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Gordon wins at Indy

7/28/2014

By Jake Thompson

By Jake Thompson

McClatchy-Tribune

INDIANAPOLIS -- A historical moment in NASCAR history came on a day when the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway may have needed it most. While the stands weren't full -- far from it -- those in attendance witnessed Jeff Gordon complete his drive-for-five Brickyard victories in grand style. Twenty years ago, Gordon won the inaugural Brickyard 400 and followed it up with wins in 1998, 2001, '04, and now in '14.

By doing so, Gordon injected a historical moment to an event that certainly needed the boost, while also rewarding an Indiana fan base that has supported him since he drove USAC cars while living in Pittsboro.

"I don't think there's a greater feeling as a racecar driver, and a race team," Gordon said. "I cannot believe this just happened. I was trying so hard with 10 to go to not focus on the crowd, I was trying not to let it get to me. You can't help it. It's such a big race, such an important victory.

"This one is for all those fans throughout the years and all weekend long who said, 'go get No. 5.' "

Historically and statistically, Gordon had a heck of a day.

Gordon, who collected his 90th NASCAR victory with the win, tied Formula One driver Michael Schumacher for the most wins by any driver at Indianapolis.

He sits third in all-time NASCAR wins behind Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105).

With the victory, Gordon passes teammate Jimmie Johnson (four wins) as the all-time NASCAR race winner at IMS.

Gordon became the first driver in IMS history to lead 500 laps and his total now sits at 528. He has led at least one lap at 14 different Brickyard 400s, extending his previous mark.

"I told him this morning, this is your day," said Rick Hendrick, owner of Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet and Hendrick Motorsports.

"We're a bit older than we were 20 years ago, but it's a great win."

With the win, the Sprint Cup Series points-leader will also be looking for another drive-for-five title. The Cup Series champion in 1995, '97, '98 and 2001, Gordon is well placed to win a fifth Series championship as the season winds into the Chase.

Gordon led the first 20 laps after starting from the outside of Row 1, passing pole-sitter Kevin Harvick, and finished the race leading the last 17 laps.

Following a caution on Lap 139, after rookie Ryan Truex slowed on the front straight, the field gathered for the restart on Lap 143 in what became the pivotal moment in the race. Race leader Denny Hamlin took the bottom, a move Gordon said he'd hoped for, and the 42-year-old driver got what he called the "restart of his life."

Gordon drove around his teammate, who needed the win for a better shot at the Chase, and proceeded to pull away from the field.

"I don't think anybody had anything for (Gordon)," said Kyle Busch, who finished second. "It seemed like anybody that he got behind he was able to pass those guys."

Gordon showed true emotion following the win, occasionaly breaking from the stock answers drivers so often regurgitate after their victories and showed unequivocally winning at Indy truly means so much.

It's something Gordon touched upon earlier in July.

"I mean, it's amazing how the Indiana fans have treated me over the years," Gordon said.

"It's louder there than it is anywhere else that we go, and that speaks volumes about my connection with Indiana and the way the fans treat me there. It's unlike any other place that I go, and I love it."