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NASCAR: Crown Royal 400 rewind

NASCAR Brickyard 400 Auto Racing
AJ Mast - AP
Brad Keselowski drives during Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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Observations

• Some things have meaning whether or not there are lots of people around to witness them. There will be a lot of talk of attendance woes at the Brickyard – which has been on a downward spiral since 2008 – but that does not detract from the significance of Jeff Gordon’s fifth win at the track or the fact it came on the 20th anniversary of his first. Gordon’s competitive career in NASCAR is drawing to a close, and milestone victories at iconic venues still hold special meaning regardless of how the grandstands looked on TV.

•  Don’t quite understand the timing by Roush Fenway Racing to announce before the race that Carl Edwards would not be returning to the organization next season. The news did not come as a surprise and it seems unusual the team would want to detract from one of NASCAR’s biggest events, particularly if one of RFR’s drivers had ended up winning. Now that could have been a little awkward.

•  Sunday’s race may have been very frustrating for Kasey Kahne, who needs a win to lock himself into the Chase and is running out of opportunities. However, Kahne won the August Pocono race a year ago and that’s the next stop on the Cup series tour.

Notebook

Kahne comes up short: Kasey Kahne led a race-high 70 of 160 laps but couldn’t close the deal on a much-needed victory on Sunday. He was passed by eventual winner Jeff Gordon with 17 laps remaining and ended up sixth.

“Looking back, I probably should have chosen the top groove (on the restart) and that would have put us in a better place. Because of that, I was able to save fuel and make it,” Kahne said.

“If I had beat him (on the restart), I would have had to race the heck out of him. He was faster than I was. So, we probably would have finished a lot worse.”

On his team’s final green-flag pit stop, Kahne’s crew chief, Kenny Francis, thought Kahne might be one or two laps short on fuel to reach the finish. Kahne still lacks a win to qualify for the Chase.

Another weekend of runner-ups: Second is not Kyle Busch’s favorite finishing position.

For the second consecutive Cup-Nationwide race weekend, Busch finished as runner-up in both events. He finished second Sunday to Gordon and second Saturday to Ty Dillon. He also finished second in the Nationwide and Cup races two weeks ago at Loudon, N.H.

“We want to win and I think this is my second second-place finish here,” Busch said. “It’s frustrating in that respect, but it’s rewarding because we’ve been a little behind this year and it seemed like we had some good speed this weekend.”

Ford winning streak ends: Ford Racing’s five-race winning streak in the Cup series came to an abrupt end with Gordon’s win in a Chevrolet. Joey Logano, who finished fifth, was the only Ford driver to finish in the Top 10 in the race.

“That’s about what we ran all day is where we finished. The guys did a good job. We got this thing better from the way we unloaded,” Logano said.

“We weren’t very good to start off this weekend, but every time we went out for practice or went on the race track we got a little bit better – through practice, through qualifying and even the race.”

Hamlin faces possible penalty: Denny Hamlin was stoked with his third-place finish, but during his post-race inspection NASCAR confiscated the rear firewall block-off plates from his No. 11 Toyota for further study. Any penalties would be announced early this week.

Five key moments

1. Jeff Gordon passed Kevin Harvick on Lap 2 and took command of the race early.

2. While running strong early in the race, Danica Patrick broke a rear-end gear on Lap 68 and was forced to garage for repairs.

3. Kasey Kahne led 51 of the first 120 laps (and a race-high 70) and appeared to be in good position for the win as the race wound to its conclusion.

4. On the final round of green-flag pit stops, Kasey Kahne’s team was worried he would not have enough fuel to finish but a caution on Lap 139 appeared to negate that problem.

5. On the restart on Lap 144 following the caution, Gordon quickly got around Kahne and took over the lead with 17 laps remaining.

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