SPEEDWAY, Ind. (Aug. 8, 2004) – Jeff Gordon earned an unprecedented fourth Brickyard 400 victory Sunday with a dominating performance in a wild, tumultuous race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Gordon, who was born in Vallejo, Calif., but spent his youth in nearby Pittsboro, became only the fourth driver to win a major event at the historic venue four times.
His childhood racing hero, Rick Mears, won the Indianapolis 500 four times along with racing legends A.J. Foyt and Al Unser.
“I’m blown away with four,” Gordon said. “I can’t believe it, really. You know, the thought went through my mind a couple times during the race today when we were really strong; we were out there running up front. I kept having to shake it off, going, ‘Stop thinking about that.’
“Even there toward the end at the caution there at the end, I knew that we had three laps to go, basically, I felt how special it was. It was starting to really get to me. I didn’t realize how much this really meant to me, to win four. Then I had to shake that off because I had to get it done first.”
Gordon’s four victories in the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet in 11 Brickyard starts marks the shortest span in which a driver has scored four major victories at the legendary 2.5-mile speedway. Mears won the “500” for the fourth time in his 14th start, Foyt won No. 4 in his 20th start, and Unser won for the fourth time in his 22nd start.
“You know, I don’t compare myself to Rick Mears and A.J. Foyt, Al Unser,” Gordon said. “To me, the Indy 500 is always something unique and totally different than the Brickyard 400. I’m very proud to be a four-time winner, but I just will never allow those comparisons to really put us among equals with those Indy 500 winners.”
Gordon’s previous Brickyard 400 victories came in the inaugural event in 1994, 1998 and 2001.
The day was historic for NASCAR because the 2004 Brickyard 400 was the first NEXTEL Cup Series race to finish under the new “green-white-checkered” rule. The rule was implemented for the first time after a caution came out on Lap 155. The field took the green flag on Lap 159, white flag on Lap 160 and checkered flag on Lap 161.
Gordon finished ahead of Dale Jarrett and Elliott Sadler, who finished second and third, respectively. The race ended under checkered and caution flags due to an incident on the back straightaway on the final lap.
Gordon and Sadler combined to lead all but five laps of the race, as Gordon led an event-record 124 laps, and Sadler 32. The previous record was 117 laps, set in 1999.
The race saw 13 cautions for 47 laps, both event records, which slowed the race pace to an average speed of 115.037 mph, the slowest average speed in event history.
Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammates Brian Vickers, Jimmie Johnson and Terry Labonte finished 29th, 36th and 38th, respectively.
Johnson remains the NEXTEL Cup points leader after 21 of 36 events. Gordon is second, just 97 markers back, with Labonte 20th and Vickers 22nd.
The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series will next visit the 2.45-mile road course of Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International on Sunday, Aug. 15. Broadcast live by TNT (1:30 p.m. ET) and MRN Radio (1 p.m. ET), the 90-lapper will mark the second of two road races this season.