INDIANAPOLIS -- Early Sunday afternoon, the last thing on Jeff Gordon's mind was winning the Brickyard 400.
''We started the race with a lot of doubts in my mind, that's for sure. I thought I had the slowest car out there at one time,'' Gordon said, laughing.
After some great pit work by his Hendrick Motorsports crew, Gordon, who turned 30 a day earlier, surged to the front and celebrated his birthday by becoming the first three-time winner of the Brickyard and solidifying his lead in the Winston Cup championship chase.
''Well, I had to win it because my crew chief was going to wring my neck if I didn't because I was chewing him out so bad at the beginning of the race,'' the three-time Winston Cup champion said.
Crew chief Robbie Loomis and the rest of the crew spent most of the 160-lap race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's 2 1/2-mile oval making adjustments on the No. 24 Chevrolet.
''I said to Robby, 'I want to be careful to not get this too far out of whack on our setup because I think all we need to do is just get up front.' And I believed if we got the track position we'd be pretty good,'' Gordon said.
They got it right just in time.
A two-tire pit stop gave Gordon track position and he took full advantage, passing gambling Sterling Marlin for the lead on a restart 35 laps from the end.
With a full house of 320,000 spectators jammed into the vast speedway grandstands -- many of them cheering for the former Indiana resident -- Gordon was able to control one more restart and stay out front for the 56th victory of his Winston Cup career.
''At the end, when we took two tires, it was absolutely the perfect thing to do,'' Gordon said. ''The car drove great once I got out front. This is the best way of celebrating my birthday.''
Gordon, who started 27th in the 43-car field, didn't break into the top 20 until nearly a third of the race was gone.
''You start the race with a car as bad as we did today and get a win like this, man, that's special,'' said Loomis, who became Gordon's crew chief at the start of the 2000 season.
Marlin, running a fuel strategy that would have allowed him to run to the end without stopping, took the lead when all the other lead-lap drivers pitted during a caution period on lap 132.
''It was our only shot to win the race,'' said Marlin's crew chief, Tony Glover. ''You can't line up eight or ninth and win the race.''
Gordon and several others took only two fresh tires and Gordon came out of the pits just behind Marlin in second. On the restart on lap 136, he drove his Chevrolet to the lower edge of the race track and raced past Marlin's Dodge.
''We had been leading earlier in the day and running in the top five and I thought we could hold him off,'' Marlin said. ''But it took the car a couple of laps to get going on restarts.''
He got one more shot at Gordon after Jerry Nadeau's crash on lap 139 brought out the last of seven caution flags. On the restart on lap 143, though, Marlin got bottled up behind the lapped car of Todd Bodine.
SONOMA, Calif. -- Kenny Bernstein raced to his 58th career NHRA victory, beating David Grubnic in the Top Fuel final in the FRAM-Autolite NHRA Nationals.
Bernstein won his fifth event of the season after Grubnic's engine blew up, completing the quarter-mile run in 4.819 seconds at a top speed of 298.40 mph.
Del Worsham and Tom Martino also won their divisions in the $1.7 million event at Sears Point Raceway.
Worsham raced to his third Funny Car victory of the season, beating Jim Epler at 5.044 and 301.60. Martino earned his fourth career Pro Stock victory with a pass of 7.037 and 196.50 against Mike Edwards.
American Le Mans Series
PORTLAND, Ore. -- David Brabham and Jan Magnussen won the American Le Mans Series' Grand Prix of Portland, ending Audi's 11-race winning streak.
The win by the Panoz LMP-1 was the first non-Audi victory in the series since Brabham and Magnussen won a race at Germany's Nurburgring circuit in July 2000.
A late caution flag set up a 10-minute sprint to the finish, with Magnussen beating Emanuele Pirro's Audi by 0.374 seconds.
Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell drove a Chevrolet Corvette C5-R to victory in the GTS class.
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