NASCAR

Jeff Gordon punches ticket to championship race after win at Martinsville

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Jeff Gordon punches ticket to championship race after win at Martinsville

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) — As the adoring crowd lingered in the darkness at Martinsville Speedway, Jeff Gordon took a moment to soak it in.

In a 23-year career that is one long highlight reel, his victory Sunday overwhelmed the NASCAR great. He had just earned a spot in the championship race, a chance to race for an elusive fifth title. It was, in his mind, "one of my finest moments I've ever had."

So Gordon, who at 44 years old celebrated his ninth Martinsville win by jumping along the track like a little boy on Christmas morning, climbed into the grandstands to share the emotion of the victory with the fans.

"I don't know what it feels like to be a rock star, but that's as close as it can get," Gordon said. "That's a rock star moment right there."

He has Matt Kenseth to thank for this storybook ending to his career.

Kenseth intentionally wrecked Joey Logano — payback from an incident three races ago — to take the race leader out with 47 laps remaining. Logano had the dominant car, and Kenseth, who was in an earlier wreck with Brad Keselowski, came back on the track 10 laps down and drove Logano into the wall.

Logano had led 207 of the 500 laps and was furious. His father, Tom, had to be pushed into the team hauler by the crew chief as the crowd cheered wildly in support of Kenseth.

Although NASCAR chairman Brian France has championed on-track incidents, Kenseth could be sanctioned because he was not racing for the win.

"I think what was disappointing ... a driver that's not competing for a win, in fact, was many laps down when that happened, in our minds, that's a little bit different than two drivers really going after it coming out of turn four for a win," said Steve O'Donnell, head of NASCAR's racing operations.

Denny Hamlin, who last week accused Kevin Harvick of deliberately causing an accident to preserve his spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field, said the level of aggression is out of hand. He's teammates with Kenseth, and both were eliminated from title contention last week.

"It's a no-holds-barred, Wild, Wild West," Hamlin said. "The structure in which we have around us is not very strong as far as an authority figure saying, 'No, you cannot do that anymore.'

"I love Brian France, but when he says that drivers are 'doing what they have to do,' it seems like he's promoting this type of racing. That's tough to crown a true champion when things go like this."

Kenseth downplayed the incident, deadpanning it was a result of an earlier incident with Keselowski, who had led 143 laps as the two Team Penske teammates were the class of the field. Instead of celebrating a win and a spot in the Nov. 22 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Logano is last in the eight-driver field and Keselowski is sixth.

There are two races remaining for the rest of the final four to be set, and Logano has a lot of work to do to make it back to the championship finale for the second year.

He was racing for his fourth consecutive victory, but there was a looming suspicion that Kenseth would get in the way.

Kenseth had been leading in the closing laps three weeks ago at Kansas when Logano spun him out of the way for the win. Kenseth has been furious since.

Logano felt Kenseth's move was dirty.

"I think what happened at Kansas is a completely different deal. We were racing for the win and he blocks you a few times and then we raced hard and he blocked me the last time and we spun out," Logano said. "Here it was just a complete coward move, especially for a championship race car driver and race team. Just a complete coward. I don't have anything else to say. It's a chicken-you-know-what move to completely take out the leader when your race is over."

The two drivers have not talked since Kansas, and even though they were in the care center together after the accident, there was no conversation.

"They won't let me get to him," Logano said about NASCAR.

Tales of the Turtles 400 coming to Chicagoland Speedway Sept. 17

Tales of the Turtles 400 coming to Chicagoland Speedway Sept. 17

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, titled Tales of the Turtles 400, is coming to Joliet on Sept. 17, Chicagoland Speedway and Nickelodeon announced last week.

It will mark the seventh straight year Chicagoland Speedway will kick off NASCAR's playoffs.

Nickelodeon Sr. Vice President of Sports Marketing Anthony DiCosmo and President of Chicagoland Speedway Scott Paddock joined SportsTalk Live to discuss it all, and even had a few special guests join them as well.

Check it out in the video above.

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Kurt Busch had a monster start to the season with a last-lap pass to win the crash-filled Daytona 500.

Busch is sponsored by Monster Energy, which kicked off its first season as the title sponsor for NASCAR's top series Sunday with the season-opener. It wasn't NASCAR finest moment, though, as multiple accidents pared down the field and had a mismatched group of drivers racing for the win at the end.

"The more that becomes unpredictable about Daytona, the more it becomes predictable to predict unpredictability," Busch said. "This car's completely thrashed. There's not a straight panel on it. The strategy today, who knew what to pit when, what segments were what. Everybody's wrecking as soon as we're done with the second segment.

"The more that I've run this race, the more that I just throw caution to the wind, let it rip and just elbows out. That's what we did."

It appeared to be pole-sitter Chase Elliott's race to lose, then he ran out of gas. So did Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr. and Paul Menard. As they all slipped off the pace, Busch sailed through for his first career Daytona 500 victory.

It also was the first Daytona 500 win for Stewart-Haas Racing, which is co-owned by Tony Stewart. The three-time champion retired at the end of last season and watched his four cars race from the pits.

"I ran this damn race (17) years and couldn't win it, so finally won it as an owner," Stewart said.

Ryan Blaney finished second in a Ford. AJ Allmendinger was third in a Chevrolet, and Aric Almirola was fourth for Richard Petty Motorsports.

The win was a huge boost for Ford, which lured Stewart-Haas Racing away from Chevrolet this season and celebrated the coup with its second Daytona 500 victory in three years. Joey Logano won in a Ford in 2015.

The first points race of the Monster era was run under a new format that split the 500 miles into three stages. Kyle Busch won the first stage, Kevin Harvick won the second stage and neither was a contender for the win. NASCAR also this year passed a rule that gave teams just five minutes to repair any damage on their cars or they were forced to retire.

But the race was slowed by wreck after wreck after wreck, including a 17-car accident at the start of the final stage that ended the race for seven-time and reigning series champion Jimmie Johnson and Danica Patrick. It was a particularly rough incident for Patrick and her Stewart-Haas Racing team, which had all four of its cars collected in the accident.

"Just seems like that could have been avoided and was uncalled for," Johnson said of the aggressive racing behind him that triggered the accident.