When the checkered flag waved at Richmond back in September, Jeff Gordon wasn’t even in the Chase field of 12 drivers. He was added later in the week when NASCAR ruled that the final outcome of the race was altered by the action of a couple of drivers. He was actually the 13th driver in the field as the sanctioning body made an exception and increased the size of the Chase field.
Gordon has proved that he belongs in this season’s championship round of 10 races as he now sits in third place after capturing the checkered flag at Martinsville. He now trails Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson, who are tied for the top spot, by 27 points with three races remaining before a champion is crowned.
Gordon’s win comes at one of his best tracks. The trip to victory lane tied him with teammate Jimmie Johnson for the most wins by an active driver at Martinsville with eight. The win also added to his Hall of Fame total of career victories with 88.
The win clinched the Manufacturer’s Championship for Chevrolet as it was the 14th victory for the Bowtie Brand this season. Chevrolet has dominated the series in recent years. It was the 11th consecutive year that it has won the Manufacturer’s title and the 37th time overall. Jimmie Johnson leads all Chevrolet drivers with six wins.
CHASE POINTS: Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson both have accumulated 2,294 points since the Chase began and are shown as being tied for the top spot. Even though their point totals are identical, Kenseth would be crowned the champion because he has more wins on the season than Johnson.
Kenseth entered Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 trailing Johnson by four points but was able erase the deficit by finishing second to Johnson’s fifth-place finish. The winner is awarded 43 points and each finishing spot lower is rewarded one less point. That difference gave Kenseth three points in his pursuit of Johnson.
The points chase is now so close that it could come down to the bonus point system as the biggest bonus goes to the winner who picks up three for the win and will always pick up another one for leading at least one lap, automatically giving the winner four bonus points. Kenseth was able to pick up the other point he needed to tie Johnson by earning the one bonus point for leading the most laps. Both drivers earned one bonus point for leading a lap.
Championships have been won by earning bonus points and with the point totals of the two top drivers tied with only three races remaining, the three remaining bonus points for leading a lap and the three for leading the most laps could easily be the difference between winning the title and having to wait another year to claim the top spot.
2014 CHANGES: NASCAR has said that it could be changing qualifying for next season. The sanctioning body is considering eliminating single-car qualifying and replacing it with groups of cars that would be given a certain amount of time on the track with the best lap speed counting as the car’s qualifying effort. Qualifying at Daytona and Talladega would go to a 45-60 minute draft session with the best lap counting as the qualifying time.
TRACK SMACK: Texas Motor Speedway will host the eighth race of the Chase this Sunday and it really doesn’t play favorites when it comes to the Chase field. Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson are both two-time winners at the track with Johnson winning last October’s event, but Carl Edwards leads all Chase drivers with three wins. Kyle Busch won the April Texas race and has a victory at the sister track in Atlanta that makes him one of the favorites on the mile-and-a-half track this Sunday.
Event: AAA Texas 500
Track: Texas Motor Speedway
(1.5-mile tri-oval, 240 of banking
in the turns)
Date: Nov. 3, 3 p.m.
Defending Champion: Jimmie