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Jeff Gordon will do his Phoenix celebrating....over in Hollywood, with all those Oscar winners

   It's been a long time since Jeff Gordon (L) tasted NASCAR victory champagne (though he does have his own winery). Give credit here to new crew chief Alan Gustafson (R) (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


   Now, for Jeff Gordon, on to the Oscars.
   And nothing like a few post-Oscar parties just to cap a picture-perfect day at the race track.
   Gordon, after tying Cale Yarborough on NASCAR's all-time win list with 83 career victories, flew straight to Hollywood Sunday night to dance with the movie stars….and add just another bit to this sport's resurging momentum.

   Gordon a week ago put his personal seal of approval on newcomer Trevor Bayne, just days before Bayne upset the NASCAR world by winning the Daytona 500.
   This week it was Gordon himself spraying victory champagne, after charging past Kyle Busch to win the stock car tour's second race of the endless season.
   And Gordon was as giddy as a kid at beating Busch, who was going for a three-sweep of the weekend after Friday's Truck win and Saturday's Nationwide win.
   Gordon did have the faster car in the final 20 miles, but still passing Busch is no easy deal.
   "I'm going to have to go back and watch it on TV," Gordon was saying after his first win in nearly two years. "I drove in deep into turn one and got to him…and I could tell he was having to really get after it right then. I got underneath him, and got off turn four, and I knew, coming down the front straight, that he was going to pinch me down into turn one. And he did. And I got a little loose.
    "I drifted up the track…and I didn't know what was going to happen at that moment. But when they said 'Clear,' I just went."


     This is not going to end well for Trevor Bayne (21). After winning Daytona, the 20-year-old had a ragged weekend in Phoenix (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)   


    It was a long, hard afternoon for all these drivers, with action wild and frantic right from the start, and Clint Bowyer, one of the many victims, angrily complaining that too many drivers simply weren't driving like professionals.
   Indeed there was a furious atmosphere, for some reason.  Several big crashes, and a very hard solo hit by David Ragan when his right-front tire blew in the corner and sent him into one section of the track that apparently was not protected by the soft-wall Safer barrier.
   Gordon too was caught up in the action early. "I thought we were done," Gordon said after getting tagged hard by Carl Edwards in a melee triggered by Kyle Busch.
    "I went to the outside and saw all the wrecked cars…I saw Carl Edwards' car torn up, and I went to the outside and then said 'I don't think this is a good idea,' because I thought he really might have some serious damage. And he did.
   "When we got into turn three he just drifted right up into me and put me in the wall.
    "It wasn't his fault; he had a left-front tire going down.
     "But I hit the wall hard. I thought we were done.
     "But I hit it square, and these guys did a fantastic job repairing the car. And then a few laps later there was another big crash, and everyone pitted, and here I found myself up there in the top-three with a car capable of winning. It was unbelievable."


The most savage hit of the day was David Ragan's, when his right-front blew. Was there no soft wall in that part of the track? Goodyear blamed excessive brake heat for blowing out the tire's sealing bead (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


    Gordon's two-year streak is deceiving because 2009 could easily have been a nine-win season (one win and eight seconds) and 2010 could easily have been a six-win season (with six top-threes).
    "The way things have been going the past couple years, you lose a little bit of that spark…and you wonder what it's going to take to get to victory lane," Gordon said.
    "But I can tell you after today that it takes a team like this and a race car like that…and we're having a blast, man. I cannot wait. We are going to enjoy the season -- and savor this win…because we've won a lot of races over the years but it's been a while, and when you go through that kind of a run without winning, it makes you appreciate it that much more."
    However Gordon has clearly been down mentally, just a tad, at the run of close but no cigar.
    Tying Yarborough's mark, Gordon pointed out, had some special significance for him, because Yarborough, when a car owner during the early 1990s, offered Gordon his very first Cup ride. It was a tryout, at Charlotte, but Gordon spun out the first lap, and that venture wound up going nowhere.
                                                                        The results of Sunday's Phoenix Subway 500



 Nothing like the thrill of a NASCAR victory....following by a night at the Oscars and some of those post-Oscar parties (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


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