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Two NASCAR Legends Depart Brickyard Together

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 24 2016
Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon took their final lap at Indianapolis Motor Speedway side by side after Sunday's race. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon took their final lap at Indianapolis Motor Speedway side by side after Sunday’s race. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Two of the most important figures in NASCAR history spent what was most likely their final moments at automobile racing’s most important track on Sunday and they did it together.

And it felt great for all involved and for all watching.

buganalysisTony Stewart finished 11th and Jeff Gordon 13th in the Brickyard 400 but that was more than good enough to prompt the two to celebrate together as they took an extra tour of the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway side by side.

The idea belonged to Stewart, a three-time Cup champion and two-time Brickyard winner who will retire from driving Sprint Cup cars after the 2016 season.

“It was cool,” Stewart said of his adieu to Indy with co-future Hall of Famer Gordon. “I knew when we got the checkered we just didn’t want to come in just yet.  I wanted to run one more lap and Jeff was around us and before that last green run I told my spotter to go get his spotter and said after this thing is over, we need to go a lap around here together because most likely is the last time we’ll both get a chance to do that. I couldn’t think of a better guy to share that moment with than Jeff.”

Gordon, a four-time Cup champion and five-time Brickyard 400 winner who retired after the 2015 season but was back at Indy subbing for injured Dale Earnhardt Jr., was not about to turn down Stewart’s invitation.

“Well, Tony and I have gone through a lot over the years,” Gordon, who, like Stewart grew up in Indiana worshipping The Speedway, said. “But, he and I have become really good friends. I was

Tony Stewart waves to crowd during driver introductions before Sunday's race. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

Tony Stewart waves to crowd during driver introductions before Sunday’s race. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

with him when he got hurt this year. And to see what he’s done and how tough he is as a competitor; I’ve always know what a great guy and what a great race car driver he is, and now I know more about who Tony Stewart really is.

“I’m just so proud that I was able to be here and race with him in his final race. Maybe, I don’t know.  I thought last year was going to be my final race. You never know with Tony Stewart. But it meant a lot to me to be able to stand in front at the driver’s meeting and recognize him and then do that pace lap here at the end.”

After their final lap together, they approached each other on pit road. The result produced more warmth in a driver who seldom wore emotions on his Nomex sleeve.

“I can say that just ranks in the top three coolest moments of my 18 years in this series,” Stewart, a native of nearby Columbus, Ind. said. ” To share that moment with Jeff here at Indianapolis I don’t know.  I don’t even have the words for it.  That is a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life.”

Stewart pronounced Brickyard ’16 enjoyable to the max.

“It was an awesome weekend,” he said. “Everything went the way we wanted it to just came up short today.  I had fun all day and had fun all weekend.  I can’t thank everyone at Chevrolet and Mobil 1 and IMS, everybody that was with us this weekend.  Everybody, Drew Brown (Stewart’s PR Representative), everybody tried to make my weekend as easy as possible.  It really gave me the opportunity to savor the moment and enjoy it.”

Gordon said of his race Sunday; meh.

“I enjoyed moments,” he said. “When we were up in 12th and Greg (Ives, crew chief) made an excellent call to come in a little early. We got the car much better. I was having fun at that point.  This is a challenging, challenging race track.  Really hard to get all four corners. There were moments of fun.  I didn’t want to see those restarts. I’m horrible on restarts. So those didn’t help us any, but I got a few back on that last one.”

Gordon will be back in Earnhardt’s No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet next weekend at Pocono.

After that his comeback will depend on Earnhardt Jr.’s health and the diagnoses of doctors.

“Nobody wants to miss a race,” Gordon said, “especially the Brickyard 400. He is friends with Tony. I’m sure he would have liked to have been here for Tony’s last race as well. Most of all, I think he should be very proud of his race team. He has an amazing race team. They can’t wait to have him back when he is ready. And, we are all going to work together to do our best to continue to keep that excitement and momentum in the team there for when he is ready to come back, so he comes back and doesn’t miss a beat and can win some races.”

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 24 2016
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  • Docg says:

    Unfortunately, a Cup race on a 2.5 mile flat track is just boring. Additionally, I only saw 35% of the race when I went because of the pit side grandstands. Like vast numbers of other fans, never again.