It took overtime, but Jeff Gordon joined the heroes of his youth yesterday with a fourth win in the Brickyard 400.
The driver who spent his teen years living within 25 miles of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway made history, joining open-wheel stars A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as four-time winners at the historic track.
"To win at this speedway, I can't even describe the feeling right now," Gordon said after stopping his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet at the bricks that mark the Indy finish line. "That yard of bricks right there is so special and it feels so incredible to win this race."
Gordon made it look easy most of the day, dominating on the way to his fifth win of the season and the 69th of his NASCAR career.
The four-time series champion, who won the inaugural NASCAR event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1994 and added victories in 1998 and 2001, led 124 of the 161 laps on the 21/2-mile track, but still had to fend off two-time Brickyard winner Dale Jarrett in a pair of late restarts.
The last of those, coming on Lap 160 -- which was supposed to be the final lap -- was the first green-white-checkered overtime since NASCAR added the rule last month in an effort to ensure that races finished with the cars racing, instead of driving slowly behind the pace car.
A crash involving Ryan Newman and rookie Brian Vickers on Lap 155 -- the record 13th caution of the day -- set up the final restart after it took until the end of Lap 159 to get the track cleared and ready for racing.
As he had done on virtually every restart in the race, Gordon got a great jump and pulled away from Jarrett's Ford, moving out to a half-second lead on the first lap. He was about one second and six car-lengths ahead when the last yellow flag came out as the leaders were about halfway through the final lap.
Because NASCAR said there would be only one green-white-checkered opportunity, that's the way the race finished, although the pace car didn't have time to get onto the track.
A rash of flat tires caused most of the crashes and caution flags throughout the day, and the final yellow came out because Ricky Rudd, Mark Martin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were all running slowly and losing positions because of flats on the last two laps.
Elliott Sadler, Jarrett's Robert Yates Racing teammate, finished third, followed by rookie Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray and 2003 Brickyard winner Kevin Harvick.
Gordon did get a scare with 18 laps left when he hit a large piece of debris, tearing a hole in the air dam on the right front of his No. 24 car and throwing off the aerodynamics.
* CHAMP CAR: Alex Tagliani won his first race when he moved up from 13th to take the checkered flag at the Grand Prix of Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
Tagliani, who crashed in practice Friday and didn't get to race in the first round of qualifying, passed Rodolfo Lavin four laps from the finish to secure his first career victory in 85 races.
"I've been unfortunate in my career, so if I was lucky today, I'll take it," Tagliani said.
"This race is for all the guys right here," he added, pointing to his crew. "I made them work very hard."