SONOMA, Calif. -- For Jeff Gordon, this victory was far more
difficult than it looked.
"Not only was the car nearly out of gas, but I was out of gas,
too,'' Gordon said after driving to an overpowering win at Infineon
It was the perfect end to a nearly perfect weekend in which the
four-time NASCAR champion won the pole with a record-setting lap,
topped every practice session and set another record by leading 92
of 110 laps on the 1.99-mile, 10-turn road course.
Gordon picked up his fourth Infineon victory, winning for the
third time from the pole. It also extended his own Nextel Cup
record for road racing wins to eight. He has three wins this season
and 67 for his career.
Nobody had a real challenge for Gordon on Sunday. His only real
problem was the heat.
As temperatures at the scenic wine country circuit neared 90
degrees, the ventilation system in Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet became
as overpowered as his competition.
"Today, I was challenged by my physical fitness,'' Gordon said.
"Those cautions we had with about 40 and 30 laps to go really
helped me a lot. It gave me a chance to get a few moments to relax
and it gave the crew a chance to give me some ice packs and cool me
down a little.''
The late yellow flags also helped Gordon with another possible
problem as crew chief Robbie Loomis cautioned him constantly on the
radio to conserve gas.
"I was shutting the engine off rolling downhill and conserving
any way I could,'' said Gordon, whose last pit stop came on lap 68.
"I drove out and got as big a lead as I could and gave a lot of
it up there at the end,'' Gordon said. "It was real tough.''
It certainly didn't look it.
McMurray said he never thought he had a shot at Gordon in
Sunday's Dodge/Save Mart 350.
"I knew Jeff was going to have to run off the track or goof up
and, typically, he doesn't do that,'' McMurray said. "I was just
waiting on him to make a mistake, but I was driving as hard as I
could. ... We were just hanging on.''
Kurt Busch started third and vaulted past both Gordon and Rusty
Wallace to grab the lead on the first lap, but Gordon quickly moved
back into the top spot and stayed there the rest of the way except
during pit stop sequences.
Gordon quickly disposed of Kahne on the restart on lap 70, but
it took him until lap 74 before he could work his way past former
open-wheel racer Mears. Once Gordon got back on top, he was not
"I was so nervous all weekend that we were going to mess it up
somehow,'' said Gordon, who came here with three finishes of 30th
or worse in his last four races. "We've been running real well and
just hadn't been getting the results.
"But I still felt a lot of confidence coming in here. This race
team does not allow bad weekends to get them down.''
Meanwhile, McMurray got past Wallace and Mears to grab second on
lap 79, then spent the rest of the race trying without success to
cut into Gordon's lead.
Wallace, another of NASCAR's best road racers, was right behind
Pruett in fourth when he ran out of gas after crossing the finish
line a lap from the end. He wound up 28th as Michael Waltrip, who
started 40th in the 43-car field, took over fourth place.
Series leader Jimmie Johnson, Gordon's teammate, finished fifth.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. recovered from two spins to finish 11th, but
fell from seven to 27 points behind Johnson in the season
Robby Gordon, who won both Nextel Cup road races last year -- at
Sonoma and Watkins Glen -- had a miserable day. He slid off course
and hit a tire wall after losing a tire earlier in the race, then
had two more flat tires and wound up 34th.