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WKEF-TV ABC 22 News :: Sports - Local Sports - It's 'Jeff Gordon Day' at Indy for record 5th time

It's 'Jeff Gordon Day' at Indy for record 5th time

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- With a tinge of gray hair at his temples, his hat on backward and his two young children by his side, Jeff Gordon celebrated as if he was 23 years old again.

Gordon won a NASCAR-record fifth Brickyard 400 on Sunday, eight days before his 43rd birthday and on the weekend Indianapolis Motor Speedway celebrated the 20th anniversary of his first Brickyard victory.

Gordon's first win came before the celebratory kissing of the Yard of Bricks was en vogue, before he became a household name, while Sprint Cup Series rookies Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon were still in diapers. Now a family man with an aching back, Gordon used Sunday to show he's still at the top of his game.

"If you can do it here, you can do it anywhere," said Gordon, who has led the Sprint Cup Series standings for 13 of the last 14 weeks. "It's certainly going to be a huge confidence boost for this team. We recognize the significance of this.

"We saw we were points leaders, we won at Kansas, but I don't know if we believed we were capable of winning this championship this year. We do now."

To prove it to himself, to his Hendrick Motorsports team and to his ardent fan base, Gordon needed a vintage close to Sunday's race.

Hendrick teammate Kasey Kahne led a race-high 70 laps and seemed only to be racing against his gas tank when a late caution put the race back into Gordon's hands. He'd have one shot at passing Kahne, on a dreaded restart, and nobody was sure if ol' "Four-Time" had it in him.

Restarts are his Achilles heel, and he's struggled with them for several years. And Kahne, who is winless on the season, desperately needed the victory to grab a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field.

"The restart is going to be the race, really," Gordon's crew chief, Alan Gustafson, conceded in a television interview moments before the field went green with 17 laps remaining.

Kahne picked the lower, inside lane for the restart, and Gordon found himself on the outside and exactly where he wanted to be. Gordon tried to set a quick pace as they headed to the flag, and Kahne tried to slow it down in the restart zone.

Gordon shifted into fourth gear and surged past Kahne on the outside, and Gordon kicked it into cruise control as he sailed away for the win.

"I think we both knew that was for the win," Gordon said of Kahne. "Out of nowhere, I have the restart of my life at the most important moment that you could ask for in a race, in a season, at a race like this. That was just awesome."

The win came on the 20th anniversary celebration of Gordon's win in the inaugural Brickyard 400, and on "Jeff Gordon Day" as declared by the Mayor of Indianapolis. The win moved Gordon into a tie with Michael Schumacher, whose five Formula One victories at Indy had been the gold standard.

"I told him this morning that this was his day," said team owner Rick Hendrick.

Kahne plummeted to fifth after the restart, then ran out of gas on the final lap and had to nurse his car home to a sixth-place finish. He said he erred in picking the inside line for the restart.

"I should have chosen the top (lane), obviously," he said. "I pretty much let Jeff control that last restart. I thought I made the right decision."

Hendrick said he had no favorite in that situation, and hoped only that Gordon and Kahne did not wreck each other.

"I know Kasey, he needed a win, and he ran awful good today," Hendrick said. "But Jeff had the dominant car, so it all worked out."

Kyle Busch finished second, 2.325 seconds behind Gordon, and was followed by Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth. After the race, NASCAR said Hamlin's car had failed post-race inspection and the parts in question would be taken to North Carolina for another look.

Joey Logano was fifth in the highest-finishing car from Team Penske, which brought Juan Pablo Montoya to the race in an effort to get the win. Roger Penske has won a record 15 Indianapolis 500s, but is winless in the Brickyard. Montoya was never a factor and finished 23rd.

Larson, who grew up a Gordon fan, finished seventh and likened Gordon's win on Sunday to Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s season-opening win in the Daytona 500.

"To see Jeff Gordon win is pretty special - it's kind of like Junior winning the 500 this year," Larson said.

