With a fifth Brickyard 400 victory on the line Sunday, Jeff Gordon looked like the driver he was 20 years ago.
Gordon nailed the final restart of the race – no given because restarts have been Gordon’s Achilles’ heel – to pass Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne with 17 laps remaining at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis.
His power move from the outside lane past Kahne put Gordon out front for good, and he kicked it into cruise control for a NASCAR-record fifth victory at historic Indy. The win came on the 20th anniversary celebration of Gordon’s win in the inaugural Brickyard 400, and on “Jeff Gordon Day” as declared by the Mayor of Indianapolis.
“I told him this morning that this was his day,” said team owner Rick Hendrick.
The win moved Gordon into a tie with Michael Schumacher, whose five Formula One victories at Indy had been the gold standard.
“God, I finally had the restart of my life,” Gordon screamed on his radio. He’d botched one earlier in the race, and the four-time NASCAR champion has struggled with restarts for some years.
So when a late caution gave Gordon one last shot at Kahne, who dominated and led a race-high 70 laps, Gordon and his No. 24 team knew the driver was in control of his own destiny.
Crew chief Alan Gustafson talked fuel mileage with the driver – Gordon had enough to get to the finish, and Kahne was cutting it close – but Gustafson said nothing about the pressure looming over the final restart.
“The restart is going to be the race, really,” Gustafson conceded in a television interview moments before the field went green.
Nobody had any reason to worry as Gordon nailed it when he needed it most.
Kahne plummeted to fifth after the restart, then ran out of gas on the final lap and had to nurse his car home to a sixth-place finish.
Kyle Busch finished second, 2.325 seconds behind Gordon, and was followed by Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth.
Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull won the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest, overtaking Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso near the end of the race. Lewis Hamilton, who started from pit lane after crashing during qualifying, was third, holding off Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, who started from pole position.
It was Ricciardo’s second victory of the season and his career, having won the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal in June.
Rain just before the start made conditions difficult at the beginning of the race. Several drivers, including Sebastien Grosjean and Kamui Kobayashi, crashed bringing out the safety car.
Rosberg leads the championship with 202 points, followed by Hamilton with 191 and Ricciardo with 131.
Courtney Force beat father John Force in the NHRA Sonoma (California) Nationals to break a tie with sister Ashley Force Hood for career Funny Car victories by a female driver with five.
Courtney Force outran her 65-year-old father with a 4.253-second pass at 296.24 mph in her Ford Mustang. She also won this this year at Topeka, Kansas, for the 100th female victory in NHRA history.
Khalid alBalooshi won in Top Fuel, Jason Line in Pro Stock and Eddie Krawiec in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Subscribe to The Spokesman-Review’s sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.