Gordon Could Join Elite Company at Indy
- Jul 30, 2002
- 24 Team
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (July 30, 2002)—Foyt, Mears, Unser.
With a victory in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon will join the ranks of Al Unser, Rick Mears and A.J. Foyt as the only drivers to have four victories at the famed 2.5-mile speedway.
While his victories came in stock cars, not open-wheel cars like Unser, Mears and Foyt, Gordon still finds it hard to believe.
“Quite honestly, that really amazes me,” said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. “I grew up in nearby Pittsboro (Ind.) and idolized Rick Mears as a kid and I’ll never forget the day I met him and got an autograph. To be mentioned in the same sentence with Unser, Mears and Foyt is unbelievable to me.”
Gordon won the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994 and visited victory lane again in 1998 and 2001. He also has three pole positions and five top-five finishes in eight career races at Indianapolis.
“When I look back, I think winning the inaugural Brickyard 400 is my most cherished victory,” said Gordon. “I never thought that I would have the chance to race here and it was only my second victory in Winston Cup. All those things added up really made that victory special to me.”
Also on Gordon’s mind is the fact that the winner of the Brickyard 400 has gone on to win the NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship the last four years.
“That may be just a coincidence, but I think this summer stretch is crucial to a team’s championship hopes,” said Gordon. “It’s not just Indianapolis, you have to perform well at Michigan, Pocono and Darlington—that’s what makes or breaks your season.”
After 20 of 36 events, Gordon is fourth in the Winston Cup driver standings, 188 points behind leader Sterling Marlin and just 44 behind third place Jimmie Johnson.
Gordon seemed to come out of nowhere to win the 2001 Brickyard 400. After starting 27th, the worst starting position ever for a Brickyard 400 winner, he worked his way up through the field with a strong car and good pit stops. However, he didn’t contend for the lead until late in the race when a caution flew while Gordon was running fifth and everyone but Marlin came in to pit. Gordon took just two tires and was in second position behind Marlin on the restart on lap 136. He passed him going into turn one and cruised to his third Brickyard 400 victory.
“I had to win because my crew chief was going to wring my neck if I didn’t because I was chewing him out so bad at the beginning of the race,” said Gordon. “We were so far off at the beginning, but I think most of it was just traffic. I think the car was pretty good, then we made some major adjustments.
“You know, when things go your way, they go your way.”