KANSAS CITY, Kan. — NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon still has the winning touch at Kansas Speedway.
Gordon, a four-time Sprint Cup champion, became the first driver to win three races at Kansas Speedway on a surreal Saturday night when the lights temporarily went out on the backstretch of the first Sprint Cup night race at the track.
Gordon, who won the first two Sprint Cup races at Kansas Speedway in 2001-02, took the lead in his Chevrolet with eight laps to go and held off pole sitter Kevin Harvick’s Chevy for his first win of the season.
The victory — the 89th of Gordon’s 20-year career — was his first of the season and assured him a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Gordon, the series points leader, is the ninth winner in 11 races this season.
“When the lights went out, we could still see …” Gordon said. “Kevin’s tough, he was so strong. I did not know he could hold him off, but I did at the end.
“We’ve had fast cars … every single weekend,” Gordon said. “We’ve been leading the points, but we needed to get to victory lane.”
Kasey Kahne, Gordon’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, was third, followed by Joey Logano.
The waving of the green flag by Clint Bowyer’s mother, Jana, was delayed 37 minutes because of the threat of severe weather that never affected the area, save some winds of 20 to 25 mph and eerie-looking skies that were dark in one direction and bright in the other.
But after all, that’s Kansas in May.
The night became even more eerie when the lights outside the backstretch went out about 114 laps into the 267-lap race. The infield lights were still illuminated, and after a poll of drivers and teams revealed they felt safe enough to continue, the show went on.
The lights returned to full strength at lap 152, and from that point on, the race was on between Gordon, Harvick and Logano.
There were eight cautions in the race. The first claimed Bowyer, who was making his 300th career start. Bowyer spun out in his No. 15 Toyota and fell off the pace, never to recover.
Another area driver, Jamie McMurray of Joplin, Mo., clipped the wall on lap 149, and his Chevrolet burst into flames. McMurray emerged from the car uninjured, but he was done for the night.
The most chilling collision came on lap 186 when AJ Almindinger spun across the track, triggering a multi-car collision in which Justin Allgaier and David Gilliland bore the brunt with crumpled cars.