Jeff Gordon, a five time winner of the Brickyard 400, was looking forward to gaining a sixth Brickyard victory in his 22nd and final start in today’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway but during the lap 50 restart his hopes were dashed.
The four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion is retiring at the end of the 2015 season and will be moving into the broadcast booth for the 2016 season. Gordon who does not have a victory for this season is looking to make it into his final Chase for the Championship.
A cruel but unusual end to Gordon’s exemplar Indianapolis career, the restart was called on Lap 46 for balloons on the backstretch. The track released balloons before the green flag and some of those ended up on the backstretch as debris causing NASCAR to throw the caution.
On the restart Clint Bowyer, driving the #15 5-Hour Energy Toyota, spun coming out of Turn 3 creating a pile-up as drivers swerved to miss Bowyer’s car. Gordon damaged the left-front side of the #24 3-M Chevrolet when he hit the wall at the 2.5 mile superspeedway while trying to avoid the spinning #15.
Prior to hitting the wall Gordon made contact with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne in the #5 Farmers Chevrolet as fellow HMS teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., driving the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet was able to squeak by unscathed during the incident.
“I was underneath Kasey Kahne and we were just racing for position,” Gordon said in the garage. “I saw Bowyer get sideways, I don’t know what caused it, me and Kasey were just trying to check up to avoid it,”
“I don’t know if he (Bowyer) got loose, or we both got loose together, but then I just lost control and got in the wall. We are never gonna give up, we got back out there as fast as we could, but the splitter to too torn up on the front it was really creating lift and the car didn’t have any front down-force so it was pushing really bad.”
Gordon returned to the track quickly down three laps, but by Lap 66 was scored five laps down when the NASCAR tower asked Gordon to pick up the pace seemingly the #24 was having problems meeting the minimum 58.11 second lap required of cars in the race. Gordon wasn’t able to meet the required speed and was forced to the garage so his crew could make significant repairs.
Although Gordon is a California native, he is a beloved figure in Indiana after his family moved to Pittsboro when he was a teenager to help further his racing career. On Thursday Pittsboro held a parade in Gordon’s honor. Gordon won the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994.