crew made the needed adjustments to put him out in front and keep his there.
“That was clutch. That was huge,” said Gordon. “We had a few things that fell in our favour. But you got to be there and be ready for that moment when it comes, and we were.”
The only “moment” that truly counts at the end of the day is the one that shows Gordon crossing the finish line 0.335 seconds ahead of McMurray. The race runner-up said he almost didn’t believe his fortune as the final laps unfolded.
“When Jeff gave the outside, I somewhat wanted that. I struggled on the inside,” McMurray said, adding a win wasn’t in the cards on this day. “I was hoping I could get close enough to him down the backstretch that I could make some more drama for today. I spun the tires really bad off Turn 2 and wasn’t able to get to his back.”
Denny Hamlin finished third in the race.
With only three race left in the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, seven drivers will jockey for the other three spots available in the one-race shootout for the title. After the first Eliminator Round race, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and defending champion Kevin Harvick occupy second through fourth places, respectively, in the drivers standings. Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Joey Logano will have to win one of the two remaining races in the Eliminator Round or make up some ground to qualify based on points earned.
Next up on the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup schedule is the AAA Texas 500, at Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 8.

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