INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2001 - Jeff Gordon added to his legacy at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, becoming the first three-time winner of the Brickyard 400 by beating Sterling Marlin to the finish by .943 of a second on Aug. 5. Gordon, a...
INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2001 - Jeff Gordon added to his legacy at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, becoming the first three-time winner of the Brickyard 400 by beating Sterling Marlin to the finish by .943 of a second on Aug. 5.
Gordon, a former Indiana resident, also won the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994 and again in 1998. He triumphed in the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet today despite starting 27th, the lowest starting spot of any Brickyard 400 winner.
"I think I got a few new gray hairs after today," said Gordon, who turned 30 Saturday. "Wow, what an incredible day. I never dreamed it. It feels unbelievable."
Marlin was second in the No. 40 Coors Light Dodge, while Johnny Benson was third in the No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac. Rusty Wallace finished fourth in the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford after starting 37th, while Kurt Busch was the highest-finishing rookie, in fifth in the No. 97 Sharpie/Rubbermaid Ford.
NASCAR Winston Cup points leader Gordon earned his third Brickyard 400 victory in just the eighth running of the event. Louis Meyer became the first three-time Indianapolis 500 in 1936, the 24th running of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
"I don't race for statistics, I race to win," Gordon said. "If we win, the statistics will come after that. Three Brickyard 400s. Whoa!"
Three-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Gordon averaged 130.790 mph. He earned $428,452 for his fourth victory of the season.
Gordon took the lead for good on Lap 136 of the 160-lap race after a restart. Marlin led on the restart but missed a gear while accelerating across the start-finish line. That miscue allowed Gordon to pass Marlin for the lead in Turn 1.
"He blocked me on the inside, and I wasn't sure if I was going to make it," Gordon said of the decisive pass. "But I said, 'Hey, these are the moves you have to make to win the Brickyard 400."
Said Marlin: "The last restart I missed a gear. He just took off. Our cars have had trouble loading up on restarts. We're working hard. We'll just have to work hard to get it fixed."
The final caution period of the race was triggered by Jerry Nadeau's single-car accident on Lap 138. Nadeau was unhurt. Gordon led on the restart on Lap 143 and never trailed, but Marlin slipped more than one second behind Gordon only once over the final 18 laps, keeping the pressure on. "I got a little loose the last few laps, and Sterling just hung right there," Gordon said. "If I'd have made a mistake, he would have had me."
The groundwork for Gordon's decisive pass was laid on his final pit stop on Lap 132, when he and crew chief Robbie Loomis decided to change only right-side tires while all other cars changed four tires. That allowed Gordon to exit the pits in second place behind Marlin, who had made his final stop on Lap 118 and did not pit with the majority of the leading cars on Lap 132.
"The car was just on rails after that," Gordon said.
Then Gordon made the pass for the win on the ensuing restart on Lap 136.
Gordon languished in the bottom half of the 43-car field for the first 40 laps, struggling with handling problems. But he jumped from 18th on Lap 60 to fourth on Lap 70 after many of the lead cars made pit stops. Gordon never was lower than fifth at any 10-lap interval thereafter, ending up leading twice for 29 laps.
Steve Park appeared to be the driver to beat during various stages of the race, as he led three times for 39 laps in the No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet, more than any other driver. Park opened a lead of 4.991 seconds over teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Lap 104.
Park last led on Lap 131 before making his final pit stop on Lap 132 with Gordon and many other of the leading cars. But Park exited that stop in eighth, ending up seventh.
Pole winner Jimmy Spencer finished 13th in the No. 26 Kmart Ford. He led the first 16 laps of the race but never led thereafter due to handling problems.
The race was slowed by seven caution periods for 28 laps. Andy Houston was eliminated in a multicar accident on Turn 3 but was unhurt.