Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gordon Blazes to Brickyard Pole

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gordon Blazes to Brickyard Pole

Article excerpt

It's magic.

Try as he might, that's the best explanation Jeff Gordon can muster for his continuing success at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"I keep saying magical things happen for me here," Gordon said with a shake of his head, "and to me, this was another one, because I don't know where it came from. All I know is, I was driving with my heart."

Gordon, Winston Cup racing's renowned Boy Wonder, made the rest of Thursday's qualifiers look like pedestrians as he roared to the pole position for Saturday's Brickyard 400.

One of the last drivers to challenge the 2 1/2-mile track, Gordon completed his one-lap circuit in 51.015 seconds. That translates to 176.419 mph.

And that translates to domination. Gordon bettered by nearly 4 mph the Brickyard qualifying record of 172.536 that he set last August.

Next-fastest before the sun-baked crowd estimated at 40,000 was veteran Mark Martin. But at 175.922, he was nearly a half-mph slower than Gordon.

In high-speed auto racing, where standards are measured in thousandths of a second, that's roughly equivalent to Michael Johnson finishing 400 meters about, say, a day before everybody else.

Lake Speed (175.840) will start in the third position, on the inside of the second row. Next to him will be former St. Louisan Ken Schrader (175.445).

The top 25 spots were locked in for the third running of the Brickyard 400. Thirteen more spots will be filled today, then the 43-car field will be filled with provisional starters.

All will be chasing Gordon when the green flag drops at 12:15 p.m. Saturday. That's hardly a unique situation.

Gordon, who will turn 25 Sunday, grew up in nearly Pittsboro, Ind. As a teen-ager, he was a short-track sensation who dreamed of someday racing at the big track down the road.

"About 1981 or '82 was the first time I came and saw the cars go around here," he said. "It was so overwhelming to me that I never thought that I would ever run a lap in a race car on this track, especially after I started racing NASCAR."

When word arrived in 1993 that the Brickyard was on the '94 Winston Cup schedule, the hometown boy again was overwhelmed.

"That lit a fire in me," he said, "and I think that spark comes to life every time we come here. …

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