Twenty years after winning the inaugural NASCAR race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon was back in Victory Lane celebrating his fifth Brickyard 400 win Sunday.
The decisive pass came 17 laps from the finish on a restart when Gordon, lined up to the outside of leader Kasey Kahne, powered by the No. 5 car off of Turn 2. From there Gordon never looked back, winning by a comfortable 2.325-second margin over second-place Kyle Busch.
"Let's kiss those bricks, boys," Gordon said to his team after crossing the start/finish line.
The victory was a special one for Gordon, who was raised in nearby Pittsboro, Ind. With the win he broke a NASCAR record shared with Jimmie Johnson for most oval-track victories at Indianapolis. Michael Schumacher also has five victories on the Indy road course formerly used for Formula One.
"I was trying so hard with 10 (laps) to go not to focus on the crowd," Gordon said. "Every once in a while I'd glance up there and I could see the reaction. I was trying not to let it get to me and not think about it too much. And yet you can't help it. It's such a big place and such an important victory and a crucial moment in the season and the championship and those emotions take over.
"I have my kids here; there's nothing better, especially at one of the biggest races, to have your family here."
Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano finished third through fifth. In sixth was Kahne, who ran out of fuel on the white flag lap.
Kahne was in front of Gordon when the final caution waved for the stalled car of Ryan Truex. It was a caution Gordon didn't want as he was closing on Kahne, who was short on fuel. Several times under the ensuing yellow, Gordon tried to prompt Kahne to speed up in an effort to prevent him from saving fuel.
It was that restart, though, that was key to Gordon winning.
"Everybody knows how terrible I am on restarts, so I really didn't want to see a restart," Gordon said. "I finally got the restart of my life. It wouldn't have happened at a better time."
Winless on the year, a victory would have assured Kahne a position in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. As it is, he is four points outside the points cutoff.
"As far as points, (sixth) was as best as we were going to do today," Kahne said. "So it all worked out perfect for points, just with the circumstances we were in. As far as the speed of my race car, we had a shot at winning the Brickyard 400."