Jeff Gordon has done something that no other driver has done at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway: win five times. Gordon’s historic win at this past weekend’s Crown Royal Presents John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Powered By BigMachineRecords.com–or just The Brickyard 400–marked his fifth time kissing the bricks.
Gordon won the inaugural race in 1994, again in 1998 and 2001, and one more time in 2004. In fact, Jeff Gordon has won the race three times when the year ends in “4.” But this win is even more special as it is the first time any racer has won the Brickyard 400–or even the Indianapolis 500–more than four times. Gordon had been tied with Jimmie Johnson with four NASCAR wins at the fabled track, and both drivers were tied with Rick Mears, Al Unser, Sr., and A.J. Foyt, who all won the Indianapolis 500 four times.
But now, there is only Jeff Gordon. There is now only one driver in the 105-year history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to win five times. It is rarified air and begs the argument: Is Jeff Gordon the best ever to drive at Indy?
The numbers speak for themselves. In comparing Gordon’s feat to the 3 four-time-winning Indy car drivers–all of which are considered some of the best to ever climb into a race car of any kind–Gordon’s fifth win puts him at the head of the class. It’s also important to realize that each Indy Car driver is now long retired, so Gordon can only add to his legend by winning a sixth time at Indy, or more. Not bad for a guy who has been dogged with retirement rumors all season.
While Gordon solidified his status as arguably the greatest Brickyard driver ever, he should be looking in his rear view mirror. Jimmie Johnson, his teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, also had four wins and is four years younger, not to mention a six-time Sprint Cup Champion. So while Jeff Gordon may have the most Indy wins now, Johnson could catch him as early as next year and surpass him in two.
Regardless of how many wins Gordon finishes with at Indy before he climbs out of the race car for the last time, he will forever be considered one of the greatest NASCAR drivers ever. In fact, Fox Sports named him the fifth best ever and ESPN listed him at tenth. Both of these polls were compiled a few years ago, and now that Gordon has done something many thought improbable, maybe those all-time lists will be revised.
For now, Jeff Gordon owns Indy, whether fans like it or not.
[Image Courtesy of Getty Images]