A triumphant and emotional Jeff Gordon won his record-setting fifth Crown Royal Presents the John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard 400 Sunday afternoon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Gordon, the former Indiana resident, passed his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne on a Lap 144 restart to set a record for Brickyard 400 victories. In the process, Gordon tied German Formula One legend Michael Schumacher for the most overall race victories at the historic track, which opened in 1909.
It was the 90th career victory for Gordon, his second in 2014, and an enormously popular one with the Indiana fans.
In the closing laps, Gordon could hear the cheers of his fans.
"I was trying so hard with 10 to go not to focus on the crowd," said Gordon. "I could see — every once in a while I’d glance up there and see the reactions and I’d try not to let it get to me. But, man, you can’t help it. It’s such a big race, such an important victory, a crucial moment in the season and the championship. The emotions take over. I’ve got my kids here. … There’s nothing better than coming to Victory Lane, especially with your family here.
Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth finished second through fourth, respectively, with Joey Logano of Team Penske taking fifth. Kahne ended up sixth.
"We’re proud of that," Busch said of the two-three- JGR finish. "But you certainly see a guy out there (Gordon) in front of you beating you and you know you’ve got a lot of speed to gain. Those guys (Hendrick) were so fast."
"We wish it was one-two-three-, but this was the next-best thing," added Hamlin.
It was a big day for the four-time champion right from the opening laps.
Kevin Harvick started from the pole, flanked by Gordon. Harvick led the opening lap, but Gordon blew past him on Lap 2, immediately opening a good-sized lead. By Lap 10, Gordon was out front 2.534 seconds, but that was wiped out by a competition caution on Lap 22.
When the yellow came out, Joey Logano stayed out and took over the lead ahead of Kahne, Johnson and Gordon. Logano had to pit under green on Lap 32, which handed the lead to Kahne. On Lap 38, Kahne made his next stop, which turned the top spot over to rookie Kyle Larson. He, in turn, pitted, with Hamlin the next leader.
Hamlin went all the way to Lap 55 before he had to pit, which made the top five Harvick, Gordon, Kahne, Logano and Kyle Busch.
As the halfway point neared, Gordon passed Harvick on Lap 66, then seconds later, both pitted, as did Earnhardt, Kurt Busch and others. One of those who pitted was Danica Patrick, who broke a left-rear axle, bringing out the day’s second caution.
Kahne snatched the lead on the restart and on Lap 80 of 160 was 1.873 seconds up on Busch, with Harvick, Gordon and Logano in hot pursuit.
Then, on Lap 96, Trevor Bayne brushed the wall, cut a right-rear tire and spun out in Turn 3 as the track went yellow again. This time, Clint Bowyer stayed out – he had pitted just seconds before the caution — and took the lead over Kahne, Busch, Harvick and Gordon.
As he did earlier, Kahne went to the front on the restart, his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet looking strong, as Busch took second.
Gordon restarted fifth, but began picking up spots and was up to third on Lap 108 and second on Lap 113. The four-time champ was about 2.5 seconds back they, but started to run Kahne down and on Lap 125 was just 1.167 seconds in arrears.
Kahne pitted from the lead on Lap 127, Gordon going to the point until he pitted a couple of laps later.
When the pit stops cycled through on Lap 131, Kahne led Gordon by just 0.155 sec. Gordon pressured Kahne hard but couldn’t get past.
Ryan Truex stalled to bring out a caution on Lap 139, setting up some interesting strategy decisions. The top seven cars stayed out, with Harvick the first to pit from eighth place.
The track went green on Lap 144, Gordon taking the lead as Kahne slipped back and Busch moved to second, ahead of his teammate Hamlin. And once out front, that was all she wrote as Gordon scored his historic victory.
VIDEO: Kasey Kahne talks about coming up short at Indy