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Racing at Indy never gets old for Jeff Gordon

Gordon, who turns 40 next week, has won NASCAR's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway four times.

July 28, 2011|By Jim Peltz
  • Jeff Gordon will be looking to win the Brickyard 400 for an unprecedented fifth time on Sunday.
Jeff Gordon will be looking to win the Brickyard 400 for an unprecedented… (Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images )

Reporting from Indianapolis — It's enough to make NASCAR fans do a double-take, but driver Jeff Gordon — the one-time "Wonderboy" of stock-car racing — turns 40 next week.

Before he celebrates his birthday Aug. 4, however, Gordon will try to boost his record of four wins at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with another victory Sunday in the Brickyard 400.

As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to the famed 21/2 -mile rectangular track, Gordon — a two-time winner this season — is seventh in the championship standings with seven races left before NASCAR's Chase for the Cup playoff.

The top 10 drivers in points after 26 races, along with two wild-card drivers who are between 11th and 20th in points and have the most wins, will compete for the title in the 10-race Chase starting Sept. 18 at Chicagoland Speedway.

A win Sunday also would give Gordon 85 career Cup victories and sole possession of third place on the list of all-time NASCAR race winners, behind Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105).

Gordon, a four-time Cup champion, is tied for third (with 84) with Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison.

This will be the 18th year that NASCAR has raced at Indy, and it is an event that for many Cup drivers is the most prestigious of the season behind the Daytona 500.

That's mainly because of the history and legends associated with the century-old speedway, site of the Indianapolis 500 open-wheel race each Memorial Day weekend.

"It's still like that for me, just an incredible feeling driving here," Gordon said.

Gordon, who spent part of his teenage years in nearby Pittsboro, Ind., after his family moved from his native Vallejo, Calif., won the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994. He won the race again in 1998, 2001 and 2004.

But the race has lost some of its luster in recent years, in large part because of a tire debacle in 2008 that forced the cars to pit every 10 to 15 laps, infuriating many spectators. Although the Brickyard 400's early crowds topped 200,000 each year, NASCAR estimated last year's attendance at 140,000.

Jimmie Johnson, the reigning five-time series champion and Gordon's teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, has won three of the last five races at Indy, including the marred 2008 event.

Johnson is second in this year's Cup standings, seven points behind leader Carl Edwards, who has not won the Brickyard 400 in six attempts.

james.peltz@latimes.com

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