News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 20, 2010

Jeff Gordon focused on racing to a fifth Brickyard victory

Tom Reck
Tribune-Star Correspondent

TERRE HAUTE — Jeff Gordon already has won the Brickyard 400 four times and says winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday would be something special.

The driver who grew up in Indiana ranks second in the Cup points list, 103 behind Kevin Harvick, but has gone 48 races since winning one, dating back to April 2009.

“No question, winning would be huge for us. We’ve been close and knocking on the door. The timing may be just right. I know we are capable of winning … we need those bonus points [for winning] to prove that we can win the championship,” he said on a teleconference Tuesday.

Gordon has won four Cup titles, the last being in 2001.

He won the first Brickyard 400 in 1994 and also has won in 1998, 2001 and 2004. He’s been on the pole three times but never in any of his wins. He started 27th when he won in 2001.

Gordon says winning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is special, not just because it is near where he went to high school [Tri-West] and began racing on dirt tracks such as the Terre Haute Action Track and Bloomington Speedway.

“When I was still in California, Al Unser, Johnny Rutherford, A.J. Foyt and Rick Mears were heroes and what I aspired to be,” he said.

In the current Cup stats, Gordon ranks first in average running position in the Cup statistics, having 11 top-five finishes and 11 in the top 10. He is second in driver rating behind Hendricks teammate Jimmie Johnson and is third in laps and miles led in races.

He says he has been most frustrated about not winning at Phoenix and also at Las Vegas and Texas. “We let them slip away from us,” he said.

Indianapolis is one place there have been no so-called fluke winners. He talked about Indianapolis and what it takes to win there.

“Indianapolis is a unique track. Track position and great horsepower have always been crucial and the cars are so equal now. Indianapolis is unlike any other track. It’s a one-groove track and you can’t make mistakes,” he said.

He said he thought Juan Pablo Montoya had the best car last year and could have won had it not been for a mistake that resulted in a penalty.

“Fans complain about single-file racing but that doesn’t always make for a great race. It can be pit strategy, not making mistakes,” said Gordon, who will turn 39 next month.

Bobby Labonte won the Brickyard 400 in 2000 but is not with one of the top teams this year.

“Leaving Gibbs Racing for whatever reason impacted his career. It is tough for me to see him without a quality ride because of what he has done and working so hard to do it,” said Gordon.

He said the double-file restarts instituted by NASCAR have “been crazy” at times.

“Sometimes you have to do something because you have no choice,” he said, going on to state that there’s a difference between mistakes, stupidity and just crashing someone.