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Gordon Aims for His Fourth Brickyard Win

August 08, 2004|From Associated Press

When Jeff Gordon won the first Brickyard 400, he was known far and wide as "The Kid."

Eleven years, four NASCAR championships and two more Indy victories later, Gordon is no kid anymore.

He turned 33 on Wednesday and will be looking today to join open-wheel stars Rick Mears, A.J. Foyt and Al Unser as the only four-time winners at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"I guess this track means so much to me because I remember coming here as a kid, visiting the museum and touring the track in a bus," Gordon said. "This track was where all my heroes raced when I was growing up.

"When I made the move from open-wheeled cars to stock cars, I thought I had lost my chance to race here. To finally get that chance was a dream come true."

He has taken full advantage of the opportunity with six top fives and eight top 10s in the 10 races, leading at least one lap in eight of them and 309 in all, more than any other driver.

Gordon is very aware that the two forms of auto racing are very different and he still views what Mears, Foyt and Unser did as special.

"We're at the same track, but the two races have different histories with different race cars," Gordon said. "No matter what I'm able to accomplish here, I don't think I will ever be able to compare myself to those guys.

"I'm focused on what I can do as a stock car driver. I'm focused on winning another Brickyard 400."

DOING IT RIGHT: Dale Jarrett fondly recalls his championship year in 1999 and sees a lot of the same attributes in the way Nextel Cup leader Jimmie Johnson is running this season.

Johnson heads into the Brickyard with a 132-point lead -- his biggest of the season -- over runner-up and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon.

"When I look at them, I see a lot of the same things that we did in '99, the same consistency that Jeff Gordon has done in the years that he's won and when Bobby Labonte won and Tony Stewart won and as Matt (Kenseth) did last year," Jarrett said. "They were very consistent at what they did. We didn't have parts failures. We did the right things on the race track and made the right calls and won races."

Unfortunately for Johnson, the championship is going to be decided in a different way this year. After the 26th race -- the Brickyard is No. 21 -- the championship battle will be pared to only the drivers in the top 10. Johnson's lead will be cut to just five points over the second-place driver and the top 10 will be separated by just 50 points heading into the final 10 events.

Despite the new system, Jarrett said he expects Johnson and Gordon to still be the guys to beat in the "Chase for the Cup."

"The Hendrick teams are the teams right now that you're gonna have to beat if you're going to contend," Jarrett said. "They seem to have everything in order right now and that's kind of the way we were in '99....They're doing everything. They have the aero package. They have their chassis package figured out, and their engine combination is just awesome."

"I think that everybody out there is chasing and trying to measure up to them right now."

Jarrett is hoping to be one of the drivers with at least a chance to beat Johnson and Gordon.

He heads into Sunday's race 14th in the standings, just 103 points behind 10th place Kevin Harvick.

"I think we could be a very exciting team in those last 10 races because of the different type of racetracks that we go to and the success that we've had at a number of those racetracks," said Jarrett, a two-time Brickyard winner.

"I think we are a team that could be very dangerous in that type of a situation because we haven't really been looked upon to this point as a team to be reckoned with, but I think that we're getting to a point where people now know that they do have to outrun us to have a good day."

SIGNING BONUS: Tony Stewart has joined the late Dale Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon in an exclusive club.

As of this week, General Motors has begun selling a Tony Stewart signature Chevrolet Monte Carlo. The limited edition vehicle is the 10th NASCAR-inspired Monte Carlo that Chevrolet has created over the last five years and the Earnhardts and Gordon had their names on them previously.

The Stewart car will be a black supercharged version with graphics of Stewart's signature utside and inside and No. 20 graphics and orange accents on the bottom trim.

The gauge cluster contains orange-outlined white numerals in the same typeface as the exterior graphics and Stewart's signature.

"The speedometer was one of the few things we argued over when we were discussing what to put in this car," Stewart said, grinning. "I wanted it to start at 100 (mph), but they insisted on the usual."

Chevrolet will make a donation from the sale of the cars to The Tony Stewart Foundation, a private, nonprofit corporation raising and donating funds to help care for chronically ill children, drivers injured in motorsports activities and to help other charitable organizations.

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