Jeff Gordon is now a five-time winner at the Brickyard.
He hopes it’s the precursor to a fifth Sprint Cup Series championship.
In NASCAR history, winning the first gives you a pretty good shot at capturing the second. Eight times in the 20 previous races, the annual winner at Indianapolis Motor Speedway has gone on to win the series championship.
Gordon is ready to make it nine.
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“Earlier in the season I felt like, you know, the wins were going to come. The team and the cars were so strong,” said Gordon, who earned his second win of the season and 90th of his career.
“I do believe we have the best team. We’re well-rounded. We’re communicating very, very well. We’re bringing great race cars to the race track.”
Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet was certainly up to the task as he powered by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne on a restart with 17 of 160 laps remaining and held off Kyle Busch to win the Crown Royal 400.
While NASCAR’s visit has lost some of its luster with race fans, it hasn’t lost any meaning for Gordon, who won on the 20th anniversary of his first at the Brickyard.
As the final laps wound down, Gordon was greeted by loud cheering from the grandstands and said it was difficult not to get caught up in the moment.
“Every once in a while I’d glance up there and I could see the reaction. I was trying not to let it get to me and not think about it too much. And yet you can’t help it,” he said.
“It’s such a big place and such an important victory and a crucial moment in the season and the championship, and those emotions take over.
“I have my kids here; there’s nothing better, especially at one of the biggest races, to have your family here.”
It was Kahne who appeared to be in the best position to wind up in Victory Lane.
On the final green-flag pit stops during the race, however, his No. 5 team thought he might come up one or two laps short on fuel to make it to the end.
A caution on Lap 140 for Ryan Truex’s slowed car on the track bunched the field back up and on restart, Gordon got around Kahne for the lead entering Turn 1.
“Jeff just beat me,” Kahne said of the final restart “We got into Turn 1, he held me down and he was able to get momentum off of Turn 1, which he did a better job.
“I should have chosen the outside (lane), looking back, but I thought there was more grip on the inside down the frontstretch. Then he controlled the start. I just gave it up at that point.”
When Gordon crossed the finish line, his crew chief, Alan Gustafson, was pumping his fist repeatedly while sitting atop the team’s pit box.
The win was Gordon’s fifth at the track, but Gustafson’s first as a crew chief.
“It’s just unbelievable. I’ve wanted to win this race my whole life; to win here at this unbelievable place and the history of this race track,” he said.
“Jeff has an amazing record here. This is the one. This is the one for me. I am so proud of everybody at the No. 24 shop.”
Denny Hamlin finished third, Matt Kenseth was fourth and Joey Logano was fifth.
Gordon continues to lead the series standings and holds a 24-point advantage over Dale Earnhardt Jr. with six races left before the 16-driver Chase field is set.
“The significance of this win at this point in the season, what it does for you as a team, confidence, positioning yourself to try to go win a championship, I don’t know how you really rank it,” Gordon said.
“In my opinion, for me personally, this is it. This is as good as it gets.”