Gordon wins Brickyard 400, extends points lead
Updated: Monday August 06, 2001 8:41 AM
By Stephen Thomas, CNNSI.com
INDIANAPOLIS -- This just in: Jeff Gordon is good.
How does he do that?
But if 55 career wins and three Winston Cup titles still weren't sufficient to convince at least some cynics of that fact, then Gordon's 56th career win darn well should.
On a blistering day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Gordon overcame both a dismal starting position and a balky car and still managed to win his third Brickyard 400 on Sunday. In addition to becoming the first three-time winner of the Brickyard -- breaking his tie with Dale Jarrett -- Gordon, who came from a 27th-place start, also supplants Jarrett as the lowest-qualifying race winner (Jarrett came from 24th to win in 1996).
Sterling Marlin, who led 25 laps, finished second and Johnny Benson finished third.
How seemingly miraculous was Gordon's win?
"After about 10 laps of that race we were looking for a razor blade 'cause it didn't look too good," crew chief Robbie Loomis said. "But Jeff is better than a computer when it comes to telling you what he needs in a car and we just kept working on it."
While Gordon wasn't suicidal, neither was he confident of winning.
"I started the race with a lot of doubts, that's for sure," he said. "I couldn't get the car to do anything I wanted it to do and I thought we were in serious trouble. I didn't think we were a threat for a top-10. But if we could win today, then I think that's a pretty good indication that we can do pretty much anything."
Gordon's dramatic charge from the back was the byproduct of luck as much as it was skill. For more than 60 laps, he was running anywhere between 18th and 27th. But when green-flag pit stops shuffled the field between laps 60 and 70, Gordon, who had pitted on an earlier caution, suddenly found himself fourth.
"That caution fell just after we came in the pits," Gordon said, "and that's when the race changed for us and put us in a position to make that two-tire stop. Those are the kinds of things that have got to happen if you're going to come from 27th to win.
"It wasn't that we made these huge adjustments to the car, it was just that track position gave me a chance to get some clean air."
As it was, though Gordon never dropped lower than fifth in any of the race's remaining 110 laps. He didn't take the lead until lap 136, when the race restarted after the sixth caution flag.
Gordon, who had taken only two tires on his final pit stop, surged underneath Marlin, who hadn't pitted, in turn 1 on the restart. But when Jerry Nadeau hit the wall on lap 139, bringing out the final caution, Marlin had one last chance to give him and Dodge their first win of the year.
"I didn't know how it was going to work out," Marlin said of that final restart on lap 142. "All day, it took us a couple laps to get going on restarts. Unfortunately, a car was trying to get a lap back [Todd Bodine] and Gordon got between that car and me, and that was tough. I thought we had the car to beat."
Though Gordon flirted with the outside wall in the race's remaining 18 laps -- "I was hoping I could get close enough to him to maybe make him get into it," Marlin said -- he was never threatened. He went on to win by almost one second.
Gordon's belated birthday gift -- he turned 30 on Saturday -- was his fourth win of the year and increases his lead in the points race to 160. But Dale Jarrett, who finished 12th, overtook his teammate Ricky Rudd, who blew an engine and finished a season-worst 39th, for second. Rudd is now 179 points out of first.