Countdown To The 20th Running: The 1998 Brickyard 400
Date: August 1, 1998
Location: Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Race Winner: Jeff Gordon
Pole Winner: Ernie Irvan
By all accounts 1998 was a dream season for Jeff Gordon. By year’s end he had racked up a career-high 13 wins and had accumulated enough points to capture his third championship and second in row by 364 points over runner-up Mark Martin. He was particularly impressive during a four-race late-summer stretch where he won four times, including a strong performance in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The 1998 Brickyard 400 marked the fifth Brickyard 400. Jeff Gordon entered the race with a 62-point lead over Mark Martin and was 128 markers clear of third-place Dale Jarrett. Martin displayed a new paint scheme on his No. 6 Valvoline Ford for the race. But this Brickyard 400 seemed to be preordained.
The front row of Ernie Irvan and Dale Jarrett lead the starting field across start/finish line and under the green flag to begin the Brickyard 400. Early on Rusty Wallace had a flat tire taking him from contention. Steve Park crashed with a cut tire and Irvan struggled with a balky chassis. Jarrett ran out of fuel on pit road needing to be pushed to his pit.
For Gordon, the event came down to the final 40 laps, when the Rainbow Warriors sent him back onto the track with four new tires during the sixth caution period. He was fourth in line and needed just four laps to pass the three drivers – Dale Earnhardt, Mike Skinner and Sterling Marlin – who had taken just two tires during the stop. With the Indianapolis skyline as a backdrop, Jeff Gordon tracked down Dale Earnhardt off the third turn, vying for the lead at the three-quarter mark in the race. Gordon finally slipped past the black Chevrolet on lap 127, and led the rest of the way to score the huge brickyard payday. Behind him, Martin, who was making up for a poor pit stop that left him 11th on the restart, was charging through the field and eventually moved into second place with just 16 laps left in the race. Mark was 2.5 seconds behind, and Gordon’s win looked assured.
Three yellow flags in the final 10 laps, including a final one with two laps remaining that brought the event to a close under caution, kept Martin from mounting a frantic assault on the No. 24 DuPont Automotive Finishes Chevrolet. Martin had to settle for second place behind Gordon’s Monte Carlo.
Gordon’s win etched his name in the record book as the first driver to win two Brickyard 400s. Since Gordon was raised in nearby Pittsboro, Ind., his victory was very popular amongst the fans.
Stories and excerpts used from The Official NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Yearbooks are used with permission of Round 5 Books and UMI Publications.