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Jeff Gordon wins record fifth Brickyard 400

INDIANAPOLIS — With a tinge of gray hair at his temples, his hat on backward and his two young children by his side, Jeff Gordon celebrated as if he was 23 again.

Gordon won a NASCAR-record fifth Brickyard 400 on Sunday, eight days before his 43rd birthday, on the weekend Indianapolis Motor Speedway celebrated the 20th anniversary of his first Brickyard victory and on "Jeff Gordon Day," as declared by Mayor Greg Ballard.

Gordon's first win came before the celebratory kissing of the Yard of Bricks was en vogue, before he became a household name, while Sprint Cup rookies Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon were in diapers. Now a family man with an aching back, Gordon showed he's still at the top of his game.

"If you can do it here, you can do it anywhere," said Gordon, who has led the Sprint Cup standings for 13 of the past 14 weeks. "It's certainly going to be a huge confidence boost for this team. We recognize the significance of this.

"We saw we were points leaders, we won at Kansas (in May), but I don't know if we believed we were capable of winning this championship this year. We do now."

To prove it to himself, his Hendrick Motorsports team and his ardent fan base, Gordon needed a vintage close to the race.

Hendrick teammate Kasey Kahne led a race-high 70 laps and seemed to be racing against only his gas tank when a caution with 17 laps left put the race back into Gordon's hands. He'd have one shot at passing Kahne, on a dreaded restart, and nobody was sure if Gordon had it in him.

Gordon has struggled with restarts for several years. And Kahne, winless this year, desperately needed the victory to grab a berth in the Chase for the Championship field.

Kahne picked the lower, inside lane for the restart, and Gordon found himself on the outside and exactly where he wanted to be. Gordon tried to set a quick pace as they headed to the flag, and Kahne tried to slow it in the restart zone.

Gordon shifted into fourth gear and surged past Kahne on the outside, and Gordon kicked it into cruise control as he sailed away for the win.

"I think we both knew that was for the win," Gordon said of Kahne. "Out of nowhere, I have the restart of my life at the most important moment that you could ask for in a race, in a season, at a race like this. That was just awesome."

The win moved Gordon — also the Brickyard winner in 1998, 2001 and '04 — into a tie with Michael Schumacher, whose five Formula One wins at Indy had been the gold standard.

"I told (Gordon) this morning that this was his day," team owner Rick Hendrick said.

Kahne plummeted to fifth after the restart, then ran out of gas on the final lap and nursed his car home to a sixth-place finish. He said he erred in picking the inside line for the restart.

"I should have chosen the top (lane), obviously," he said. "I pretty much let Jeff control that last restart. I thought I made the right decision."

Kyle Busch finished second, 2.325 seconds behind Gordon, and was followed by Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth. NASCAR said Hamlin's car failed the post-race inspection and the parts in question would be taken to North Carolina for a look.

Joey Logano was fifth in the highest-finishing car for Team Penske, which brought Juan Pablo Montoya to the race in an effort to get the win. Roger Penske has won a record 15 Indy 500s but is winless in the Brickyard. Montoya was never a factor and finished 23rd.

Pole-sitter Kevin Harvick was eighth.

Gearhead stats

Winner's average speed: 150.297 mph

Time of race: 2 hours, 39 minutes, 41 seconds

Margin of victory: 2.325 seconds

Caution flags: 4 for 16 laps

Lead changes: 15 among 9 drivers

Lap leaders: K.Harvick 1; J.Gordon 2-21; J.Logano 22-31; K.Kahne 32-37; K.Larson 38-42; A.Dillon 43; D.Hamlin 44-54; K.Harvick 55-65; D.Hamlin 66-72; K.Kahne 73-98; C.Bowyer 99-101; K.Kahne 102-126; J.Gordon 127-129; M.Annett 130; K.Kahne 131-143; J.Gordon 144-160.

Sprint Cup points

After 20 of 26 races. Sixteen drivers make the season-ending Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts. Back

Jeff Gordon** 717—

Dale Earnhardt Jr.** 693 24

Brad Keselowski*** 666 51

Matt Kenseth 661 56

Jimmie Johnson*** 628 89

Kyle Busch* 609 108

Ryan Newman 606 111

Carl Edwards** 603 114

Joey Logano** 591 126

Clint Bowyer 577 140

Denny Hamlin* 572 145

Kevin Harvick** 565 152

Each asterisk (*) equals one win.

Points unofficial; NASCAR posts official results today.

Jeff Gordon wins record fifth Brickyard 400 07/27/14 [Last modified: Sunday, July 27, 2014 10:56pm]
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