Sonoma, Calif Jeff Gordon needed this.
The three-time Winston Cup champion extended his road course winning streak to six consecutive races on Sunday when he decisively won the Save Mart Kragen 350 on the twists and turns of Sears Point Raceway.
Gordon, who is working with a new crew chief, has had an uneven season with only one other win, at Talladega. Going into the race, he acknowledged the road course was important.
"I didn't expect to win," he said, "but I knew I could win."
It was Gordon's third straight victory on the 1.95-mile track in the hills of Northern California's wine country.
"We have won the last five road courses and the last two here, so I hoped we had what it would take to do it again," he said. "I knew if we didn't have a strong run, there was going to be even more pressure, more people pointing fingers."
Gordon, who started fifth, traded the lead with several drivers over the course of the 112-lap race, but managed his fuel and kept his Chevrolet in front for the final 26 laps to finish 4.1 seconds in front of Sterling Marlin. Mark Martin finished close behind in third.
"I knew I was faster," Gordon said of the 43-car field. "I knew I could put the heat on them and see if I could make them make a mistake."
Crew chief Robbie Loomis said Gordon had just enough gas.
"I think it was really close," Loomis said. "I think we had enough for one more lap but it's hard to tell on a road course how much he's using and how much the car's using."
Gordon started his record road-course streak in 1997 at Watkins Glen, N.Y., the only other serpentine track on the Winston Cup circuit.
"He's real smooth," Marlin said after Sunday's race.
Penske back on top; de Ferran wins again
Portland, Ore. Roger Penske proved again he knows something about race strategy.
Gil de Ferran put himself in the hands of the winningest car owner in open-wheel racing on Sunday and wound up celebrating his second victory of the season.
In fact, the 32-year-old Brazilian gave Marlboro Team Penske its third victory in the last four races, holding off Roberto Moreno at the end to win the Freightliner-G.I. Joe's 200 at Portland International Raceway.
This is the same team that went three years without a victory until de Ferran broke through in May in Nazareth, Pa., finally giving Penske his 100th open-wheel win.
Helio Castroneves, also new to the Penske operation this year, added another win on June 18 in Detroit, and the two started from the front row and kept the race mostly to themselves until the waning moments.
"This one was mostly due to Roger's strategy," de Ferran said. "He told me to go all out after the second stop. After that stop, the car was fantastic. I knew what I had to do. I put my head down and went as fast as I could."
Fellows takes Lysol 200
Watkins Glen, N.Y. Ron Fellows led 35 of 82 laps Sunday to win the NASCAR Busch Grand National Series Lysol 200 at Watkins Glen International for the second time in three years. Fellows beat another road-racer, Butch Leitzinger, by .901 seconds.