By: Allan Brewer, NASCAR Correspondent
- Menard takes popular victory
- 1st win for Menard family at Indianapolis
- Jeff Gordon, David Ragan finished 2nd & 3rd
Menard outlasts Gordon for Brickyard win
Paul Menard outraced hard-charging four-time Brickyard 400 winner Jeff Gordon to claim his first NASCAR Sprint Cup series victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday. Regan Smith was third.
"This one is for my dad.
"I can't believe we won Indy," said Menard, whose father John Menard has been a long-time car owner and sponsor at Indianapolis. "This one is for my dad."
It was Paul Menard's first win in 167 career starts in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series dating to 2003.
Menard alternately ran a race-long fuel-conserving and then a pedal-to-the-metal strategy over the last four laps of the hotly contested 160-lap event at Indianapolis, with Gordon in position to strike for the lead if the race had run another half of a lap longer.
"Congrats to Paul," said Gordon. "I knew short of him running out if fuel we weren't going to catch him in time."
"There's nobody in this business who knows how much it means to win here like Paul does," Gordon continued. "He grew up here, watching his dad try to win at this track."
"It's extremely gratifying," said an emotional father John Menard at the post-race press conference, as he reminisced at open-wheel chances that ran short of fuel in late stages of the Indianapolis 500 and near-misses that kept him out of Victory Circle at Indy over the years.
The win was a popular one in the garage area, as Smith acknowledged: "I have no better friend in this sport than Paul. If I couldn't win, I'm glad it was him."
Jamie McMurray finished fourth. Matt Kenseth was fifth.
Drivers battled on the track for position and against the elements as heat of over 90 degrees kept the fans and the racers on par-boil for the afternoon in Speedway, Indiana.
Despite the close competition and the steamy weather there were amazingly few incidents that slowed the progress to the checkered flag and no significant collisions over the course of the day.
Yellow flew on Lap 34 for debris on the racetrack and again in Lap 51 when David Reutimann rubbed the SAFER barrier in Turn 3.
At the halfway mark the running order stood Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kenseth, Menard, Denny Hamlin, Dave Blaney, Carl Edwards, Bobby Labonte, Dale Earnhardt and Kasey Kahne.
A caution on Lap 94 for debris on the track was followed by another on Lap 114 when Kyle Busch nudged the wall between Turns 2 and 3.
The subsequent restart shuffled the order with 40 laps remaining as a four-car abreast cavalry charge into Turn 3 by pole-sitter David Ragan, Johnson, Kenseth and Landon Cassill brought spinning cars into the grass-lane causing an immediate yellow light over the field.
With the resumption of racing on Lap 126 Brad Keselowski led, followed by Jeff Burton, JP Montoya, Clint Bowyer and Johnson. Kenseth, Hamlin, Ragan, Gordon and Joey Logano rounded out the first ten.
A series of green flag stops put Tony Stewart in front with 20 laps remaining. He was followed by Menard, Mark Martin, McMurray and Greg Biffle.
Fuel conservation began to come to the fore as Stewart pitted and Menard inherited the lead ahead of Martin, McMurray and Biffle.
The ambient temperature stood 91 degrees Fahrenheit as the green flag wove at approximately 1:20 PM EDT, with a track temperature of 114 degrees Fahrenheit as recorded by pole-sitter Ragan's pit crew.