Sunday's 2014 edition of the prestigious Brickyard 400 saw Jeff Gordon drive to Victory Lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
NASCAR on ESPN noted how long the span has been for Gordon's numerous wins in this race:
Gordon won the Brickyard 400 in 1994, '98, '01 and '04 -- looking to add '14 to the list. Would be first to win five races on @IMS oval.— NASCAR on ESPN (@ESPNNASCAR) July 27, 2014
As a consequence of his latest Brickyard 400 win, Gordon moved from seventh to third in the Chase standings. His No. 24 car continues to perform better than anyone's on a consistent basis.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. entered this race just 12 points behind Gordon in the driver standings, but he faced an uphill battle after he qualified 23rd and settled for ninth place. Ryan Newman won the Brickyard 400 last year, yet he couldn't capitalize on his strong fourth starting position to mount a legitimate defense, placing 11th.
There was good news to be had for Gordon, legendary champion Jimmie Johnson and young star Joey Logano too:
The current Chase field: Earnhardt Jr. Edwards Gordon Johnson Keselowksi Logano Who will join them next?— NASCAR (@NASCAR) July 27, 2014
Here is a look at the updated standings following another excellent NASCAR showcase, followed by a more detailed analysis on particular drivers and a look ahead at next week's action.
|2||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||693|
|Pos.||Driver||Points||Wins||Top 5||Top 10|
|4||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||693||2||9||14|
Analyzing Notable Finishers
A dream season continues as Gordon seeks his first NASCAR championship since 2001. This was his 14th top-10 result in 20 starts but only his second win of the year.
Many strong races weren't producing checkered flags as of late. Now, Gordon is in an ideal position for the Chase coming off his fifth Brickyard 400 victory.
With 17 laps to go, Gordon got out to a sensational restart, passing teammate Kasey Kahne to take the lead immediately. Crew Chief Alan Gustafson communicated to the driver how critical the final stretch would be; Gordon understood:
Executing to the extend that Gordon did is a different matter entirely. The veteran showed off his superior experience, maintaining patience and inching toward the front throughout, managing to make up ground on restarts after falling back from his second-place starting spot.
Matt Willis of ESPN highlighted one notable aspect about Hendrick Motorsports' dominance in the NASCAR realm:
NASCAR reporter Ryan O'Hara offered further context for Gordon's achievement:
A win for Jeff Gordon would tie him for most Indianapolis wins with Michael Schumacher who won five out of six F1 Grand Prix #NASCAR— Ryan O'Hara (@OHaraSports) July 27, 2014
Gordon has been embraced by the Indianapolis fans, and he has a lot of pride left despite an amazingly successful career to date. There are no signs of him slowing down.
The same goes for Hendrick Motorsports, whose top 2014 performer in Gordon overcame a gaggle of Joe Gibbs Racing stars to triumph.
There was no denying Gordon on this day. The sentimental favorite got a jump on the final restart and couldn't be had thereafter.
Busch acknowledged as much after the race, per Fox 59's Larry Hawley:
Kyle Busch and Joey Logano both praise Jeff Gordon, saying he had the best car. #FOX59atBrickyard— Larry Hawley (@Fox59Larry) July 27, 2014
Curt Cavin of The Indianapolis Star weighed in on just how strong Gordon and Busch were running:
If I had been third behind 5 and 24, I'd have pitted. Wasn't going to catch those two with the tires I had. #Brickyard400— Curt Cavin (@curtcavin) July 27, 2014
That may not be much consolation for Busch, though, because it was a familiar, first-to-lose spot at the finish line.
Credit Busch for starting outside the top 10 and still managing to nab his third runner-up finish in four races. Some circumstances outside of his control made his battle with Gordon all the more difficult, per Fox Sports: NASCAR:
It must be difficult for Busch to keep his head up amid so many close calls, but he still has a great chance to get into the Chase field of 16, with plenty more opportunities to redeem a strong overall car.
Who will win the Chase for the Sprint Cup?
Nevertheless, it was necessary for Kenseth to get a strong result. Despite being fourth in the driver standings ahead of Sunday's race, he was slotted 12th in the Chase. That he didn't lead one lap makes it somewhat more impressive that Kenseth managed to finish fourth.
In an eerie parallel to Busch, this was Kenseth's third such result in his four most recent starts. It was a magnificent day for Joe Gibbs Racing too, as the organization saw its three drivers finish second, third and fourth.
Final at Indy: 24 wins. Busch 2nd, Hamlin 3rd, Kenseth 4th. Great run by JGR drivers, crews, & everyone at shop! #NASCAR— Boris for JGR (@JoeGibbsRacing) July 27, 2014
It will be interesting to see how both Busch and Kenseth trend in the coming races, beginning with the GoBowling.com next week. If history is any indication, there could be some perilous times ahead for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Hendrick Motorsports has won the past two GoBowling.com 400s—Gordon in 2012 and Kahne in 2013. Kahne led the most laps at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, so he enters in fine form and will seek to build on the momentum he's just generated.
Plus, Johnson has won the impending race at Pocono in the past as well, giving Hendrick Motorsports three legitimate contenders.
All of those factors should allow Gordon to continue keeping a comfortable lead in the points, continuing to set up an epic story if he's able to win the Chase.
|Sunday, August 3||1 p.m. ET||GoBowling.com 400||ESPN|
|Sunday, August 10||1 p.m. ET||Cheez-It 355 at The Glen||ESPN|
|Sunday, August 17||1 p.m. ET||Pure Michigan 400||ESPN|
|Saturday, August 23||7:30 p.m. ET||Irwin Tools Night Race||ESPN|
|Sunday, August 31||7:30 p.m. ET||NASCAR Sprint Cup Series August Atlanta Race||ESPN|
|Saturday, September 6||7:30 p.m. ET||Federated Auto Parts 400||ABC|
|Sunday, September 14||2 p.m. ET||NASCAR Sprint Cup Series September Chicagoland Race||ESPN|
|Sunday, September 21||2 p.m. ET||Sylvania 300||ESPN|
|Sunday, September 28||2 p.m. ET||AAA 400||ESPN|
|Sunday, October 5||2 p.m. ET||Hollywood Casino 400||ESPN|
|Saturday, October 11||7:30 p.m. ET||Bank of America 500||ABC|
|Sunday, October 19||2 p.m. ET||Geico 500||ESPN|
|Sunday, October 26||1:30 p.m. ET||Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500||ESPN|
|Sunday, November 2||3 p.m. ET||AAA Texas 500||ESPN|
|Sunday, November 9||3 p.m. ET||Quicken Loans Race For Heroes 500||ESPN|
|Sunday, November 16||3 p.m. ET||Ford EcoBoost 400||ESPN|
Note: Statistics are courtesy of NASCAR.com unless otherwise indicated.