2010-03-04 / Sports

Johnson Gets Win No. 49

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Jeff Gordon dominated Sunday’s Shelby American Cup race. He led 218 of the 267 laps, but a bad pit call cost him the win and allowed his teammate, Jimmie Johnson, to claim his second victory of the season.

Gordon’s crew chief, Steve Letarte, elected to change two tires on Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet on the last pit stop while Johnson’s team gave him four. The two-tire pit stop was not the right call, because Johnson was able to catch and pass Gordon with 16 laps to go.

“Jeff and I really raced hard there at the end,” said Johnson. “I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to get by him, but our four new tires allowed me to make the pass. We had a great day on the track and a great day in the pits.”

The win was Johnson’s 49th career win. He also has 15 victories on a mile-and-a-half track, more than any other driver.

Kevin Harvick, winner of Saturday’s Nationwide race, was also able to get by Gordon for third.

“The biggest call for us was not taking on tires during that early pit stop,” said Harvick. “That’s what allowed us to gain the positions we needed. Once we got track position, our car was really fast. All in all, we did things today we haven’t been able to do in the past couple of years.”

Harvick continues as the Sprint Cup points leader.

“I think the two-tire stop wasn’t what we needed,” said Gordon. “We thought more guys were going to take two tires than did. We had the car. It’s real tough to make the right decision sometime. We fought Jimmie off as long as we could, but I couldn’t hold him off there at the end.”

Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, and Greg Biffle were the remaining top-10 finishers.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. started off strong, but faded about midway of the race and finished 16th.

Jamie McMurray, the Daytona 500 winner got into the rear of his teammate, Juan Montoya, causing a three car pileup, involving Kurt Busch, the polesitter. All three of the drivers were able to finish the race.

Top-12 Chase leaders after 3 of 36: 1. Harvick-506, 2. Bowyer- 459, 3. Martin-457, 4. Kenseth- 448, 5. Johnson-443, 6. Biffle-443, 7. Burton-430, 8. Logano-413, 9. Reutimann-397, 10. Edwards-389, 11. Stewart-386, 12. Kyle Busch- 375

Harvick takes Vegas Nationwide race

Kevin Harvick won Saturday’s race at Las Vegas, crossing the finish line 1.361 seconds ahead of Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski and Brian Vickers. Harvick now has 35 Nationwide wins in 239 career starts.

For the third consecutive time, a wreck forced Danica Patrick out early. She finished 36th.

Top-10 points leaders after 3 of 35: 1. Edwards-505, 2. Keselowski 464, 3. Vickers-457, 4. Allgaier-449, 5. Kyle Busch-426, 6. S. Wallace-426, 7. Harvick-414, 8. Biffle-408, 9. Menard-398, 10. Riggs-359

Weekend racing: Bill Elliott and the crew of the Wood Brothers No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion will be back at home base, for the March 7 Sprint Cup Kobalt Tools 500 at the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The Woods will be returning to a track where they’re the alltime win leader with 12 Cup victories, and where their driver Bill Elliott also has five Cup wins.

One of the races that has become a big part of stock car racing lore occurred at Lakewood on Labor Day, 1941. Lloyd Seay, one of the greatest stock car drivers in the days before NASCAR, came to his home track riding an impressive win streak. It continued in the annual Labor Day Classic as Seay, driving a Modified Ford owned by Raymond Parks of Atlanta, beat another early stock car star, Bob Flock, to win the 100-miler. It would be Seay’s last race. After the race he returned to his home in Dawson County, Ga., and the next day was shot to death by his cousin during a dispute over their moonshine business.

But Dawson County was able to regain its role as the birthplace of stock car stars, thanks to the red-headed son of a local Ford dealer, who went on to become “Awesome Bill From Dawsonville” and now wheels one of the most famous cars in motorsports. The Wood Brothers team also made its mark at Lakewood in the early days of NASCAR, as Glen Wood was a strong runner at Lakewood in his days behind the wheel. His best finish on the Grand Old Lady came on Labor Day weekend, 1956, when he finished second to Joe Weatherly in a Convertible race.

NASCAR’s Convertible circuit, which ran regularly from 1956 to 1959 and often ran in combined Sweepstakes races with the hardtops of the Grand National Series, featured some of the best drivers in the history of NASCAR. Its roster included several drivers who went on to win races in the Wood Brothers’ Fords. They included Weatherly, Curtis Turner, Tiny Lund and Marvin Panch. And Glen Wood was one of the circuit’s top drivers.

In 1956, his first year in the series, he had 12 finishes of second or third in 31 starts. For his Convertible career, he had five wins, 43 top-five and 62 top-10 finishes plus nine poles in just 89 starts. Lakewood was one of his favorite tracks, even if it did take the men from Stuart a few wrong turns before finding the track the first time they went there to race. “I sat on the pole there once,” Wood said. “The track could either be tacky or it could get to a dry, hard, slick finish. When it got like that you couldn’t charge into the turns like you usually do. “I remember one time Curtis Turner got there late and didn’t realize how slick the track was. I guess I should have warned him, but he went into the corner too hard and about went through the fence.”

Sat., Apr. 6, Camping World Trucks Atlanta 200, race 2 of 25; Starting time: 2 p.m. (ET); TV: Speed Channel.

Sun., Apr.7, Sprint Cup Kobalt Tools 500, race 4 of 36; Starting time: 1 p.m. (ET); TV: Fox.

The Nationwide Series is idle until March 20.

Racing trivia question: How many Cup championships does Bill Elliott have?

Last wek’s question: What series did Nationwide driver James Buescher compete in last year? Answer. He drove the No. 10 Camping World Series Truck.

You may contact the Racing Reporter at: hodgesnews@earthlink.net.

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