Gordon’s final race at Brickyard a disaster after wreck

Jul 26, 2015, 6:12 PM

A fan has his hair painted to honor driver Jeff Gordon during the NASCAR Brickyard 400 auto race at...

A fan has his hair painted to honor driver Jeff Gordon during the NASCAR Brickyard 400 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Sunday, July 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Jeff Gordon slid into the No. 24 for the final time at Indy with a car more fit for a junkyard than the Brickyard.

His shot at a record sixth win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway over, Gordon could only watch with a blank stare as his team hammered, welded and duct taped the mangled remains of his Chevrolet into shape for the final laps of the race.

And of his career at the track that oozes racing history.

Gordon’s career at the track spanned from first-to-almost worst as NASCAR’s only five-time winner at the Brickyard limped to a 42nd-place finish on Sunday.

“It’s not the way we want our day to go here,” Gordon said.

The fans didn’t care, chanting “Jeff! Jeff!” as he walked off the track for the final time.

Gordon was feted last week with a parade last in his old home of nearby Pittsboro, where he attended high school and pursued his racing career. It was the first stop of a farewell tour this week that had earmarked victory lane as the final destination.

Gordon tried to avoid Clint Bowyer and spun out about 50 laps in and connected with the outside wall. He parked the car on pit road as his crew furiously worked to fix the damage. He returned three laps down before he was forced to garage for more repairs, unable to maintain the minimum speed of 58.11 seconds per lap on track

Gordon’s uncensored rant was heard over the radio, his crew chief helpless to get any extra oomph out of the car.

“It’s wrecked buddy, I don’t know what to tell you,” Alan Gustafson said.

His arms folded, Gordon occasionally glanced at the broadcast feed on a hand-held device in the garage as the race roared on behind him.

The track’s public address announcer kept fans clued in on Gordon’s whereabouts.

“Right now, Jeff Gordon is listed behind the wall.”

“We’re still hoping to see Jeff Gordon on track one more time!”

Gordon made it back out and salvaged only two points, a crushing blow in his pursuit of a Chase for the Sprint Cup championship berth. Gordon is winless in his final full season and will need a checkered flag over the final six races before the cutoff to make the 16-driver field.

Gordon, driving for Hendrick Motorsports, announced in January he plans to retire from full-time racing and become part of Fox’s broadcasting crew next year.

“I feel like it all started here, almost,” Gordon told Hendrick before the race.

They shook hands and hugged. The 43-year-old Gordon hugged son Leo and rubbed daughter Ella’s head before he eased into the car. His wife, Ingrid, smiled nearby.

Highlights of last year’s win played at the pre-race meeting.

“Please forgive us that we have a sentimental favorite we’d like to win,” IMS president Doug Boles told drivers.

In addition to last year’s win, Gordon also won at the first NASCAR race at the track in 1994 and in 1998, 2001 and 2004. On Sunday, he completed only 110 of 164 laps.

Gordon and Formula One ace Michael Schumacher’s have five victories at the track. Rick Mears, A.J. Foyt and Al Unser each won the Indianapolis 500 four times.

Gordon merchandise filled all the track merchandise stores and he received the loudest ovation during race introductions. One fan painted a 24 in his dyed red Mohawk.

“From the first time I came here, all the way through last year and even this year the fans have been amazing, the experiences have been amazing, the wins,” Gordon said. “Everything has been incredible and I feel so fortunate to have just gotten an opportunity to race here. Certainly to have five wins here is just unbelievable as well.”

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