As a fan of almost every racing series under the sun, there have been a bucket-load of highlights from 2015’s Motorsport action. From the heartfelt tribute to Jules Bianchi prior to the Hungarian Grand Prix, to Juan Pablo Montoya’s epic return to the Indianapolis 500 victory lane after 15 years.
For me though, my favourite moment of the 2015 comes from the NASCAR Sprint Cup series:
The NASCAR Sprint Cup chase format introduced last season has led to an intense final 10 races where drivers fight to secure themselves in a ‘winner takes all’ championship deciding final race that see’s 4 drivers competing for the title. To lock yourself into that race, you have to advance through 3 eliminations rounds. The best way to do this is by winning, as you automatically lock yourself into the next round. Otherwise, you have to score enough points and hope that you don’t get caught up in any drama.
With winning being such a priority in NASCAR’s new format, the legendary Jeff Gordon was lucky to still be in the hunt heading into the 4 races and the final elimination rounds. He had yet to win a race in his final full season of NASCAR racing, but his consistency had kept him in the game whilst race winners such as Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin fell by the wayside due to poor finishes or accidents.
A win at the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville would put a driver straight into the 4 way championship fight at Homestead Miami Speedway. With under 60 laps to go of the 500 lap race distance, Joey Logano was leading for Penske, with Jeff Gordon running just behind in his famous #24 car. Suddenly, Gordon found himself in the lead after a shocking development that saw Matt Kenseth deliberately take out Logano as payback for an incident a few races beforehand.
The race was red flagged whilst the debris from the accident was cleaned away, with a majority of the field coming into the pits when the race got back under-way. Jeff Gordon found himself a few positions off of the lead, but he fought his way to the front soon after with a handful of laps remaining.
A final caution would take place within the final 10 laps, which would bunch the field up for a 2 lap sprint to the finish. Jeff Gordon now had to hold off the #1 car of Jamie McMurray, who had nothing to lose as he wasn’t in championship contention. The pair went side-by-side for a whole lap before Gordon edged ahead with a better exit off of turn 4. He would hold on to take his 93rd career victory and to put himself in the fight for one more championship.
Gordon, who announced his retirement earlier in the year, celebrated as much as we’d ever seen from him in victory lane. He was ecstatic that he had managed to win a race in his final season, as well as now being within a chance of going out as champion. Ultimately, he would go on to be beaten by Kyle Busch at Homestead, but the passion and emotion he showed in victory lane reminded me of why I love racing; for the pure grit, determination and will to win that drivers display and the utter elation they show when they succeed.
Video courtesy of NASCAR Sprint Cup series on YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hj0BFPX6b7Q
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