INDIANAPOLIS – It took overtime, but Jeff Gordon (search) joined the heroes of his youth Sunday with a fourth win in the Brickyard 400. The driver who spent his teen years living within 25 miles of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, made history, joining open-wheel stars A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as four-time winners at the historic track.
"To win at this speedway, I can't even describe the feeling right now," Gordon said after stopping his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (search) at the bricks that marks the Indy finish line. "That yard of bricks right there is so special and it feels so incredible to win this race."
Gordon made it look easy most of the day, dominating on the way to his fifth win of the season and the 69th of his NASCAR (search) career.
The four-time series champion, who won the inaugural NASCAR event here in 1994 and added victories in 1998 and 2001, led 124 of the 161 laps on the 2 1/2-mile oval, but still had to fend off two-time Brickyard winner Dale Jarrett in a pair of late restarts.
The last of those, coming on lap 160 — which was supposed to be the final lap — was the first green-white-checkered overtime since NASCAR added the rule last month in an effort to assure that races finished with the cars racing, instead of driving slowly behind the pace car.
A crash involving Ryan Newman and rookie Brian Vickers on lap 155 — the record 13th caution of the day — set up the final restart after it took until the end of lap 159 to get the track cleared and ready for racing.
As he had done on virtually every restart in the race, Gordon got a great jump and pulled away from Jarrett's Ford, moving out to a half-second lead on the first lap. He was about one second and six car-lengths ahead when the last yellow flag came out as the leaders were about halfway through the final lap.
Because NASCAR said there would be only one green-white-checkered opportunity, that's the way the race finished, although the pace car didn't have time to get onto the track.
A rash of flat tires caused most of the crashes and caution flags throughout the day, and the final yellow came out because Ricky Rudd, Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were all running slowly and losing positions because of flats on the last two laps.
Elliott Sadler, Jarrett's Robert Yates Racing teammate, finished third, followed by rookie Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray and 2003 Brickyard winner Kevin Harvick.
Gordon did get a scare with 18 laps left when he hit a large piece of debris, tearing a hole in the air dam on the right front of the No. 24 and throwing off the aerodynamics.
In April, Gordon lost the lead and the race when he ran over a piece of concrete torn up from the track at Martinsville. This time, though, he was able to get the car to the checkered flag.
"Man, I don't know how we pulled that off," Gordon said. "I don't know what this one was, but it was big. And when we hit that thing, I thought it was all over. I saw Martinsville all over again, but this is a good trade-off.
"This was just our day. It was meant to be," he added.
Gordon's car threw the debris, probably a piece of lead from one of the damaged cars, into the car driven by Matt Kenseth, who was running second and appeared to be catching the leader. Kenseth pitted, thinking he had a flat tire, but his crew said there was no flat and sent Kenseth back onto the track. He wound up 16th.
But Earnhardt did run the whole race for the first time since being burned in a sports car crash July 18, finishing a disappointing 27th after running in the top 10 for most of the second half of the race. Junior said he is still in some pain from the burns to his legs, but appeared to have no problem in the car on Sunday.
Series leader Jimmie Johnson, who came into the race off a victory at Pocono, had a miserable day and wound up failing to finish for only the third time this season. Johnson survived a spin after a flat tire but went out after just 88 laps with an engine failure and finished 36th.