While all the accolades and glory belonged to Martinsville victor Kevin Harvick, one racer who had to feel like a winner was fifth place finisher Jeff Gordon.

Although Gordon's No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet was the second fastest Chevrolet during Happy Hour practice on Friday, he struggled during Saturday's qualifying session, logging in a 21st starting position.

Still, there was a chance at victory during Sunday's Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500, a race he had previously won on three occasions (1997, '03, and '05).

Optimistic, Gordon, crew chief Alan Gustafson and the No. 24 team had reason to believe that it would still be a strong weekend for the perennial Martinsville favorites.

Clawing and fighting his way to the front like a welterweight division prize fighter, Gordon would make his way to the top-10 by lap 145 before driving up to the top-five just 55 laps later.

Eventually, Gordon worked his way to the lead on two occasions, pacing the field for 37 laps before settling for a fifth place finish.

However, it wasn't a typical fifth place finish, as the four-time series champion was caught on pit road as the caution flag unfurled, relegating him to the ninth spot under 30 laps from the checkered flag.

Much like his drive earlier in the race, Gordon would urge his way to the top-five, placing as the second highest Hendrick Motorsports driver of the day behind teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who nabbed the runner-up position.

Reflecting on his race performance, the 39-year-old Vallejo, Calif. native was rather optimistic.

"We did have a great day with our Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet," Gordon said after the race per an article on PaddockTalk.com. "I was real proud of Alan and all the guys on this team today. We weren't great at the beginning.

"We just worked our way up there slowly, took our time and were patient. Then we had a race car that could run with these guys and we got there and took the lead."

Almost bearing resemblance to racing at Bristol Motor Speedway and North Wilkesboro Speedway, the name of the game for Gordon and the Sprint Cup field on Sunday was tire conservation.

Drivers like Earnhardt Jr. weren't thrilled with the tire compound used for the racing weekend, as they weren't laying down rubber along the concrete corners like in most races at the famed Virginia venue.

Essentially, that forced racers into managing their tires throughout a green flag run, making track position such a premium intangible to have all race long.

Still, it was a classic Martinsville race that tested teams' patience as well as the racers' mindsets to drive cautiously but alertly.

In fact, it was about the most competitive 500 lapper run in terms of lead changes, with 31 of them occurring among 12 drivers.

Whether the tire compound changes or not for the race in October remains to be seen.

Despite concerts for Goodyear's latest compound, Sunday's race at Martinsville, went relatively smoothly save for a scary wreck involving Martin Truex, Jr. and Kasey Kahne.

A hung throttle was the culprit for Truex's grinding accident, which swept up Kahne around lap 200.

Ultimately, the accident resulted in a 25-minute red flag to repair the SAFER barrier along turns three and four.

When these Cup teams wake up and reflect like Monday morning quarterbacks, most of them will be beside themselves, like Jimmie Johnson, who was penalized for speeding on pit road late in the going.

Some will be grateful that they're walking around their shops, like Truex Jr. and Kahne, who managed to clamber out of their battered machines on Sunday.

Perhaps they're like Kyle Busch or Dale Earnhardt Jr., with both somewhat disappointed at victory slipping away at their fingertips at the very end.

Or they could be like Jeff Gordon, whose No. 24 team demonstrated their unswerving ability of "refusing to lose."

Throw them any challenge and they'll rise to the occasion, answering any concerns about their team being "washed up" after their middling month of March.

The season's still young, but the championship battle might include a cagey veteran who knows a thing or two about racing in motorsports' center stage, where the Cup tour will hit up the fast, 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway for a Saturday night fight (Live, 7:30 PM ET on FOX).

Scoring his 82nd career win at that facility two years ago, look for the young guns of Cup racing to contend with the grizzled Jeff Gordon, who's still got plenty of drive and hunger left in him.