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Gordon's Win Is Four Times Sweet

He takes Brickyard 400 for the fourth time, joining the likes of Foyt, Unser and Mears at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

August 09, 2004|From Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Jeff Gordon couldn't wait to kiss the bricks Sunday after matching his heroes with a fourth victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The driver, who spent his teen years living within 25 miles of the track, made history with his fourth victory in the Brickyard 400, joining open-wheel stars A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as four-time winners at the storied speedway.

"It feels amazing," Gordon said. "I can't compare four [wins] in a stock car to what my heroes like Rick Mears and A.J. Foyt and those guys did here. To win at this speedway, I can't even describe the feeling right now."

As he crossed the finish line, the jubilant Gordon yelled into his radio: "Let's go kiss those bricks, yeah."

He was referring to the NASCAR tradition started in 1996 -- the third year the race was held here -- by two-time Brickyard winner Dale Jarrett of the victorious driver and team kneeling and kissing the yard of bricks that mark the Indy finish line.

Gordon stopped his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet on the front straightaway, scrambled out of the car and hugged team owner Rick Hendrick, then stood staring at what is left of the original brick track.

"That yard of bricks right there is so special, and it feels so incredible to win this race," Gordon said.

Gordon dominated on the way to his fifth win of the season and 69th of his NASCAR career.

The four-time series champion, who won the first 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 Jarrett in two late restarts.

The last restart 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 ensure 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 did 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 running slowly 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.

"Jeff was just too good on the restarts for us," Jarrett said. "I didn't need that last caution. I thought I was gaining on him a little bit, but he had the best car all day. Elliott was actually better on the restarts than I was, so he probably would have been better served to be second trying to get to Jeff."

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 No. 24 and throwing off the aerodynamics.

Gordon's car threw the debris 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 finished 16th.

Earnhardt ran the whole race for the first time since being burned in a sports car crash July 18 and finished a disappointing 27th after running in the top 10 for most of the second half of the race.

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