Gordon Wins Again!

FONTANA, Calif. -- Jeff Gordon says he isn't really as dominant at California Speedway as it might seem after Sunday's victory.

With three wins, Gordon remains the only Nextel Cup driver with more than one victory on the 2-mile oval since NASCAR began racing at the track 60 miles east of Los Angeles in 1997.

"I've been hearing that a lot this week, how dominant I've been here, the laps that we've led and the races we've won," Gordon said Sunday after winning the Auto Club 500. "All I can think of is the last three or four years, we've stunk."

Well, it hasn't really been that bad -- expect by the standards of a four-time series champion who now has 66 victories.

Gordon finished 11th and 16th here the last two years, second in 2001 and 11th in 2000 after winning two of his first three starts and finishing fourth in the other.

The latest appeared to be a popular victory by the native Californian.

Except for one beer bottle that missed his car and went spinning harmlessly down the track, there was no debris thrown at him after Sunday's victory. It was mostly cheers and smiles after Gordon won his second race in as many weeks.

A week after beating fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a controversial finish at Talladega, Gordon dominated the second half of Sunday's race.

"When they dropped the green flag, this car just ran straight to the front," Gordon said. "Randy Dorton in the engine department, thank you, thank you. This was the baddest engine we've ever had under the hood."

Bobby Labonte moved into second place on the 222nd of the 250 laps and was chopping steadily into Gordon's lead until he ran out of gas midway through the final lap. Labonte, who moved within about 10 car lengths of Gordon, coasted to the end, finishing fifth.

"Nobody told me we were going to be short (of gas) and I didn't ask," Labonte said, shrugging off the disappointing finish. "I'm sure we didn't miscalculate, we just came up a little bit short after that last run."

He was not the only driver who got caught trying to stretch his final tank of gas to the end.

Gordon's teammate Jimmie Johnson, who started the last lap in fifth, passed Labonte and wound up second when both Evernham Motorsports teammates Jeremy Mayfield and rookie Kasey Kahne had to pit for fuel.

It was a very different scene from a week earlier, when the race finished under caution and Gordon was awarded the victory by NASCAR, which said he was in front of Earnhardt when the final caution flag came out four laps from the end.

Earnhardt was in the process of passing Gordon when the caution came out. Thousands of Earnhardt fans tossed beer cans and garbage onto the track as the cars drove slowly to the finish behind the pace car.

This time, the fans who stayed until the end in the near-100-degree heat stood and cheered as he took the checkered flag.