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Gordon Wins His Fifth Brickyard 400

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 27 2014

Jeff Gordon, the original Brickyard champion, became the 2014 Brickyard champion on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Christa L Thomas)

The first winner of the Brickyard 400 became the Sprint Cup race’s latest winner when Jeff Gordon pulled away over the final 17 laps to collect one of most coveted trophies the series offers.

Gordon’s victory was his fifth in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway event ,with his first coming 21 years ago in the 1994 debut of stock cars at the legendary 2.5-mile oval.

“Whew, I’m exhausted,” Gordon said in Victory Circle.

And happy. As were the fans in the state of Indiana where Gordon at one time lived.

“I cannot believe this just happened,” Gordon said. “I was trying so hard with 10 to go to not focus on the crowd. I could every once in a while glance up there and see the reaction. I was trying not to let it get to me, not think about it too much.”

The victory was the second of the season for Gordon and enabled him to pad his series points lead as he goes for his fifth Cup championship.

It marked the 90th Cup victory of the Hendrick Motorsports driver’s career.

It was set up by a near perfect final restart of the day by a driver who admits to being lousy at restarts. With 17 laps to go, Kasey Kahne had the lead and opted to restart after a caution from the bottom line.

“I’ll be honest, I was hoping Kasey would pick the inside,” Gordon said. “I really was. He did. He was loose. I knew if I could just get to the outside of him, he was going to have a hard time using the throttle up off the corner.

“I didn’t know if that meant we were going to just wreck, be sitting ducks for the 18 to go by. I don’t know what that meant. But I thought that was our only shot at winning.

“As we rolled down off of (Turn) 4, I had spun the tires a couple times on some restarts, so I wanted a fast pace. Kasey was slowing it down. That’s why we were so jockeyed when we came through the restart zone. I really had to let him go.

“I thought I let him go too much, but I just was able to get to his quarter as I shifted to fourth gear, and I was able to just have the best position I could ask for.

“I know it didn’t go well for Kasey. We were both really sideways, but I think we knew that could be the win. You don’t know if another caution is going to come out. Luckily it didn’t. I think we both knew that was for the win.

“He got me in Pocono last year on a restart. I love Kasey, I love racing with him. I wanted to be able to race him for this win. I’m just glad it went well.

“I didn’t spin the tires like I had, so that helped. I was able to just get the position, get my tires cleaned off, just do what I’m supposed to do really.”

Kahne said he didn’t do what he should have done.

“Looking back,” Kahne said, “I should have chosen the top (lane) obviously; but I pretty much let Jeff control that last restart. I took off and never spun a tire. And the inside had been more grip; in a straight line throughout the race. And I had started on both sides. So I thought I made the right decision. I didn’t spin a tire and Jeff was driving by me like before we were even at the second red. But either way, he was going to pass me in (Turns) 1 and 2.

“So looking back, I probably should have chosen the top and that would have put us in a better place. But we ended up sixth. Because of that, I was able to save fuel and make it. If I had beat him, I would have had to race the heck out of him. He was faster than I was. So, we probably would have finished a lot worse. So, I guess for points it was good. I would have loved to win at the Brickyard. We had a good car. I thought I gave it all I had. The team gave it all they had and we just came up a little short.”

Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing finished second Sunday, while teammates Denny Hamlin was third and Matt Kenseth fourth. Kahne finished sixth.

Gordon started the race from the outside pole but quickly passed pole-sitter Kevin Harvick for the lead. Once out front, the four-time champion quickly put distance between himself and the field – by Lap 10, his gap was 2.5 seconds. By lap 16, the lead was over 4 seconds.

Gordon lost the lead to Joey Logano during a competition caution on Lap 20 when Logano opted not to pit.

On Lap 32, Kahne blew past Logano and into the lead. About Lap 32, green flag pitting began and differing pit strategies began to shift. As a result, several drivers, including Denny Hamlin and rookie Kyle Larson, took turns leading the race.

At the halfway point of the 160-lap race, Kahne had a 1.8-second lead over Kyle Busch.

On Lap 97, Trevor Bayne blew a tire spun to bring out a caution.

The leaders all pitted. When the race restarted on Lap 101, Clint Bowyer, who pitted just before the caution, had the lead. Kahne was second and Busch was third.

Kahne moved past Bowyer and into the lead a lap later. Pro forma, once out front, Kahne began to pull away.

Kahne began the parade to pit lane for the final green stops of the day with 33 laps to go.

When the pit cycle concluded, Kahne held a over Gordon with 30 laps to go but on shaky ground in terms of fuel.

Gordon quickly moved to his Hendrick Motorsports teammate’s rear bumper and began applying pressure.

With 21 laps to go, the yellow waved when Ryan Truex’s car lost power.

