Jeff Gordon took his first victory at Martinsville in eight years as Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson reset their championship battle.
Kenseth was leading Gordon in the late stages of the race, having led since lap 374, before the Hendrick Motorsports driver forced his way through with 21 laps remaining, holding on to take his first victory in the 2013 season.
“It’s hard to top what it feels like to win, especially with what we have been through this year,” said Gordon. “We’ve been through a lot but this makes it all worth it to get a huge win here. I’m so proud of our team and its never-give-up attitude.”
Kenseth remained in second until the finish line, while Jimmie Johnson finished in fifth, resulting in the two championship contenders tying on points with just three races remaining in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“Whenever your team puts you in front for that last run and you’re out there leading, you get beat, you’re always a little bit disappointed,” said Kenseth. “I just got beat by experience and a better driver of this track. I was hesitant to change my line and do the things he was doing because what I was doing got me there and just got too tight at the end, which I wish I could do it over. I just got slowed up with some lapped cars and he got by.
“But overall it was a great day. I felt really optimistic coming into today. We had a great car in practice. It was an up-and-down day with our strategy that time, we got behind, but overall we had a really good car, and not as happy as Jeff but happy to run second.“
The first half of the race was dominated by Johnson and Kenseth, leading 218 laps between the two of them, before Kenseth got out of pit sequence and faded during a long green flag run. A mass of caution periods, of which there were five in 41 laps, a total of 17 for the entire race, allowed Kenseth to work his way back up through the field to battle for the win with Gordon.
Gordon’s victory moves him up to third, 27 points behind the tied leaders, while Kevin Harvick, who made headlines in the Camping World Truck Series race after a run-in with Ty Dillon, sits one point further back in fourth.