Menard Breaks Through at Indy

Paul Menard

Menard is the first driver to win his first career race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)

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INDIANAPOLIS - Paul Menard held off a fast-charging Jeff Gordon to score his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win in Sunday's Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Menard was able to conserve just enough fuel in the final stages of the race to stay ahead of four-time Brickyard winner Gordon and take the checkered flag in front of an estimated crowd of 140,000 fans.

“I've been coming here since I was a little kid, and my dad's been trying to win here for 35 years," said Menard referring to his father John who was an Indy Car team owner and sponsor for years.

"There's a lot of emotion. I can't believe we won Indy. This is big."

Menard took the lea from Tony Stewart when he was forced to pit for fuel in the closing laps. Jamie McMurray went around for the top spot with eight laps to go but after saving fuel crew chief Slugger Labbe gave Menard the go ahead to race for the lead.

He did just that and for around McMurray for the top spot with only four laps to go and stayed there until crossing the finish line for the win.

“We knew we were going to be close,” said veteran crew chief Labbe. “So we had to hope we could save fuel while still staying competitive and not lose sigh to of the lead. Paul did a great job with that and when it was to go he did just that. I can’t tell you how proud I am of him and this entire race team.”

Menard’s win puts him in position to challenge for a possible Chase Wild card berth plus he can also win $1 million as part of the Sprint Summer Showdown promotion with a victory at Atlanta’s Labor Day weekend race.

The Richard Childress Racing driver won in his 167th start in the Sprint Cup Series and joins Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith and David Ragan as other first time winners this season.

Gordon erased a 12-second deficit in the last twelve laps to chase down Menard and come close to a fifth win in the mid-summer classic.

“While we didn't win, I think we definitely showed that we're a championship-caliber team,” Gordon said. “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.

“If we can run like we did today here at Indy, you know, I know we're capable of winning just about anyplace we go.”

Smith, who put his name on the Sprint Cup winners list in May at Darlington finished third.

“Part of me's happy, part of me's mad,” said Smith pointing at Menard and Gordon. “Maybe these two could have run into each other and then I could have won this thing. That's what I was hoping for.”

Last year’s Brickyard 400 winner Jamie McMurray was fourth with Matt Kenseth rounding out the top five.

Two-time Brickyard 400 Tony Stewart battled back to finish sixth after a day of issues including an early penalty on pit road.

Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch completed the first ten finishers.

The race was relatively incident-free with the biggest mishap coming when David Ragan, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Landon Cassill tried to race four-wide through the corner. Cassill spun and set off a chain reaction of spinning cars behind him with several drivers including Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch and Brian Vickers sliding through the grass and damaging their front splitters.

There were 22 lead changes among thirteen drivers. The race was slowed five times by caution for 21 laps with an average speed of 140.762 mph.

Carl Edwards maintained the Sprint Cup Series point lead with his 14th place finish. Jimmie Johnson is second 11 behind, Kevin Harvick 12 out and Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth tied for fifth.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now heads to Pocono Raceway for next Sunday’s Good Sam RV Insurance 500.

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