DARLINGTON, S.C. - Jeff Gordon continued the Hendrick Motorsports dominance of the 2007 season with his seventh career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup victory at Darlington Raceway in Sunday's rain-delayed Dodge Avenger 500.
With steam spewing from his DuPont Chevrolet from a dangerously-close overheating engine, Gordon held off Denny Hamlin to score his third win of the season and 78th career Cup win.
"I thought there's no way we were going to make it," Gordon said. "I've never seen gauges that looked like that and (have) an engine make it to the end. That's a testament to Hendrick Motorsports and their engine department."
Gordon's win gave Hendrick Motorsports eight victories in the season's first eleven races.
Today's victory was extra special for Gordon as it fell on Mother's Day, but the only problem was his mom Carol Bickford wasn't there to celebrate in victory lane.
"They bailed on me," Gordon said about his family who attended the race. "I can't wait to call them when I get done here and chew them out."
However, Gordon's wife Ingrid Vandebosch was able to witness the win on her last weekend of traveling before becoming a mom.
Hamlin, who once again came up short in a Car of Tomorrow race after having one of the strongest cars of the day, was forced to follow Gordon to claim the runner-up spot after battling back from a bad pit stop on lap 305.
"We gave another one to Hendrick Motorsports," said Hamlin who led the most laps at 178. "Man it's a shame. Our car was really fast."
Gordon's Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson finished third after pitting for fresh tires on the 10th and final caution when the engine let go in the No. 40 of David Stremme.
Ryan Newman, who along with Gordon was one of the drivers to stay out on the final stop, held on to finish fourth. It was his first top five since finishing second at Infineon Raceway in 2006.
"We ended up just a little short of Gatorade Victory Lane today," said Newman, who led 39 laps. "Those guys were racing me clean there at the end. I was just trying to hold on with old tires. I guess old tires won it, but we were in a position where we were trying to get the lead and it just didn't play out.
Carl Edwards, who was another driver the came back from a mistake on pit road, finished fifth after leading 33 laps.
"I guess I got onto pit road wrong and we got a penalty, but I had fun," Edwards said. They need to build about 10 more of these all over the country."
Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton completed the top-10 finishers.
"My guys said, 'We're behind you,' and that took it all away," Earnhardt Jr. said about the pressure-packed week he's endured. "We focused on the car, we drove the car and we had a good time this weekend. I had no pressure, nothing, really on my mind other than what we were supposed to be doing."
Unfortunately Earnhardt may endure the wrath of NASCAR later this week. A points and fine penalty could come after the No. 8 car was found to have an illegal wing mount in Saturday's pre-race inspection.
"Apparently there's something that they did with the mounting brackets, I don't really know much about it," Earnhardt said. "You'll have to ask Tony Jr. I got his back, I'll pay his fine, whatever he needs me to do. I don't really know what he was trying to accomplish here. We still run alright though with the stock position."
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