Gordon’s Brickyard legacy superb, but can’t be compared to other Indy legends


Comparing apples to oranges to bananas is always going to come off as a bit pear-shaped.

Jeff Gordon became the first NASCAR driver to win five times at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon.

That in itself in an awesome feat, and it’s rather fitting that Gordon made it happen on the 20th anniversary of his first Brickyard 400 triumph all the way back in 1994.

But it simply cannot be compared, favorably or unfavorably, to the four Indianapolis 500 wins apiece from A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears, and Al Unser Sr.

Or for that matter, the five Formula One wins that Michael Schumacher racked up when the United States Grand Prix (now at the Circuit of the Americas) was run on the original IMS road course.

To say that Schumacher and now Gordon are superior to Foyt, Mears, and Unser simply because five wins trump four is a foolish declaration to make.

In the end, we have to acknowledge all of the accomplishments as special on their own and resist the temptation to stack them against each other.

As these drivers created their Indianapolis legacies, they had to adapt as their cars moved along with the times.

Examples: Gordon’s won his Brickyards in what’s now known as “Generation 4” and “Generation 6” Cup cars; Foyt’s the only man to have won the ‘500’ in both front and rear-engined machines; and en route to all of his USGP wins, Schumacher had to get used to new chassis and engines each year.

And with the changing cars, the styles of racing obviously changed too. Then there’s the differences in the speeds and the tracks as well.

For the Indy 500 guys and Gordon, they constantly barrel (or barreled) around a 2.5-mile oval at speeds of 200 mph or more. For Schumacher, he drove on a 2.6-mile road course with 13 turns that only let him and his peers get close to those speeds perhaps once or twice during a lap.

Finally, there’s the time lengths involved. Schumacher won his five USGPs in the span of seven years. Foyt (17 years), Unser (18 years), and Mears (13 years) all went well beyond a decade for their respective four Indy 500s. And to get his five Brickyard wins, Gordon (21 years) went two full decades.

How can you possibly compare any of this without betraying your bias for a specific racing discipline – or just coming across real, real poorly?

It’s better to just look back and marvel at what these men have done at the world’s greatest race course.

No matter the form of racing, these five drivers make for one hell of a fraternity of speed.

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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