Indianapolis, IN – Indianapolis, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - Jeff Gordon is hoping to win his fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship this year, but right now, he's celebrating his record fifth victory in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
This past Friday, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard declared July 27, 2014 as "Jeff Gordon Day" in Indianapolis, commemorating the 20th anniversary of Gordon's win in the inaugural Brickyard 400.
It was truly Gordon's day at this historic 2.5-mile racetrack on Sunday. Gordon, who grew up in nearby Pittsboro, Indiana and will turn 43 years old on Aug. 4, passed Kasey Kahne, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, for the lead following a restart with 17 laps to go. He then held off Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth in the closing laps to become a five-time Brickyard 400 winner.
"I don't think there is a greater feeling for a race car driver and a race team, because that's what it took today," said Gordon, who scored his 90th career Cup victory in his 22nd full season driving the No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick. "It was a total team effort to be here in Victory Lane at Indianapolis. I'm exhausted."
Gordon has struggled on restarts over the years, but on the final restart for this 400-mile race, occurring on lap 144, he quickly moved to the outside of Kahne and then charged past him for the lead.
"I'm not very good on restarts and wasn't very good today," Gordon admitted. "I finally made the restart of my life today when it counted most. I knew we had a great race car. We just needed to get out front. Kasey kind of hung back, and I kind of got a little ahead of him. I had to back up and was able to stay on his quarter panel, and once we got down into [turns] 1 and 2, I could hear him get loose. I was kind of glad he took the inside, because I really wanted the outside.
"I've got to thank him. He raced me awesome and clean, because it could have gotten real ugly down there. Once I got clear of him, I was like, 'I can't believe this is happening now. No caution, please no caution now."
In addition to his 1994 victory, Gordon won the Brickyard 400 in 1998, 2001 and '04. He also captured the series title in '98 and '01.
Gordon had been tied with Jimmie Johnson, his teammate, for most NASCAR victories at Indy with four each. Now, Gordon has moved into a tie with Formula One legend Michael Schumacher for most race wins here. Schumacher won the United States Grand Prix at this track in 2000 and 2003-06.
"This one is for all those fans throughout the years and all weekend long," Gordon said. "They were saying we believe you can get [Brickyard 400 win] number 5. We got number 5."
Gordon's crew chief, Alan Gustafson, won the Brickyard 400 for the first time. Gustafson has been with Gordon's team since the start of the 2011 season.
"It's just unbelievable," Gustafson said. "I've wanted to win this race my whole life and to win here at this unbelievable place and the history of this racetrack. Jeff has an amazing record here. This is the first one for me. I am so proud of everybody at the No. 24 shop."
Gordon also gave team owner Rick Hendrick his record-extending ninth Cup Series win at Indianapolis.
"I told [Gordon] this morning that this was his day," Hendrick said. "He's been so good on the long runs at every track, and he gets around this place so well. But for him to break that tie is pretty special. We're a little bit older than we were 20 years ago, but this is a great win. What a way, with Jeff, here in Indianapolis where this is his home track. I remember how good it felt. This one feels just as good."
Busch finished 2.3 seconds behind Gordon in the runner-up spot, while Hamlin placed third and Kenseth fourth. Joey Logano was fifth.
Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota failed post-race inspection. Race officials confiscated parts from his car and are taking them to NASCAR's Research and Development Center in Concord, North Carolina for further examination. NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said officials "could have possible issues with several rear firewall block-off plates" on his car.
Kahne, who led the most laps with 70, ended up finishing sixth. Gordon led a total of 40 laps.
"Looking back, I should have chosen the top [lane], but I pretty much let Jeff control that last restart," Kahne said. "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, but we just came up a little short."
Rookie Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, the pole sitter, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is Gordon's teammate as well, and Austin Dillon, also a rookie this season, finished seventh through 10th, respectively.
Johnson, the six-time and defending Sprint Cup champion, was never a factor in this race, as he finished 14th.
Carl Edwards placed 15th several hours after he and Roush Fenway Racing announced his departure from the team at the end of this season. Edwards has been with Roush Fenway since 2003 and driving the No. 99 Ford for the organization since '04.
With his second win this season and currently holding the points lead, Gordon clinched a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, assuming he attempts to qualify for each of the remaining six races in the regular season. Gordon's first victory this year happened on May 10 at Kansas. This was the seventh straight race that he has been atop the point standings.