INDIANAPOLIS – Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were among the contingency award winners on Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Both drivers were strong contenders during the Brickyard 400.
Gordon, who finished second in his No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, received the American Ethanol Green Flag Restart Award. Gordon led four times for 36 laps at the Brickyard, and his average speed on restarts was 170.136 mph, the fastest among the field. The next-best average belonged to Matt Kenseth, who finished fifth and had a restart time of 170.071 mph.
“Just a flawless effort by the team,” said Gordon. “The pit stops were fantastic. I thought Alan [Gustafson] called a great race. When we came off pit road the last time, we were able to get ahead of [Kevin] Harvick, and I thought that was a huge moment for us. I knew that shortly after that, there were some guys that were going to try to stretch it on fuel and all I could do is run as hard as I could to put pressure on them and hope that I got there in time.”
To put it simply, Gordon was just fast during the 400-mile event, and that helped his team and Hendrick engines achieve the Mahle Clevite Engine Builder of the Race award. He posted the fastest speed early in a run, averaging 172.885 mph during the race, and he was the fastest driver late in a run, with an average speed of 170.796 mph. His green-flag speed was a race-best 171.733 mph during the race. He also led several statistical categories during the 400-mile event, notably scoring the best average running position (4.763), the best closing score (13 positions gained in the final 16 laps) and the best driver rating (136 out of 150).
Earnhardt maneuvered his No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet around the 2.5-mile speedway on Sunday and recorded 131 green flag passes, the most of any driver. He picked up the Goodyear Gatorback Fastest Lap honor on Lap 56 when he toured the Brickyard at roughly 175.486 mph.
All three awards are part of the NASCAR Prize Money and Decal Program, also referred to as the contingency program, which provides teams prize money and weekly awards based on performance in several categories.
Gordon, who has posted two victories, seven top fives and nine top 10s in 20 races this season, predicted more of the same from his No. 24 team in the stretch run to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
“You know, this team is for real,” Gordon said. “We showed that today. While we didn't win, I think we definitely showed that we're a championship-caliber team. We've been knocking on the door, getting closer every single weekend, won a couple races. For me, this is going to be a huge boost for this race team, and hopefully a bit of a statement to the competition as well that we're serious about our efforts at a championship this year.”