Gordon’s Drive for Five at Indy

Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon is searching for his third win of the season. (Photo: Getty Images)

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INDIANAPOLIS - Jeff Gordon hopes to become a five-time winner of the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday.

Four of Gordon’s 84 career Sprint Cup Series victories have come at the historic track which Gordon, who spent much of his youth in nearby Pittsboro, Indiana, still considers a dream come true.

“I think NASCAR had a test session here in 1992 or 1993, and I was bummed that I didn’t get the chance to participate in it,” said Gordon, who scored his last Brickyard win back in 2004. “When I finally got the chance to drive down the front straightaway, it was like ‘whoa.’ And then to win the inaugural race? Unbelievable.

“It’s still like that for me—just an incredible feeling driving here. But it also always takes me a few laps to get up to speed each year. The first time you drive off into (Turn) 1, it’s like ‘whoa, I can’t make this corner.’ Then you realize you let off (the accelerator) way too early.”

Gordon broke a two-year Sprint Cup Series winless drought this season with a pair of wins in Phoenix and Pocono. The Hendrick Motorsports driver is enjoying a resurgence of sorts working with crew chief Alan Gustafson and that success has helped transform him into a favorite in Sunday’s 18th edition of the Brickyard 400.

However, should Gordon’s third win of the season make him a five-time Indy winner, he says some perspective should be applied to the accomplishment.

“I don’t think what I’ve done should ever be compared to what A.J. Foyt or Al Unser or Rick Mears did here with their four Indianapolis 500 victories,” said Gordon.

“And I don’t think Michael Schumacher’s five wins (in Formula 1) should be compared either. They are all completely different disciplines—sometimes on a completely different track.”

Even though Gordon has been one of the most successful drivers in NASCAR history at Indianapolis, he’s hard pressed to explain just what has made him so good at the Brickyard.

“You know, it's hard for me to answer that question in the context that you put it because I don't necessarily feel that way,” he said. “As good as a driver can be around this track, have as good a feel as I've had here in the past, we've also struggled here recently. Is it me or is it the car?

“I think it's a combination. I do like this track. I like how it challenges you. You have four corners that look the same, but they're all uniquely different in the way the transitions are, the bumps. There's a few little dips, the way the wind blows, the radius, everything.”

One thing Gordon is certain about is the prestige of winning at one of the world’s most famous tracks. Although it took him a while to compete at Indianapolis as his career began in open wheel racing around the short tracks of the region, he knew what it would mean once the opportunity to race at the Brickyard did finally come.

“It might be different for everybody,” Gordon explained. “But for me, remembering back as a kid watching A.J. Foyt and Johnny Rutherford, Rick Mears, my heroes, racing at this track, always dreaming of racing at Indy, the history that this track has because of the Indianapolis 500, and then I remember what a big deal it was to have stock cars here. I was bummed out I wasn't here for the first test.

“I really wanted to be here for that. But being here for the first race, seeing the crowd, knowing that no other race had been run here, other than the Indy 500, to me I still have those memories of how big it is that we are here and how special it is.”

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