Jeff Gordon became the first ever five-time NASCAR winner at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sunday after snatching the lead from teammate Kasey Kahne on a restart with only 17 laps to go during the Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at The Brickyard. The win was Gordon’s second of the season and solidified him as the only racing driver in Indy’s 103-year history to have five career wins at the track.
Gordon and his No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet SS finished just 2.325 seconds ahead of second-place Kyle Busch. Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano rounded out the top five, making Gordon’s SS the only Chevy to finish near the very front of the pack, the next closest being Kyle Larson’s No. 42 Target Chevrolet SS in seventh. The win also marked the 12th straight Cup victory for Chevrolet at The Brickyard.
Kahne had led a race-high 70 laps after stealing the spot from Hamlin on lap 73. He looked well poised to win the race, successfully holding off second place Busch and third place Gordon. Gordon passed Hamlin for second on lap 113, and hischarge for first begun. He quickly shaved 2.6 seconds off of Kahne’s lead over him, just in time for Ryan Truex’s car to stall out on the track, putting out the third caution flag of the race.
“The restart is going to be the race, really,” Gordon’s crew chief, Alan Gustafson predicted during a pre-race interview.
Gustafson’s prediction was right. Despite leading the majority of the race, Kahne lost momentum on the restart and gave Gordon a perfect opportunity to pass on the outside through turns 1 and 2. Kahne fell to fifth position, eventually finishing sixth after running out of fuel on the final lap. Gordon went on to lead the remaining laps in the race as he tried to mentally block out the cheering crowd – and his own emotions.
“I cannot believe this just happened. I was trying so hard with 10 to go not (to) focus on the crowd, trying not to let it get to me. It’s such a big race, such an important victory. You can’t help it, your emotions take over,” Gordon said post-race.
The last time Gordon won at the Brickyard was in 2004, which was preceded by wins in 2001, 1998 and 1994. The victory also marked Gordon’s 90th ever NASCAR career win, behind David Pearson and Richard Petty.