NASCAR Notes: Vegas Luck Bites Jeff Gordon

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LAS VEGAS — Jeff Gordon, who won the second race of the season at Phoenix Int’l Raceway, was on his way to a top-10 finish when his Chevrolet blew a tire and hit the wall late in Sunday’s race.

“We were up toward the front and better than I thought we were going to be based on yesterday’s practice, so I was proud of Alan [Gustafson] and the guys,” Gordon said. “We started losing the handling on it there those last couple of runs and that put us back where we were. No sign; just drove into turn three and hit the wall, and I’m glad I had a SAFER barrier to hit and a safe race car.”

– Polesitter Matt Kenseth got a flat tire early in Sunday’s race and battled back all day before finally getting his lap back and finishing 11th.

“We just had some issues that got us behind a lap and three-quarters,” Kenseth said. “The way the race went and the way our car was in traffic we weren’t as close as we wanted to be and couldn’t get the lap back. Finally we got it back with 70 to go and couldn’t do any better than what we did there.”

– Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson expressed interest in jumping behind the wheel of an Indy car Friday.

“I just want to drive one of those cars,” Johnson said. “They are so awesome and the downforce and what they can do. I would love to drive one of them, I just don’t know if it’s ever really going to work out on an oval or at the [Indianapolis] 500. That’s the first hurdle, then there’s Rick [Hendrick] and Lowe’s. I wish that I had the opportunity and I wish Chevy was in open wheel four or five years ago. I would have pushed real hard and hopefully would have made something happen then.”

– Mark Martin made his 1,052nd NASCAR national touring division start Sunday during the Kobalt Tools 400, moving him into second on the all-time start list, 133 behind Richard Petty.

“When I look back on it I probably will be proud that there were quite a few quality starts in there and I’ll probably be proud of the quality of the level of competition that I brought to all those starts,” Martin said. “The longevity is special, especially since I didn’t get an early start.”

The Arkansas native and winner of 40 Sprint Cup races wasn’t so sure he’d catch Petty for the record.

“I say it’s possible, but I haven’t even thought about it,” Martin said. “That’s four more years of nearly fulltime of some kind of NASCAR competition, so I don’t know. I can’t answer that question.”

Martin has 797 Sprint Cup, 232 Nationwide and 23 Camping World Truck series starts to his credit.

– Kevin Harvick isn’t a fan of early season off weekends for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the first of which happens this weekend.

“It is so early in the season, I wish it [the off weekend] wasn’t there to tell you the truth,” Harvick said Friday. “We have two early off weekends and you look at the TV ratings and the momentum the sport has and you wish that those things weren’t there.”

– All Nationwide and Sprint Cup teams carried a special decal during the races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway honoring of the 50th anniversary of African-American racing pioneer Wendell Scott’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup start, which took place in Spartanburg, S.C., March 4, 1961.

– Only a few weeks after earning its 600th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory during the Daytona 500, the Ford Motor Co. was honored with the 2010 NASCAR Driving Business Award Friday in Las Vegas.