The top seven cars stayed out. The eighth-place car of Harvick led a large contingent of cars into the pits.

The race restarted with 17 laps to go with Kahne and Gordon starting side by side.

Gordon blew past Kahne and into the lead coming out of Turn 1.

“I finally had the restart of my life,” Gordon said over his radio.

From there, it was an easy cruise to the checkered flag.

“Very, very similar,” Gordon said when asked if his emotions were similar to those he had after winning the inaugural Brickyard. “I remember in ’94, you know, in the closing laps of just disbelief. You don’t want to see a caution. You’re leading the Brickyard 400 with just a handful of laps to go. You want to take that moment in and look into the crowd and see what they’re doing, but at the same time you don’t want to lose focus. You know it’s not over till in this case the white flag waves.

“I kept going in and out of those emotions of, All right, don’t get off track, what’s going on. Remember, still got to get to the end. Be ready if there is a caution. But yet I’ll say on that last lap I looked up in turn four. To just see everybody standing and cheering, that’s awesome. That sends a chill up your spine as a racecar driver in a race that is so important to you, yet you have so many fans out there supporting you at the same time.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – The Brickyard

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Speedway, Indiana

Sunday, July 27, 2014

1. (2) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 160, $434376.

2. (12) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 160, $373781.

3. (27) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 160, $307890.

4. (13) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 160, $303751.

5. (9) Joey Logano, Ford, 160, $266806.

6. (10) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 160, $231130.

7. (15) Kyle Larson #, Chevrolet, 160, $226675.

8. (1) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 160, $230288.

9. (23) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 160, $196255.

10. (17) Austin Dillon #, Chevrolet, 160, $228891.

11. (4) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 160, $188455.

12. (3) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 160, $218288.

13. (19) Greg Biffle, Ford, 160, $209330.

14. (11) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 160, $217691.

15. (18) Carl Edwards, Ford, 160, $183555.

16. (16) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 160, $201046.

17. (6) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 160, $199838.

18. (36) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 160, $181713.

19. (5) Brian Vickers, Toyota, 160, $201355.

20. (24) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 160, $196144.

21. (41) Aric Almirola, Ford, 160, $197416.

22. (22) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 160, $185725.

23. (8) Juan Pablo Montoya, Ford, 160, $154330.

24. (21) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 160, $193030.

25. (25) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 160, $184013.

26. (28) Michael McDowell, Ford, 160, $151855.

27. (31) Justin Allgaier #, Chevrolet, 159, $178088.

28. (7) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 159, $152555.

29. (30) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 159, $151955.

30. (37) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 158, $152805.

31. (33) Michael Annett #, Chevrolet, 158, $164813.

32. (39) Cole Whitt #, Toyota, 158, $150155.

33. (26) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 158, $169338.

34. (29) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 158, $174094.

35. (38) David Ragan, Ford, 158, $164177.

36. (34) David Gilliland, Ford, 157, $154530.

37. (43) Bobby Labonte, Chevrolet, 157, $146113.

38. (42) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 156, $139450.

39. (40) Travis Kvapil, Ford, 156, $135450.

40. (35) Alex Bowman #, Toyota, 156, $131450.

41. (32) Ryan Truex #, Toyota, 149, $127450.

42. (14) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, Rear Gear, 114, $131725.

43. (20) Trevor Bayne(i), Ford, Accident, 96, $119950.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 150.297 mph.

Time of Race: 02 Hrs, 39 Mins, 41 Secs. Margin of Victory: 2.325 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 4 for 16 laps.

Lead Changes: 15 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders: K. Harvick 1; J. Gordon 2-21; J. Logano 22-31; K. Kahne 32-37; K. Larson # 38-42; A. Dillon # 43; D. Hamlin 44-54; K. Harvick 55-65; D. Hamlin 66-72; K. Kahne 73-98; C. Bowyer 99-101; K. Kahne 102-126; J. Gordon 127-129; M. Annett # 130; K. Kahne 131-143; J. Gordon 144-160.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): K. Kahne 4 times for 70 laps; J. Gordon 3 times for 40 laps; D. Hamlin 2 times for 18 laps; K. Harvick 2 times for 12 laps; J. Logano 1 time for 10 laps; K. Larson # 1 time for 5 laps; C. Bowyer 1 time for 3 laps; A. Dillon # 1 time for 1 lap; M. Annett # 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 16 in Points: J. Gordon – 717; D. Earnhardt Jr. – 693; B. Keselowski – 666; M. Kenseth – 661; J. Johnson – 628; Kyle Busch – 609; R. Newman – 606; C. Edwards – 603; J. Logano – 591; C. Bowyer – 577; D. Hamlin – 572; K. Harvick – 565; K. Larson # – 562; A. Dillon # – 559; K. Kahne – 555; P. Menard – 551.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 27 2014
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