KANSAS CITY, Kan. - At any age, Jeff Gordon sure knows how to win.
Nearly 2 decades after he burst onto the scene with his first victory, Gordon keeps taking checkered flags, storming to the lead in the final laps at Kansas Speedway on Saturday night for his first win of the season and 89th overall in NASCAR's top series.
Gordon, 42, held off Kevin Harvick on the final lap to move into the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field.
Gordon won for the first time since October at Martinsville and became the ninth driver to win in the first 11 races this season. He entered the race with the points lead, but exclaimed a weight was lifted off his shoulders as he crossed the finish line for his third Kansas victory.
"I'm just so proud of [the 24 team]. They have been giving me the best race cars all year long," Gordon said.
Danica Patrick was seventh for her best career Cup finish.
Patrick had her best run of the season, spending most of the race nestled inside the top 10, and brought a needed jolt of electricity when she passed teammate Tony Stewart and Earnhardt to move into third with 95 laps left. Patrick hadn't finished better this season than 14th at Fontana and her lone top-10 in the Cup series was an eighth-place finish in the 2013 Daytona 500.
She was shuffled back on a restart, costing her a top five.
Patrick beamed after the kind of finish she'd been striving for since her dazzling performance at Daytona more than a year ago.
"I know that we haven't had the best of times, but we work hard for it," she said. "This is the kind of stuff that materializes in wins."
Sara Christian's fifth-place finish in a 1949 race remains the best for a female driver in NASCAR's top series.