Sunday, July 27, 2014

Jeff Gordon Wins Record 5th Brickyard 400

Originally written for CLNS Radio.

Jeff Gordon won the Brickyard 400 on Sunday on the 20th anniversary of his win in the inaugural event.

The win was also Gordon’s record-setting fifth victory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, breaking a tie with teammate Jimmie Johnson.
Photo courtesy Adam Niemeyer

“I don’t think there’s a greater feeling as a racecar driver,” Gordon said in victory lane.  “Total team effort to get to victory lane at Indianapolis.”

Gordon had to outrun his teammate Kasey Kahne on the final restart.  Kahne led a race-high 70 laps, and Gordon had to have a strong restart to win.

“I’m not very good on restarts, and wasn’t very good today.  I finally made the restart of my life today when it counted most.  I knew we had a great racecar and I just needed to get out front.”

Gordon said he knows how important this victory was for the season, and that to win at Indianapolis is special.

“I was trying so hard, with 10 to go, not to focus on the crowd.  I tried not to let it get to me, and you can’t help it.  Such a big race; such an important victory.”

Kevin Harvick won the pole for the Brickyard 400, and he cleared Gordon going into Turn 1 when the race began.  Gordon, however, was able to work his way around Harvick on the frontstretch to take the lead on lap 2.

On lap 21, the competition caution came out due to rain early Sunday morning.  Gordon won the race off pit road, but Joey Logano committed to a different pit strategy and took the lead.

Logano led the field back to the green flag on lap 26.  He held the lead until Kahne took the lead for the first time on lap 32.  After losing the lead, Logano pitted for fuel, which kicked off a long round of green-flag pit stops.

Kahne pitted for fuel on lap 38, which allowed rookie Kyle Larson to take the lead.

 After Larson and fellow rookie Austin Dillon pitted, Denny Hamlin took the lead.  Hamlin was the only driver on a different pit strategy than everyone else, and he didn’t pit until lap 55.  That allowed Harvick to take the lead once again.

On lap 66, Gordon passed Harvick for the lead going through Turn 3, and they both pulled off to make another round of green-flag pit stops.

The caution came out during pit stops when Danica Patrick broke a right-rear axle coming off pit road.  Patrick’s car erupted in smoke and she stalled at the end of pit road.

Hamlin stayed out when the leaders pitted, and he led the field back to the green flag on lap 73.  Heading into Turn 1, Kahne got around Hamlin, which dropped him all the way to fourth.

Trevor Bayne cut down a tire and spun into the inside wall on lap 97 to bring out the caution.  Under the caution, Clint Bowyer stayed out to take the lead.

When the race restarted on lap 102, Kahne was able to get around Bowyer to take the lead heading into Turn 1.

Kahne pitted for the final time on lap 127, and that allowed Gordon to take the lead.  When the stops had cycled around, Kahne was the leader, but Gordon was right on his back bumper.

The final caution came out on lap 139 when Ryan Truex slowed in Turn 2 and stalled his car out on the backstretch.

Kahne led the field back to the green flag on lap 144, but Gordon was able to make the pass on the high side.  Kahne fell back to fourth, and Gordon was able to pull away from Kyle Busch to take the victory.

Unofficial results:
1. Jeff Gordon
2. Kyle Busch
3. Denny Hamlin
4. Matt Kenseth
5. Joey Logano
6. Kasey Kahne
7. Kyle Larson
8. Kevin Harvick
9. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
10. Austin Dillon
11. Ryan Newman
12. Brad Keselowski
13. Greg Biffle
14. Jimmie Johnson
15. Carl Edwards
16. Clint Bowyer
17. Tony Stewart
18. AJ Allmendinger
19. Brian Vickers
20. Jamie McMurray
21. Aric Almirola
22. Marcos Ambrose
23. Juan Pablo Montoya
24. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
25. Martin Truex Jr.
27. Justin Allgaier
28. Kurt Busch
29. Josh Wise
30. Landon Cassill
31. Michael Annett
32. Cole Whitt
33. Casey Mears
34. Paul Menard
35. David Ragan
36. David Gilliland
37. Bobby Labonte
38. Reed Sorenson
39. Travis Kvapil
40. Alex Bowman
41. Ryan Truex
42. Danica Patrick
43. Trevor Bayne

Next weekend, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “Tricky Triangle” of Pocono Raceway.  The 400 can be seen next Sunday at 12:00 p.m. EST on ESPN.

Photo courtesy Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images

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