Gordon Wins Save Mart 350


Monday, June 26th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


SONOMA, Calif. (AP) — Jeff Gordon extended his road course winning streak to six consecutive races as he claimed the Save Mart Kragen 350 Sunday on the twists and turns of Sears Point Raceway.

It was Gordon's third straight win on the 1.95-mile course in the hills of Northern California's wine country.

Gordon, who started fifth, traded the lead with several drivers over the course of the 112-lap race, but managed his fuel well and kept his Chevrolet in front for the final 25 laps to finish 4.1 seconds in front of Sterling Marlin. Mark Martin finished close behind in third.

``I knew I was faster,'' Gordon said of the 43-car field. ``I knew I could put the heat on them and see if I could make them make a mistake.''

Gordon, the three-time Winston Cup champion, started his record six-race streak in 1997 at Watkins Glen, N.Y., the only other serpentine track on the Winston Cup circuit.

``He's real smooth,'' Marlin said after Sunday's race.

Rusty Wallace, a road-course specialist with six overall victories on tracks with right turns, had the pole but finished a disappointing 26th.

Wallace qualified with a track record 99.309 mph on Friday. With his new Ford road-course car, Wallace beat Gordon's previous best of 98.711 mph on the track's current configuration, set during qualifying in 1998.

Wallace has won three of the last four poles, and six overall this season — the most for any driver on the Winston Cup circuit.

Starting alongside Wallace in the front row was Kyle Petty, the sentimental favorite. Petty finished 19th.

Adam Petty, Kyle's eldest son and the sport's first fourth-generation driver, was killed May 12 during practice for a Busch Series race at New Hampshire International Raceway. Family patriarch Lee Petty, racing great Richard Petty's father and Kyle's grandfather, passed away at age 86 in April.

John Andretti, who also drives for Petty Enterprises, made an early departure Sunday when his car burst into flames on the 14th lap. Andretti climbed unharmed from the Pontiac, then stomped away angrily.

At 25 laps down, Andretti tried to return to the race in his repaired car but lasted just five laps before pulling out of the race.

Andretti, however, wasn't finished driving. He took over for Tony Stewart, who was bothered by stomach flu, after a spin-out on the 68th lap. Stewart was pale and weak when he was pulled from his Pontiac, and crew members tired to help by putting a bag of ice on his chest.

Stewart was following leader Scott Pruett when he spun out. The accident allowed Gordon to take second before Pruett skidded and ran off the track, slamming hard into a tire barrier. Pruett's Ford was done for the day.

``It was a big shot,'' Pruett said. ``I came forward and hit the steering wheel and took a pretty good shot to the throat. My doctor said to keep and eye on it and go get an X-ray.''

Andretti finished 10th for Stewart. The accident brought out a caution and allowed Gordon to take the lead for the second time Sunday. There were four cautions for 13 laps during the race.

There were 10 lead changes among eight drivers. Gordon finished in 2 hours, 46 minutes, 14 seconds with an average speed of 78.782 mph.

Martin, who started his Ford in the sixth spot, couldn't overtake Marlin on the final lap.

``We finished the race too fast and started the race too slow,'' he said.