Gordon still livin' Indy dream

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jeff Gordon laugh at the Gatorade Victory...

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jeff Gordon laugh at the Gatorade Victory Lane after qualifying to start in the front row for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, February 13, 2011. (REUTERS/Brian Blanco)

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:52 PM ET

TORONTO - It was when he was just a kid racing go-karts on any of the hundreds of tiny tracks around Indiana that Jeff Gordon first started to dream of one day racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

At first, of course, it was to win the Indianapolis 500 like A.J. Foyt or Rick Mears.

But as his career took a 90-degree turn to the tin tops of NASCAR, he still carried the hope that one day stock cars would race around the hallowed 2.5 mile oval at the intersection of 16th St. and Georgetown Rd.

“I think NASCAR had a test session (at Indy) in 1992 or 1993, and I was bummed that I didn’t get the chance to participate in it,” Gordon said this week in preparation for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Brickyard 400. “When I finally got the chance to drive down the front straightaway, it was like ‘whoa.’”

Gordon took to the track like a duck to water, winning the first Brickyard race in 1994.

“To win the inaugural race? Unbelievable,” he said. “It’s still like that for me — just an incredible feeling driving here.”

Gordon, who has four NASCAR championships to go with four Brickyard victories, said he never gets blasé about racing at Indy.

“It always takes me a few laps to get up to speed each year,” he said. “The first time you drive off into (turn) 1, it’s like ‘whoa, I can’t make this corner.’ Then you realize you let off (the accelerator) way too early.”

Gordon’s quest for five trips to the winner’s circle — only Michael Schumacher has won five times at Indy — drives his desire.

But he said his four wins and a fifth, should he get it on Sunday, must be seen in context.

“I don’t think what I’ve done should ever be compared to what A.J. Foyt or Al Unser or Rick Mears did here with their four Indianapolis 500 victories,” he said. “And I don’t think Michael Schumacher’s five wins (in Formula One) should be compared either.

“They are all completely different disciplines — sometimes on a completely different track.”

WOMEN ON THE MOVE

The Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis will open a new exhibit this week honouring a dozen high profile women in the sport of auto racing.

The exhibit was created by female racing pioneer Lyn St. James with help from the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn. Mich.

Featured in the exhibit are: NASCAR/ISC executive Lesa France Kennedy; NASCAR Nationwide Series team owner Kelley Earnhardt; NNS and Camping World Truck team owner DeLana Harvick; IZOD IndyCar team owner Sarah Fisher; NNS Team owner Mary Louise Miller; former Atlantic Series CEO Vicki O’Connor; Historic Motorsports Production CEO Rena Shanaman; Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca CEO Gill Campbell; Coca-Cola VP marketing Bea Perez; Auto Club Speedway president Gillian Zucker; Speed Channel VP of programming & production and ESPN VP of programming & acquisitions, Julie Sobieski.

FINISH LINES

Former IndyCar and NASCAR Sprint Cup team owner Cal Wells parted ways with Michael Waltrip Racing this week. Wells had been the executive vice president of operations at the Charlotte, N.C. area team in charge of the day-to-day operations of MWR’s three Sprint Cup Series teams for Martin Truex Jr. and David Reutimann and one Nationwide Series team for Travis Pastrana. As a team owner, Wells also had three Cup poles, 10 top-fives and 26 top-10s in 260 starts in the Cup Series with Ricky Craven, Andy Houston, Scott Pruett, Bobby Hamilton Jr., Ron Fellows and Travis Kvapil ... Ford Racing announced late last week it will stick with the Ford Fusion badge for its Sprint Cup program. There had been speculation the blue oval folks would switch to the Mustang for the 2013 season ... Interesting factoid about the Brickyard 400: Juan Pablo Montoya and Jacques Villeneuve are the only drivers to race in the Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400 and F1 United States Grand Prix at IMS.

dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca


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