LONG POND, Pa. — Jeff Gordon took advantage of an accident sparked by teammate Jimmie Johnson and a touch of timely rain at Pocono Raceway to win his first race of the season.
Gordon earned his 86th career victory Sunday, winning for the first time since September 2011 at Atlanta Motor Speedway to thrust himself into wild-card contention in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Johnson inadvertently gave his Hendrick Motorsports teammate the help he needed. Johnson got loose off a restart and knocked Matt Kenseth into the wall. Kenseth slid down the track and took out Denny Hamlin. With an unexpected opening, Gordon zoomed to the lead in the No. 24 Chevrolet.
"When I saw the opening to get inside, I was taking it," Gordon said.
It couldn't have come at a better time. The skies opened and cars were ordered off the track. The race was called moments later with 98 of the 160 scheduled laps completed.
Gordon, who turned 41 on Saturday, had been hit by a string of bad breaks this season and knew he needed wins over the final six races before the Chase cutoff to have any shot at running for a fifth championship during the 10-race playoffs. Gordon moved into the second wild-card spot that would guarantee him a berth in the field.
Gordon, who also won a rain-shortened race at Pocono in 2007, passed Bill Elliott for most career wins at Pocono with six.
Kasey Kahne was second, followed by Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart.
Kahne refused to rule out another Gordon championship run if he stays in the Chase field.
"Absolutely. It's Jeff Gordon. Look what he's done," Kahne said.