The Subway Fresh Fit 500, long term, will be remembered as the race where Jeff Gordon broke his 66-race winless streak.
A day later, however, the 312-lap event at the Phoenix International Raceway is being remembered as an entertaining race that featured close racing, plenty of carnage, and a thrilling late-race duel between Gordon and Kyle Busch, two of NASCAR's best and most polarizing competitors.
Busch, trying to duplicate his August 2010 feat of winning all three NASCAR National Touring races in one weekend after dominating the Camping World Truck and Nationwide races, overcame an early race incident with Carl Edwards that dropped him to 36th in the running order to race into the lead with 22 laps remaining.
Gordon, who led the most laps despite also being involved in the Busch/Edwards tangle, gradually tracked the No. 18 Toyota down, Exiting the fourth turn on lap 304, Gordon put the bumper to Busch and drew along side as they raced down the front stretch. The two banged doors in turn one as Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet slid wide, but both drivers kept their machines under control.
From there, Gordon pulled away to his 83rd career victory, tying him for fifth on the all-time list with Cale Yarborough, as well as his first win with new crew chief Alan Gustafson.
The Gordon/Busch duel aside, the race is being remembered for a number of hard accidents, highlighted by a pair of multi-car accidents that collected, in total, 18 cars between them.
The first was triggered on lap 59 when Busch's car got out from under him exiting turn two, sending him carooming across the track into Edwards, the pole-sitter and November 2010 winner at PIR. Edwards rode over the curbing on the inside of the backstretch, lifting his car in the air for a split second before it came down in front of Jeff Burton, who bumped the rear of the No. 99. In turn three, Edwards was unable to steer his car low and slid up the track, carrying Gordon with him into the outside wall.
Behind them, Mark Martin ran into the back of Kevin Harvick, who'd run into the back of David Ragan in the stack up, spinning the No. 29 Chevrolet. Harvick rebounded to finish fourth, while Martin placed 13th. Ragan would blow a tire at lap 127 and slam the wall hard exiting the fourth turn, but he was uninjured.
On the restart from the five-car melee, at lap 67, Matt Kenseth and Brian Vickers touched exiting turn two, cutting the left rear tire on Vickers' No. 83 Toyota. Vickers spun in front of the field, and when the smoke had cleared, Burton, this time with much heavier damage, teammate Clint Bowyer, David Reutimann, Jamie McMurray, Travs Kvapil, Bobby Labonte, Andy Lally, and Regan Smith were among those who had been involved.
Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne, who said pre-race that his goal was a top-15 finish, brought out the race's third yellow at lap 50 when he and Travis Kvapil touched entering turn one, sending Bayne backing hard into the SAFER Barrier. He finished 40th.
Kyle Busch leads the standings by three points over older brother Kurt, who finished eighth. Tony Stewart and AJ Allmendinger are tied for third in the standings, each 11 points back of Kyle, while Gordon and Mark Martin are tied for fifth, 15 markers back of the Joe Gibbs Racing driver.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is Burton, who was victimized by a blown motor at last week's Daytona 500. He sits 32nd in points, 53 behind Busch and 36 points out of the a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.