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MARTINSVILLE -- NASCAR’s newly-minted philosophy of “Have at it, boys!” was clearly evident in Monday’s rain-delayed Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
Matt Kenseth was just half a lap from scoring his first victory at the tiny 0.526-mile Martinsville Speedway and the first for the Blue Oval Boys since 2002, when as the race drew down to its concluding lap, Jeff Gordon turned hard left into him on the backstretch. That maneuver first shoved Kenseth down in the infield grass and when he subsequently lost traction on the wet turf, up into the outside wall in Turns 3 and 4.
As a result, Kenseth didn’t put his No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion out of the Roush Fenway Racing stable into victory lane. Instead, Gordon’s admitted cheap shot left Kenseth in 18th place, as Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano finished 1-2 in the sixth of 36 races on the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup calendar. Gordon finished third ahead of Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.
Among the Blue Oval Boys, Carl Edwards was best in class with an eighth-place finish in No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion, his second consecutive top 10. And Greg Biffle brought his No. 16 U.S. Census Fusion home in 10th place, meaning he is the only driver in the Sprint Cup Series to earn top-10 finishes in every race this season, an impressive feat to be sure.
For his efforts, Biffle moved up to second in the Sprint Cup standings, just 14 points behind new leader Jimmie Johnson, who finished ninth at Martinsville. A mere two points behind Biffle is Kenseth, who would have taken over the points lead had he not been mugged by Gordon.
Afterwards, Gordon said he deliberately wrecked Kenseth, even though he wasn’t sure it was Kenseth who hit him on the race’s final restart on lap 507. “I have not seen the replay,” Gordon said after the race. “All I know is he was behind me. I got hit and thrown up the race track. He was the first car to go by me. You know, again, if that wasn't him that made contact with me, then I owe him an apology. ... If that didn't happen, and I have not seen the video, then, again, I'll be the first one to call him this week and apologize.”
Of course, this is hardly the first time this has happened. In 2006, Gordon dumped Kenseth from behind on the backstretch with four laps to go at Chicagoland Speedway. That cost Kenseth a victory and earned Gordon a bombardment of tossed trash from disgruntled race fans on his parade lap.
It’s something of which Kenseth is keenly aware.
“Jeff is sneaky,” Kenseth told Scenedaily.com. “He’s good at that stuff. He comes away squeaky-clean all the time. That’s about the third time he took me out of a top-three finish. I’m about tired of that.”
MORE FROM MARTINSVILLE
• Team owner Bob Jenkins’ decision to flip flop car numbers for David Gilliland and rookie Kevin Conway proved to be a wise one. Gilliland drove the No. 37 Gander Mountain Ford Fusion to an excellent 19th-place finish in the race, moving that car up to 34th in car owner points, while Conway kept the No. 38 Fusion locked into the top 35 by a comfortable margin of 54 points over Robby Gordon. All three of the Front Row Motorsports with Yates Racing Fords are now locked into the top 35 in owner points, meaning all three will race in two weeks in Phoenix.
• Race winner Denny Hamlin had hoped to have knee surgery Monday afternoon, but the rain delay in the race forced him to reschedule for Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C.
• The No. 98 Menards Ford driven by Paul Menard was chosen as the random car to be taken back to NASCAR’s R&D Center in Concord, N.C., for a tear down this week. NASCAR typically takes the first two finishers’ cars and one selected at random.