Jeff Gordon has never been one to want to share records with anyone. Sunday the four-time champion was able to break a tie with his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson by winning his fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In doing so Gordon becomes the all time NASCAR winner at the famed speedway.
Gordon took the lead with a determined drive on the last restart with 17 laps to go as he powered by Kasey Kahne entering turn one . From there Gordon, who won the first Brickyard 400 20 years ago was able to stretch out his lead and cruise to victory. It was his second win of the season and the 90th of his long Sprint Cup career.
Kyle Busch was second nearly two seconds behind, Denny Hamlin was third, Matt Kenseth fourth and Joey Logano fifth.
“I don’t think there is a greater feeling for a race car driver and a race team,” an emotional Gordon said. “That’s what it took today. It was a total team effort to be here in Victory Lane. I’m exhausted.”
Polesitter Kevin Harvick jumped to the lead at the start and was able to stretch it out closely followed by Gordon who started second. As they passed the start finish line to complete the first lap, Gordon went by and took over the top spot. By lap 5, Gordon’s lead was just over a second and a half, by lap 10 it was 2.2 seconds.
Just before the competition caution came out on lap 20, Gordon was catching the rear of the field and lapping cars. That first caution, the competition caution, came out on lap 21. The field came in for their first stops of the day. Gordon came out with the lead followed by Kahne, Brad Keselowski and Johnson. Logano though, had stayed out and took the lead of the race.
The restart came on lap 26 and Gordon didn’t get going on the restart as Logano shot to the front, Kahne and Johnson were close behind as Gordon fell into fourth. On lap 32, Kahne got by Logano for the lead on the backstretch; exiting turn 4, Logano came in for his first stop of the day. A few laps later, others began making green flag stops. Kahne came in from the lead on lap 39. Due to the mix of fuel strategies, the green flag stops took until lap 55 when Harvick reassumed the lead followed by Gordon and Kahne.
Another round of green flag stops started on lap 64. Harvick pitted from the lead on lap 65 followed by Gordon. The second caution came out lap 67 when Danica Patrick lost a rear axle at the end of the pit lane; Hamlin was in the led when the caution flew he stayed out sticking to his fuel strategy. Hamlin led to the green on lap 73, Harvick was second, Kahne third, Gordon fourth and Kyle Busch fifth.
Hamlin seemed to lose grip heading into turn 1 on the restart and Kahne took over the lead; Busch and Harvick slid into third, Hamlin fourth. By lap, 79 Kahne’s lead was 2.7 seconds over Busch. Behind the front two, Harvick and Gordon were dueling for third. Gordon finally took over third on lap 92 just as Hamlin came in for his stop starting another cycle of green flag stops. Hamlin’s crew reported that they didn’t get him full of fuel; he was still able to get out ahead of Kahne to stay of the lead lap. On lap 97 Trevor Bayne lost a tire in turn three spun into the wall, across the track into the inside guardrail and bringing out the third caution.
The leaders came in for stops. Kahne led off pit road, Kyle Busch was second, Harvick third, Gordon fourth. Clint Bowyer had come in just prior to the yellow; he stayed and took over the lead when the restart came on lap 101. Kahne was just too strong and went to the lead on the outside bringing Kyle Busch with him into second; Bowyer fell into third, Harvick was fourth. Gordon got past Harvick for fourth on lap 106; Kahne’s lead was just over two seconds. On lap 108 Gordon had the fastest car on the track and took over third from Bowyer; lap 114 Gordon flew past Busch for second. He slowly began to reel Kahne in and by lap 124 the lead was less than a second. Kahne came in for his final scheduled green flag stop on lap 128. The rest of the leaders followed shortly after. Shortly after the stops cycled through, Kahne was back in the lead, but Gordon was right on his bumper. Busch was third two seconds back while fourth place Kenseth was 16 seconds back.
The fourth caution came out on lap 138 when Ryan Truex slowed to a stop on the backstretch. The top eight stayed out; Harvick was the first to pit. Kahne led, Gordon was second, Busch third, Kenseth fourth and Hamlin fifth.
The restart came with 17 to go. Gordon was able to get by Kahne for the lead on the outside; Kahne began falling back as the field began to fight for spots around him. Busch took over second, Hamlin third, Kenseth fourth; Kahne fell to fifth. Soon the lead was 1.2 seconds for Gordon. With 6 laps to go Gordon’s lead was two seconds over Busch. He never looked back and with no one near was able to cruise to the win.
“I’m not very good on restarts and wasn’t very good today,” Gordon said. “I finally made the restart of my life today when it counted most. I knew we had a great race car. We just needed to get out front. Kasey (Kahne) kind of hung back and I kind of got a little ahead of him and I had to back up and was able to stay on his quarter panel and once we got down into (Turns) 1 and 2, I could hear him get loose. I was kind of glad he took the inside because I really wanted the outside. Man, it was; and I’ve got to thank him. He raced me awesome and clean because it could have gotten real ugly down there.”
Kasey Kahne held on for sixth place, rookie Kyle Larson was seventh, Kevin Harvick eighth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. ninth and another rookie Austin Dillon rounded out the top ten.
Gordon leaves Indy with the points lead, Earnhardt Jr. remains second, Brad Keselowski who finished 12th remains third, Kenseth fourth and Johnson fifth.
“I was trying so hard with 10 (laps) to go not to focus on the crowd,” Gordon said. “Every once in a while I’d glance up there and I could see the reaction. I was trying not to let it get to me and not think about it too much. And yet you can’t help it. It’s such a big place and such an important victory and a crucial moment in the season and the championship and those emotions take over. I have my kids here; there’s nothing better, especially at one of the biggest races to have your family here.”
The NASCAR Sprint Cup series is back in action at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond Pa. next Sunday.
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