Sometimes in sports, an athlete or team requires a break to win in the battlefield on any given day.
In the case of Jeff Gordon, he finally had good luck on his side to capture Sunday's rain-shortened Pennsylvania 400 race at Pocono Raceway.
Sure, it wasn't exactly the prettiest finish and it may not be the most illustrious victory of Gordon's 20 years in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing. However, it was the kind of race that might define the No. 24 AARP Drive to End Hunger/DuPont Chevy team's 2012 season, which hasn't exactly been going their way until perhaps today.
Reminiscent of his move to win the 1995 NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Gordon charged hard and used his racing savvy to capture his 86th career win.
"I'm just so excited right now," Gordon said from the makeshift Victory Lane inside the garage area. "You don't want to quite win them like this, but we've earned it."
On SPEED's NASCAR Victory Lane, Gordon added, "I got a great restart to get into fifth. When those guys got in trouble, I just got clear sailing."
Following Sunday's running of the Pennsylvania 400, tragedy occured at the Pocono Raceway, as one race fan died from injuries sustained by a lightning strike in the parking lot behind the main grandstands.
Nine other fans were injured by the strike, which occured before 5 p.m. ET, according to track spokesperson Bob Pleban.
Unaware of the tragedy, Gordon said, "That's just so unfortunate because they're so loyal and avid here, so you hate to hear something like that. Certainly our thoughts are with them. I hope everything is OK."
Starting 27th, Gordon's weekend wasn't off to a smooth start, as he slipped in turn two and brushed the wall in "The Tunnel Turn" during qualifying. Instead of being stymied by his qualifying effort, Gordon charged his way to the front, moving into the top-five within 65 laps.
Smooth pit stops and smart driving parlayed the Vallejo, CA native's way to Victory Lane. On the final restart of the shortened race, Gordon restarted in the sixth position besides teammate Kasey Kahne. Charging just ahead of Kahne, trouble ensued ahead with the race leaders.
Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth tangled in turn one, which set off a chain reaction crash behind them with Brad Keselowski and Greg Biffle sliding in the corner. Ultimately, Kenseth slid into the path of Denny Hamlin, who t-boned the No. 17 Zest Ford and placed well below in the serial finishing order (23rd and 29th respectively).
Gordon and Kahne, fared better - although Gordon pulled out ahead of the field, Kahne ran over a piece of debris, which flattened his right rear tire. Kahne was instructed by his team to stay out until the tire shredded.
Not to matter for the field, as rain encompassed over the raceway and about washed away any hopes at the race going the full distance.
Due to the scoring loop placements and more importantly, excessive oil and debris in turn one, the field negotiated around "The Tricky Triangle" under several laps in caution mode before rain and thunderstorms concluded the day.
After a year in which Gordon has found about every way to lose races, such as the April restart crash at Martinsville, lugnuts at the June Dover race, and a pit road crash at Daytona in July, it's ironic that the 41-year-old racer would win in such bizarre circumstances.
After all, Gordon's misfortunes this year were likened to that of The Griswold family from National Lampoon's Vacation series. At least for one day, bad luck finally left the No. 24 team.
Not only did Gordon win the race, he climbed up to a tie for 13th in points, breaking it by virtue of having more top-five finishes than Ryan Newman.
A birthday on Saturday was followed by a pivotal victory on Sunday, in which Gordon recognized how important the win was for his team.
"All four Hendrick cars have now gone in Victory Lane," Gordon said. "This feels good. Don't count us out, don't count us out! We needed this."
Come Monday morning at the shop, Gordon and his No. 24 team will be ringing the victory bell, a tradition noted whenever Hendrick's team wins.
Gordon and Kahne took the top-two spots while Martin Truex, Jr., defending race winner Brad Keselowski, and three-time and defending Cup champion Tony Stewart completed the top-five. Rounding out the top-10 were Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Regan Smith, and Marcos Ambrose.
Sunday's race was competitive, as drivers jockied for positions immediately from the start of the event until the storms arrived.
The Busch brothers had a tough outing at Pocono, as Kyle found himself in the turn one wall in the early going on lap 19. Adding insult to injury, after repairs were made to his No. 18 M&M's Toyota, Kyle Busch was docked for a speeding penalty on lap 73.
Older brother Kurt crashed hard in the Tunnel Turn on lap 86, ultimately leading up to the crazy final restart.
Here's a look at the current Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase standings - it could be an exciting finish for those two wild card slots, as Kahne and Gordon have a shot at entering the top-10 in points:
- Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (Hendrick Chevy/1 win)
- Matt Kenseth (Roush-Fenway Ford/1 win)
- Greg Biffle (Roush-Fenway Ford/1 win)
- Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Chevy/3 wins)
- Martin Truex, Jr. (Waltrip Toyota)
- Tony Stewart (Stewart-Haas Chevy/3 wins)
- Brad Keselowski (Penske Dodge/3 wins)
- Denny Hamlin (Gibbs Toyota/2 wins)
- Kevin Harvick (Childress Chevy)
- Clint Bowyer (Waltrip Toyota/1 win)
- Kasey Kahne (Hendrick Chevy/2 wins)
- Jeff Gordon (Hendrick Chevy/1 win)
Following Sunday's frantic and hectic race at "The Tricky Triangle," the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will go left AND right on the 2.45-mile Watkins Glen Raceway road course for the Finger Lakes 335 km race.
Marcos Ambrose hopes to repeat his magic from last year while Gordon hopes to ride the victory train parade into New York State for win number two of 2012.
ESPN will broadcast the race live next Sunday at 12 PM ET with NASCAR Countdown followed by live racing coverage. Allen Bestwick, Dale Jarrett, and Andy Petree will be in the booth while Dr. Jerry Punch, Mike Massaro, Vince Welch, and Dave Burns cover the pit road action.