By Shaun Burke
Jeff Gordon led close to half the race at Phoenix International Speedway in route to his 83rd career win tying him with Cale Yarborough for fifth on the all-time win list.
Once a fixture in victory lane, this was just Gordon’s second win in four years and first in 66 races.
Gordon led 138 of 312 laps; however, restarted third with 21 laps remaining behind Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch. Stewart took two tires and was quickly a non-factor for the win as he drifted back to finish seventh.
After dominating the Camping World Truck Series race and the Nationwide race, Kyle Busch was vying for only the second weekend sweep; the first was accomplished by Busch at Bristol last season.
Gordon quickly reeled Busch in and with nine laps to go nudged Busch out of the way.
After somewhat calm races this weekend, the Subway Fresh Fit 500 proved to be the anything but calm as the race was slowed eight times for caution.
Gordon himself was caught up in one of the early crashes as Kyle Busch got loose and slammed into Carl Edwards resulting in Edwards going behind the wall and a scraped up the right side to Gordon’s car.
“I’ll have to talk to Kyle about it.” Edwards said “I thought at first he was just frustrated and he turned left to get back in line and he didn’t know I was there. But I watched the tape, and I think he really did get loose. He hit me hard, and I was left with nothing.”
When the race restarted on lap 66, Matt Kenseth made contact with Brian Vickers igniting a fourteen car crash including Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Jamie McMurray, David Reutimann and several others. Bowyer expressed his frustration with going behind the wall so early in the race
“We’re all better race car drivers than this,” Bowyer said “It’s pretty embarrassing, to be honest with you.”
After a Cinderella finish to the Daytona 500, Trevor Bayne would just as soon forget about his weekend at Phoenix after spinning and crashing on lap 50.
After one lead change in the Camping World Truck race and Busch leading wire to wire in the Nationwide race, Sunday’s race had a record 28 lead changes between 12 drivers.
After Gordon and Busch, rounding out the top five were Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and last year’s race winner Ryan Newman.
Several drivers find themselves in a point hole after troubles two weeks in a row. Jeff Burton, Joey Logano and Greg Biffle find themselves outside the top 25 after just two races. While it is still early, due to the new points system, drivers may find it more difficult than ever to dig themselves out of a hole early in the season.
For the first time in over 20 years, family members lead the points with Kyle Busch first at 80 points and Kurt Busch second with 77. Race winning Jeff Gordon is now fifth while five time defending champion sits thirteenth.