Getting the jump
Gordon gets better of Marlin on restarts en route to win
Updated: Sunday August 05, 2001 10:47 PM
By Mike Fish, CNNSI.com
INDIANAPOLIS -- Jeff Gordon got the best of Sterling Marlin on a restart not once, but twice.
That spelled the difference in Gordon stamping himself the first three-time Brickyard 400 champion, even though he griped most of Sunday afternoon about his car.
Gordon beat Marlin for the lead 25 laps to go. Then, after a caution flag set up another restart with 18 laps left, Gordon's No. 24 Monte Carlo had the burst to put him out front en route to the victory.
On the second restart, Gordon managed to get past the lapped car of Todd Bodine, putting distance between himself and Marlin, who turned in the best performance by a Dodge racer this season.
"I hung back and he slowed down," said Gordon of the first restart. "I got up on him. As soon as I tapped him, I laid on the gas ... I knocked the grill in because I was right on him. He blocked me on the inside, and I wasn't sure if I was going to make it, but I said, 'Hey, these are the moves you have to make to win the Brickyard 400.'
"When I went into third gear my car went into a different time zone. It took off."
The move brought many in the crowd of more than 250,000 to their feet. Gordon, who lived in nearby Pittsboro as a teenager, casts Indianapolis Motor Speedway as his home track. And even his pit stops had fans cheering and waving.
It proved a wildly triumphant return for Gordon, who started deeper in the back than anyone ever did -- 27th -- to win the eighth Brickyard 400. He celebrated his 30th birthday Saturday. And two days earlier, he turned over a $100,000 check to a local children's hospital.
But it took the final restart to help make his trip to victory lane.
"Once I got in front of [Marlin] I thought we were going to be pretty good," Gordon said. "My biggest concern was getting by Todd. I got a real good start. It looked like Sterling didn't get a good start. We started pulling away, and then Sterling got by and he started closing in a little bit. I just tried to be smooth."
Marlin had trouble on restarts throughout the race and it cost him.
The No. 40 car had a fuel pump problem, said Marlin, who was left wondering if that wasn't why the Dodge was slow powering up.
"The last restart I missed a gear," said Marlin, sharing in the blame. "He just took off, but our car had trouble loading up on restarts. We had the car fixed to get real good gas mileage, and I don't know if that had something to do with it or not. It just wouldn't go.
"It took our car a couple of laps to get going on restarts."
Marlin still closed the gap slightly, but never enough to pressure Gordon into a miscue.
It said a lot that Gordon was even around for his late-race heroics. Early on, his car could be seen drifting deeper in the pack as Gordon fumed with each passing lap, and it took a late gamble to take just two cars on the final pit stop to put him among the leaders.
Crew chief Robbie Loomis bore the brunt of his early frustration.
"Well, I had to win it because my crew chief was going to wring my neck if I didn't because I was chewing him out so bad," said Gordon, laughing. "We were so far off at the beginning, but I think most of it was just the traffic. "We started to make some adjustments early in the race and I realized that the adjustments really weren't doing much. I told Robbie that I wanted to be careful not to get us too far out of whack on our setup because I thought all we really needed to do was to get up front."
Prophetic as he was, Gordon managed to close the deal when he sniffed another win.