Kevin Harvick, the polesitter and the driver with the car most everyone thought would be tough to beat, was eighth and followed by Earnhardt and rookie Austin Dillon.

Carl Edwards finished 15th hours after Roush-Fenway Racing finally confirmed he was leaving the team at the end of the season.

In addition to his 1994 victory, Gordon also won at the track in 1998, 2001 and 2004.

He has 90 Cup wins, third on the career list.

He said it took extreme focus over the final 10 laps not to prematurely celebrate and cough away the win. It meant tuning out the crowd, which was on its feet and cheering him to the finish.

"I was trying not to let it get to me and not think about it too much," he said. "And yet you can't help it. It's such a big place and such an important victory and a crucial moment in the season and the championship, and those emotions take over.

"This one is for all those fans throughout the years and all weekend long - they're saying `We believe you can get (championship) number five.' We got (Brickyard) No. 5!"
It's 'Jeff Gordon Day' at Indy for record 5th time

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CINCINNATI (AP) -- Johnny Cueto pitched seven solid innings, and the Cincinnati Reds stayed in the chase for the NL's top record by beating the Milwaukee Brewers 4-2 on Tuesday night after learning they'll be without their manager for the rest of the week.

The Brewers dropped back-to-back games for the first time in more than a month, and it came at a bad time. They started the day 3 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the final NL wild card spot.

They got no break from the Reds, who clinched the NL Central title on Saturday night.

Manager Dusty Baker met players before the game and revealed he suffered a mini-stroke in addition to being treated for an irregular heartbeat last week. The 63-year-old manager hopes to return to the dugout next week.

REDS-BAKER

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Dusty Baker won't manage the Cincinnati Reds until the final series in St. Louis, giving him time to recover from an irregular heartbeat that left him hospitalized last week.

Baker met with owner Bob Castellini and his team on Tuesday before a game against the Brewers. Bench coach Chris Speier said he'll manage the final three home games against Milwaukee and three in Pittsburgh over the weekend, with Baker taking over for the last three games next week.

The 63-year-old manager was hospitalized in Chicago last Wednesday for an irregular heartbeat, a problem he's had for a while. He was in the hospital for four days, missing the Reds' 6-0 win over the Dodgers on Saturday night that clinched the NL Central title.

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CHICAGO (AP) -- The Chicago White Sox have lost sole possession of first place in the AL Central race, with the Indians playing spoiler. Gordon Beckham hit into a game-ending forceout with the potential tying run on second base yesterday as the Indians downed the White Sox 4-3.

Down 4-0 in the fourth inning, the White Sox closed within a run when Paul Konerko homered off Chris Perez leading off the ninth. Perez walked a pair of batters with two outs, and Beckham grounded to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who threw to second baseman Jason Kipnis for the force.

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T25-OHIO ST-MATCHING UP

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Through four games and four victories, Ohio State's defense has faced a continual drumbeat of short passes, quick routes, screens and sweeps.

Every opponent, it seems, has relied on a sleight of hand.

Now the Buckeyes are looking forward to getting into familiar territory when they open Big Ten play.

When No. 14 Ohio State travels to 20th-ranked Michigan State on Saturday, the Buckeyes anticipate they'll run into a more conventional Midwestern attack. Granted, that means having to counteract the 244-pound blasts of the Spartans' massive Le'Veon Bell.

But after a month of chasing people, the Buckeyes think they might benefit from a change of pace from the subterfuge and rush-avoiding quick-hitters in a trade for raw man-on-man power struggles at the line of scrimmage.

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Michigan State's lackluster win last weekend got to coach Mark Dantonio.

After the Spartans beat Eastern Michigan 23-7 Saturday, Dantonio hurried through a terse news conference full of abrupt answers. The Michigan State coach said "next question" seven times in under a minute and was clearly annoyed with the way his team played.

On Tuesday, Dantonio spoke with reporters for around a half-hour, but Michigan State isn't making any players or assistants available this week. The Spartans' coach is trying to send a clear message to his players that it's time to get serious.

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