Indianapolis recap: Johnson repeats as winner, Martin takes second
INDIANAPOLIS (July 26, 2009)—From start to finish, Sunday’s Brickyard 400 was an historic event for Hendrick Motorsports.
It began with pole sitter Mark Martin, who became the oldest driver to secure the top spot at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and ended with race winner Jimmie Johnson, the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver to repeat at the historic racetrack.
Johnson started 16th in his No. 48 Lowe’s/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet and was chasing Martin, the race leader, when the final caution flag was issued on Lap 128. Johnson lined up on the outside of the front row and next to Martin for the double-file restart. When the green flag dropped, Johnson took the lead and spent the final 24 laps holding off a hard-charging Martin on his way to Victory Lane.
“For an old guy, he had me pretty worried,” joked Johnson, who now has won three times at the Brickyard and improves to second in the driver standings. “It’s great to work with him, work with Alan (Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 5), and work with all my teammates at Hendrick Motorsports. Those last 15 to 20 laps, we had to drive it so hard to stay ahead of the (No.) 5. I was better in (Turns) 3 and 4 than he was, and he had me beat in (Turns) 1 and 2. It was kind of a give-and-take thing that was going on. Luckily, we held him off.”
Martin lined up his No. 5 CARQUEST/Kellogg’s Chevrolet in the top spot and led the first four laps of Sunday’s race. The NASCAR veteran spent most of the 160-lap event running first or second and crossed the finish line 0.40 seconds behind Johnson. This marks the fifth time this season Hendrick Motorsports’ drivers have claimed the top two spots in a Cup event.
“I knew I had to make it happen off of (Turn) 2, but wadding it up wasn’t a great idea either,” said Martin, who improves to ninth in the standings. “Both of us are driving for all we are worth, and I couldn’t get him.”
Jeff Gordon, a four-time Brickyard 400 champion, lined up his No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet in 22nd and joined his Hendrick Motorsports teammates in the top 10 by Lap 70. Gordon finished the event in ninth.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. scored his best starting spot—third—of the season during Saturday’s qualifying session and kept his No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet in the top 10 until Lap 130 when he experienced an engine issue. Earnhardt left with a disappointing 36th-place finish.
“The AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet was competitive today, and we were making some gains and kind of adjusting back and forth trying to get the thing right,” Earnhardt said. “But we felt like we were in good shape to get a good finish. I just hate it for my guys. They’ve been working really hard. This is a brand new car, and we’re going to take it to Pocono and keep working at it.”