INDIANAPOLIS – Jeff Gordon’s “Drive for Five” is complete, at least as far as the Brickyard 400 is concerned.
The Inaugural Brickyard 400 winner in 1994 became the first five-time winner of this race when he blew past Kasey Kahne on a restart with 17 laps to go and drove away to a convincing victory in Sunday’s Crown Royal Presents the John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard. Gordon also won the NASCAR race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1998, 2001 and 2004.
The 10-year gap between wins at the Brickyard led some to wonder if the driver from Pittsboro, Indiana was ever going to win again at Indianapolis. But he was fast all weekend, started on the outside of the front row and had the only car that actually passed for the lead on the track during green flag racing.
“You never know when your next win is going to come,” Gordon said after his 90th career Cup victory. “We’ve been close a couple of times to getting number five. But every time I come here to Indianapolis I feel like we have a shot at winning. It’s just a special place and I love racing here.
“This weekend in particular the first couple laps that I felt this race car, I knew that we had a race car that was capable of winning this race. It just had the feel. It had the balance that I love to have. I think we showed that today, just how strong this car is.
“We got behind a couple times. Pit strategy changed for some people. It threw some people off. I think it made for a great race. Throughout all of that, I think we showed the speed our car had.”
Kahne was the leader when he pitted with 33 laps to go. One lap later, more contenders joined him including second-place Kyle Busch and others and that put Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet back in front. Gordon came in to change four tires and two cans of fuel with 31 laps to go.
After pit stops the top three drivers were far ahead of the field. Kahne led Gordon by 0.245 seconds and Kyle Busch was 2.821 seconds back. But fourth-place Matt Kenseth was 16.278 seconds out of the lead.
The caution flag flew after Ryan Truex’s No. 83 blew up and could not make it back to pit lane on Lap 139. That created massive traffic down pit lane to prepare for the final dash to the checkered flag with 20 laps to go.
The green flag waved with 17 laps to go and Gordon shooting to the lead ahead of Kahne in a side-by-side restart into Turn 1. Kahne dropped back to fifth as Busch, Hamlin and Kenseth all blew past Kahne’s Chevrolet.
From there, the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion drove into history.