SPEEDWAY, Ind. — The Brickyard 400 has been a microcosm of the career of Jeff Gordon and much like his championship aspirations in recent seasons, the four-time Cup champion expects to find himself chasing Jimmie Johnson for the win on Sunday.
Speaking to the media on Friday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Gordon said that the Brickyard is a race where champions bring out their best, especially in recent seasons where the race kicked off the race to the Chase.
“This is a tough race track, ” Gordon said. “It’s also a track where everyone brings out their best, whether it’s a pit crew, driver, race car or whole combination. They bring their best because this is such a prestigious race.
“That’s why I think you see champions or championship contenders compete so well at this race and win this race. Those are the teams that are able to step up when it matters most and not only win this race but go on to be a champion. And who has done that better in the last 10 years than the 48 team?”
Most of the paddock labeled Johnson the favorite for Sunday and Gordon says that beating the 48 is likely the key to winning this race.
“They certainly are in championship form and I’d have to put them at the top of the list of teams to beat,” he continued. “For the rest of us, we’re going to put all that aside and run our race to see if we can finish ahead of the 48. If you can do that, you’re probably going to win this race and be proud of that accomplishment.”
Once upon a time, that was the perception of Gordon too. He won the inaugural Brickyard in 1994 and has won three additional times in 1998, 2001 and 2004 too. That was a decade of dominance that ended with the arrival of Johnson — Gordon’s teammate and protégé.
Johnson has matched Gordon in Brickyard wins, kissing the bricks in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2012. There is a lot of similarities and Gordon recognizes it too.
“That how everyone probably looked at us when we were winning all those races,” Gordon said. “But really — Jimmie and that team has taken it to a whole new level.