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Brickyard Win Puts Gordon in Elite Company

INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 10, 2004) – Move over A.J., Big Al and Rick.  There’s a new member of the very select “Four Victories Club” at Indy.

Jeff Gordon, who grew up in Pittsboro, Ind., a few miles west of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, earned his fourth Brickyard 400 NASCAR victory Sunday at the same track where A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears won the Indianapolis 500 four times each.

Gordon and his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet dominated the caution-slowed race, leading 124 of 161 laps and averaging 115.037 mph.  Then he said he could not compare his four stock-car victories to those of the three Hall of Famers of open-wheel racing.

“I’m very proud to be a four-time winner,” he said. “I can’t believe it, really.”

When he led during the race, Gordon said thoughts of becoming a four-time Brickyard champion entered his mind.  He forced them out to keep his focus, but with three laps to go, again those thoughts began to get to him.

“I had to shake those off, too,” he said.

Gordon was humble in victory, but he was saluted by some other racing legends for his incredible skill at the wheel of a race car and his remarkable feat of winning four times at Indy in just 11 starts.

“He’s probably as good as any who have been here,” said Dale Jarrett, a two-time Brickyard winner who chased Gordon across the finish line in second place.

Both Mears and Unser welcomed Gordon into their private club with open arms.

“I think it’s great,” Mears said. “The more, the merrier.

“He’s earned everything he got.  He was hooked up.  They (Hendrick Motorsports) did their homework.  He’s a talented driver.  I spoke to Roger Penske about him when he drove midgets.  He’s very talented.  He can be as good as anyone who drove.”

Unser said:  “The man is a fantastic race car driver.  He has the talent, the ability, and he makes it happen.  They changed people (crew members) a few years ago, and he still comes up and wins.”

As the Hendrick Motorsports team celebrated around the car at the famed Speedway “Yard of Bricks,” team manager Brian Whitesell revealed that the victory came as no surprise to the crew.

“He told us about two weeks ago that this was going to happen,” he said.  “We took the car to Pocono, got it ready and worked on it this weekend.  But he took care of the rest.  He was switched on.  He was ready to win this race, and I’m just thankful we just kept him up there where he could do it.

“He was on.  From start to finish, he was beautiful.”

Team owner Rick Hendrick said it was hard for a fourth victory to sink in, especially since Gordon hit debris late in the race that he thought ruined any chance for victory.

“When you see the trophies, you look back, you know, you kind of grow up never thinking you’d get to go to Indianapolis,” he said.  “Jeff, I’ve seen some phenomenal things he’s done at this track.  He’s just got so much talent.

“I told him on the radio when he said, ‘We’re done,’ I said, ‘I’ve seen you beat people with two tires, I’ve seen you beat people with four tires, you the man.’”

Gordon said Jarrett was a gracious man in rating him so highly.

“I think that means a lot coming from a two-time champion of this race,” he said.

“I’m blown away with four. I didn’t realize how much this really meant to me, to win four.”

For Gordon, it all started when his stepfather, John Bickford, moved the family from California to central Indiana to be closer to the racing capital of the world.  His first racing victory in Indiana came at the Big Z quarter-midget track on the southeast side of Indianapolis.

What Gordon said was the neatest thing about that victory was that the winner was paid money.  He ran in two classes, won both and collected $60.

About that same time, he made his first visit to the Speedway the day after the Indianapolis 500.

“I thought that was just the coolest thing,” he said. “‘Oh, man, that’s where A.J. Foyt was his pitting his car.’”

Now he belongs to Foyt’s Four-Victory Club.

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