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Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Jeff Gordon's historic run cut short


Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway had a little something for everyone. It had long green-flag runs, slam-and-bang racing, heated tempers, controversial cautions and even a beacon of light for the conspiracy theorists out there in David Reutimann's late-race caution.

But regardless of what you enjoyed best, the checkered flag and grandfather clock now belong to Ryan Newman, who picked up the unlikely win.

That makes it eight wins in the past 16 races for Stewart-Haas Racing, but the focus of this race is going to be on the wreck during the first green-white-checkered that took out the top three cars, driven by Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer.

According to the ESPN Stats & Information crew, that was just the third wreck involving the cars running 1-2-3 in the past 150 Cup points races.

The other two took place in the Daytona 500. In 2009, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were involved. In 2011, Regan Smith, Kurt Busch and Bowyer tangled.

Bowyer, remember, also was a victim (or the perpetrator, depending who you ask) of Sunday's wreck.

Trivia break! Besides Stewart-Haas Racing, what other teams have multiple wins in the past 16 races?

Gordon's heartbreak

Gordon was going for all sorts of history Sunday. Not only would a win have been his eighth at Martinsville, good for third all time, it would've given Hendrick Motorsports its long-awaited 200th victory.

Gordon led 328 laps but finished 14th. In Martinsville history, that's the seventh-most laps led by a driver in a non-win and the most since Rusty Wallace led 343 in April 2000 but finished 10th.

Only one driver has ever led more than 300 laps in a Martinsville race and finished worse than Gordon. In 1971, Donnie Allison led 367 laps but finished 15th.

Trivia break! After Gordon and Johnson, what driver has the most wins for Hendrick Motorsports?

Best of the worst

NASCAR releases a stat called driver rating, which closely mirrors the NFL's passer rating. Anything over 100 is good, and it maxes out at 150. The stat involves many of NASCAR's loop-data numbers and is a good indicator of overall performance above just finishing position.

Well, Gordon's was a 133.0 on Sunday, despite the 14th-place finish.

Going back to the start of the 2007 season, Gordon's mark is the best single-race rating for a driver not to finish in the top 10. The previous best mark was Kyle Busch's 132.7 in the 2009 Chase race at Texas, where he finished 11th.

Sunday also was Gordon's first race this season with a driver rating of over 100.

Trivia break! Who are the only two drivers with more Martinsville wins than Gordon?

Trivia break answers

1. Penske Racing and Roush Fenway Racing have two wins apiece in the past 16 races.

2. Terry Labonte won 12 races with Hendrick, third-most with the team.

3. Richard Petty has 15 Martinsville wins. Darrell Waltrip has 11.