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Gordon earns reward for risk

Points leader makes an early pit stop and regains lead in time to win rain-shortened race.

June 11, 2007|From the Associated Press

LONG POND, PA. — This may be the surest sign yet that everything is falling into place this season for Jeff Gordon: Even the dark clouds hovering above him are bringing him luck.

With his brakes failing and Ryan Newman nipping at the No. 24's bumper, Gordon was begging for the skies to open and let that rain start coming and not stop until he was in Victory Lane.

Gordon used the rain and a smart call by crew chief Steve Letarte to win the rain-shortened race at Pocono Raceway on Sunday night and give the points leader his fourth win this season.

"We're having a heck of a year," Gordon said. "We're having so much fun going to the race track. Things are going our way."

Not quite like Sunday.

The race was red-flagged after 106 laps of the scheduled 200-lap, 500-mile contest. With darkness falling, the cars went back to pit road and never came back after a final attempt to dry the track. The race had been delayed three hours by rain, starting close to the time the race usually ends.

With dark clouds closing in and Gordon's brakes on the fritz, crew chief Steve Letarte called the car into the pits for an early service call. Gordon relinquished the lead on the stop, but Letarte figured his driver would cycle back to the front after everyone else made their scheduled stops.

And he assumed it would start raining while Gordon was leading.

"That was risky," said Gordon, who won for the fourth time at Pocono and first there since 1998. "He knew exactly how he was going to play it out."

Newman's late charge put him second, extending his run of having no wins to show for all his poles. The race pole-sitter seemed poised to catch Gordon right before the caution came out and instead stretched his winless drought to 59 races.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

The Chase

NASCAR Nextel Cup standings through 14 of 36 races. Following the 26th race of the season, all drivers in the top 12 will earn a berth in the Chase for the Championship.

*--* Pl Driver Points Behind 1 Jeff Gordon 2,249 -- 2 Matt Kenseth 2,007 242 3 Denny Hamlin 2,002 247 4 Jimmie Johnson 1,944 305 5 Jeff Burton 1,828 421 6 Tony Stewart 1,733 516 7 Carl Edwards 1,710 539 8 Clint Bowyer 1,659 590 9 Kevin Harvick 1,648 601 10 Kyle Busch 1,613 636 11 Martin Truex 1,597 652 12 Mark Martin 1,586 663

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