Not Just Another Victory

SPEEDWAY, IN.- - Jeff Gordon's victory in the Brickyard 400 was not just another victory. It was special for a number of reasons. The prize money was huge; the largest in the history of stock car racing. Jeff collected over $1.5 million as a result of winning the race and the $1,000,000 bonus as part of the No Bull Five. The race was hyped unlike any other. ESPN televised practice, qualifying, and seemingly any important event during the week. And it was a special win for another reason; it was a hometown win.

When Jeff Gordon won the Brickyard 400 in 1994, he had yet to establish himself as one of the elite drivers in the field. He had won a race in May 1994, but those were the days of the Dale Earnhardt domination. Gordon would go on to win the 1995 and 1997 Winston Cup titles, racking up a total of 34 career victories heading to the Brickyard. To many fans, that was a reason to root against him.

In last few years during driver introductions at tracks across the country, Gordon would be booed. In May 1998 at Charlotte, fans threw beer cans on the track aiming at the #24 car. What was the reason for it? Because he wins. And wins. And wins.

There was one track that the Winston Cup series would go to where the boo-birds would be replaced by cheers; it was the Brickyard in Indianapolis, Indiana. Gordon, who grew up in nearby Pittsboro, Indiana, was considered a hometown hero. The people of Indiana watched him go from a sprint car racer to a NASCAR champion. He wasn't born in Indiana; but he's considered a Hoosier through and through.

This season, it seems that the boos have been unmerciful. The race at the Brickyard was looked at with high hopes. He had a chance to win $1,000,000 in front of the people that supported him before the NASCAR days. After qualifying third, Gordon stepped out of his car to a cheering crowd. He waved to the fans; the cheering continued.

After winning the Brickyard 400 on August 1, the crowd cheered the Indiana kid in victory lane just as they had done in 1994. However, this year the cheers probably meant more to Jeff Gordon. "It's definitely sweet to come here and win," he told reporters after the race. "After the race was over, I shut the engine off. I had to hear (the crowd). It's awesome to hear that many people cheering for you." After a season of hearing boos, he needed to hear the crowd cheering for him. His fans needed to hear a crowd cheering for him. It was a welcome change from the weekly boo-birds on the circuit.

To the crowd at the Brickyard, thank you.

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