Gordon still on top

TALLADEGA -- Jeff Gordon had much better than a crash and 39th-place finish in mind during Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, but there’s good news: He is still the Sprint Cup points leader.

Gordon came away from Talladega with 347 points on the season, three more than Matt Kenseth.

Rounding out the top 12 are Kyle Busch (343), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (328), Carl Edwards (328), Joey Logano (305), defending points champion Jimmie Johnson (304), Greg Biffle (300), Ryan Newman (299), Brian Vickers (297), Brad Keselowski (294) and Denny Hamlin (292).

Gordon came to Talladega with a five-point lead and seemed to have one of the strongest cars in the field. He led early in the race and was consistently in the lead group.

“Oh man. We had a great car,” he said. “The car always looks really good. This Drive to End Hunger Chevy SS looked good and it was super-fast.”

Gordon’s day went bad on lap 137. Brad Keselowski, who was six laps down after an early crash and trying to regain ground, got loose in turn 4. Keselowski and Trevor Bayne wound up sliding up the track, and Gordon’s car was among 14 cars collected.

Gordon paid several visits to pit road and went back to the garage before emerging late in the race and finishing some laps.

It helped Gordon’s cause that Kenseth and Busch were in the same wreck. Edwards’ day ended in a crash on lap 184. Earnhardt, who led 25 laps, wound up finishing 25th.

Patrick makes history

Danica Patrick became the first female to lead at Talladega, first moving ahead on lap 6 and leading twice for a total of six laps.

She finished 22nd, the highest finish for a female at Talladega. The previous high was 29th, by Janet Guthrie in 1978 Talladega 500.

“It was good out front,” she said. “I wish I could have stayed there.”

The laps led were Patrick's first since she led two in the Daytona 500. Before Sunday, she had only led seven laps in her Sprint Cup career, all at Daytona.

Patrick made history in 2013 by becoming the first female to win the pole for the Daytona 500 and lead laps in the race.

Heating issues complicated her day Sunday. Her No. 10 GoDaddy Chevy was good running up front but got hot while in the pack, forcing her to drop back and get clean air.

But Patrick avoided the day’s five wrecks.

“The good news is this car is going to get to go to Daytona,” she said. “That is a positive. The result was not necessarily too much of a positive, but it’s going to get rolled up on the truck so that is more than a lot of people can say coming from a speedway.”

- Joe Medley

Wreck takes out Ragan

Defending Aaron's 499 champion David Ragan didn't finish Sunday's race.

He got caught in a wreck when Jimmie Johnson's car got loose 176 laps into the race. The wreck also took out Joey Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kurt Busch, Reed Sorenson, Michael McDowell and Austin Dillon.

"We were just kind of minding our own business up top, and all I saw was some cars coming up toward us," Ragan said. "There was nothing you could do."

Ragan would up 35th. He had only two finishes higher than 12th last year and both came at Talladega. After winning the May race, he was sixth in October.

"All in all, I thoguht the racing was great," Ragan said. "There was a lot of passing, but usually when wrecks like that happen, somebody makes a mistake and it's just a shame ... it takes out a bunch of race cars."

- Mark Edwards