Top 10 Tuesday: Jeff Gordon at the Brickyard

Spencer Neff

Hope everyone is having a great week.

The biggest headline among the drivers for this weekend will undoubtedly be Jeff Gordon, who will be making his 21st and final start at the Indianapolis motor Speedway on Sunday.

Gordon, who is the one of just two drivers (Bobby Labonte) to start every Brickyard 400, is the only driver win five times in any racing discipline on the oval. In January, he announced that 2015 will be his final season. In tribute to his last season, here is a look at the four-time Cup Champion’s greatest moments at the historic track.

10. 2006: First win as co-owner- For thirteen years, Gordon had been the only driver at Hendrick Motorsports to conquer the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In 2006, that all changed. Jimmie Johnson, driving a car that had Gordon listed as its owner, passed then-teammate Kyle Busch with ten to go for first win at the track.

Johnson would win three more times in the next six years and all but one of those was accompanied by a series championship. Despite breaking a tie with Johnson in 2014, Gordon and his teammate have remained the sport’s greatest drivers of the past few decades.

9. 2003: Gordon and Montoya Swap Rides- After the 2003 season, Gordon and Montoya (at the time in Formula One and three years removed from an Indianapolis 500 victory), swapped rides at Indianapolis. Gordon drove around the infield road course in Montoya’s Williams Formula 1 machine, and Montoya drove in Gordon’s 24 car. Montoya would make the switch to NASCAR in 2006 and in 2015, after switching back to IndyCar, won his second Indianapolis 500(a race where Gordon drove the pace car).

8. 2015: Driving the Pace Car-Despite making his name in stock cars, Gordon’s career started out in open-wheels in Indiana. A few months after announcing his retirement from full-time driving, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway made Gordon the honorary pace car driver for the 99th Indianapolis 500. Gordon led the field to the green flag before going back to Charlotte for the Coke 600 on May 24.

7. 1996: Back-to-Back Poles- After his first pole at the track in 1995, Gordon repeated his success the following year. However, the race would not be so kind to Gordon. A crash early in the race relegated him to 37th in the final running order. Ernie Irvan would win the pole the following years, and the two are still the only drivers to win consecutive pole positions at the track.

6. 1995: First IMS Pole- A year after winning the inaugural Brickyard 400, Gordon returned and took the pole for the race. After leading 35 laps, Gordon finished sixth to Dale Earnhardt. Earnhardt, whose contrasting personality sparked an on-track rivalry in Gordon’s early years, joked he was the first man to win the Brickyard 400.

5. 2004: Gordon Breaks Slump- 2002 and 2003 were two very unfruitful years in Jeff Gordon’s illustrious carer. 2004 marked a bounce-back, including a record-tying fourth winner at the Brickyard. The 24 team dominated, leading 124 laps and holding off 1999 winner Dale Jarrett to take the win, one of five that year for the eventual third-place driver in the championship.

4. 2001: Third Brickyard Win and Fourth Championship: Despite the race’s first running on a Sunday, the dominance of the 24 car remained. Gordon led the final 25 laps and cruised to victory. In November, Gordon won his fourth Cup title in eight years, capping one of the most dominant eras in the sport’s history. Gordon’s victory also marked the fourth year in a row that the Brickyard winner won the Cup title.

3. 1998: Gordon Wins His Second- 1998 was a historic season on many fronts. As NASCAR celebrated its 50th anniversary, Gordon was on his way to a third championship in four years. The 1998 championship run included a run for the record books. Gordon tied the modern-era record with 13 wins that season, including a second win at Indianapolis (first two-time winner). Gordon did so in dominating fashion, leading 97 of 160 laps.

2. 2014-Gordon’s Historic Fifth: Until last year, the only driver to win five times at the Indianapolis motor Speedway was Michael Schumacher. Schumacher won five times when Formula ran on the track’s infield road course in an eight-year span (2000-2007). After battling with Kevin Harvick, Gordon pulled away for his record-breaking fifth win on the oval and first in ten years.

1. 1994- Gordon Takes the Inaugural: After 85 years as an exclusively open-wheel track for the Indianapolis 500. With the first running of the Brickyard 400. After Ernie Irvan cut a tire late in the race, Gordon, who grew up in nearby Pittsboro, took the lead and went on to win his second career race, having won the Coke 600 at Charlotte that May.

See You Soon


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