Gordon's Thrilling Victory Caps Off Exciting Talladega Weekend

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A weekend of 1,000 miles of racing at Talladega Superspeedway was filled with fantastic finishes and big-name debuts. 

 

Jeff Gordon capped the weekend on Sunday by making a thrilling move on the final lap to pass Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson and win the UAW-Ford 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race. As a pack of 18 cars roared down the backstretch, Gordon suddenly darted out from behind Johnson and used a push from Tony Stewart to take the lead heading into Turn 3.

 

Gordon held on from there to capture his second consecutive victory at Talladega and the sixth of his career, moving him past Dale Earnhardt Jr. and into second place on the track's all-time victory list. It also was a record 12th restrictor-plate victory of Gordon's career and his 80th win overall.

 

Gordon's crew chief, Steve Letarte, said the finish was typical Talladega.

 

"I think it was everything everybody hoped for in an exciting finish," Steve Letarte said. "This facility is so smooth and such a beautiful race track, and to be as big as it is, you're going to have a wild finish and you're going to have a wild race."

 

The victory moved Gordon into first place in the Chase for the Championship, nine points ahead of Johnson. Clint Bowyer is in third place, 63 points behind Gordon.

 

Saturday's finish was even more exciting, as Todd Bodine barely held off a late charge by Rick Crawford and Johnny Benson to win the Mountain Dew 250 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race by 0.014 of a second.

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As the trio came off Turn 4 and headed through the trioval toward the checkered flag, Crawford pulled out on the high side and Benson tried to pass on the bottom of the track. They crossed the finish line three-wide, with Bodine maintaining the lead by inches.

 

"This is Talladega. It just lends itself to great finishes," Bodine said afterward. "It's just the way Talladega is. It's a great place to race, and a great show for the fans."

 

The 1,000 miles of racing began Friday with 21-year-old Michael Annett winning the ARCA RE/MAX Series 250 in only his fourth career ARCA start.

 

"This track is pretty prestigious," a smiling Annett said. "To get your first ARCA win here is pretty cool, with all the history of this track and all the previous winners."

 

After this past weekend, that history will include the stock-car racing debuts of open-wheel racers Dario Franchitti and Scott Speed, as well as the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup debut of former Formula One series champion Jacques Villeneuve.

 

Speed finished seventh in Friday's ARCA race, while Franchitti - who won the Indianapolis 500 earlier this year - finished 17th. Both drivers were impressed with the experience of racing at Talladega.

 

"It was incredible," Speed said. "There was so much going on out there. It's such a contrast from what I've been use to my whole life, running in open-wheel stuff. The overall experience was fantastic."

 

Franchitti agreed.

 

"It was a lot of fun out there," he said. "I'm disappointed with the result, but what I've learned, I don't think you can put a price on it. I learned so much. From that point of view, I'm very happy."

 

Then on Sunday, Villeneuve finished a solid 21st in the UAW-Ford 500.

 

"I'm quite happy with the result," Villeneuve said. "It was a great day to learn."

 

It also was one of three great days of memorable moments for fans at Talladega Superspeedway.

 

As Gordon said, "The fans here get to see an awesome show."

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