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Menard outruns Gordon for Brickyard 400 win



Indianapolis, IN (Sports Network) - Paul Menard fulfilled a lifetime dream by kissing the bricks at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday.

Menard, who grew up in Eau Claire, WI and raced throughout the Midwest earlier in his career, conserved enough fuel and held off a hard-charging Jeff Gordon in the closing laps to win one of the most prestigious Sprint Cup Series events of the season -- the Brickyard 400.

The 30-year-old Menard became the first driver to win his maiden Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis. He also became the fourth first-time race winner in the series this season, joining Trevor Bayne (Daytona 500), Regan Smith (Darlington) and David Ragan (Daytona July race).

His father, entrepreneur John Menard, had long been waiting for a win at Indianapolis after sponsoring many teams in the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 the last several decades.

"I've been coming here since I was a little kid, and my dad has been trying to win here for 35 years, so this one is for my dad," a jubilant Menard said in victory lane. "There's a lot of emotions right now, but [crew chief] "Slugger" Labbe and all of these guys have done a heck of a job. Man, I can't believe we won Indy."

While stretching his fuel during the late-stages of the race, Menard passed Jamie McMurray, the defending race winner, with four laps remaining. He finished 0.725 seconds ahead of Gordon for his first victory in his 167th NASCAR big league start.

"I knew that I had saved plenty of fuel, but I was more worried about the guys who pitted after me and were coming hard," Menard added.

Menard's first win in the Nationwide Series came in 2006 at The Milwaukee Mile, located roughly 240 miles southeast of his hometown.

Gordon was attempting to win his fifth Brickyard 400, which would have placed him in a tie with Formula One legend Michael Schumacher for most victories at this racetrack.

"I knew that we weren't quite going to get to Paul; it was really about him running out of fuel," Gordon said. "We tried as hard as we could to put pressure on him. To not win this race, it sure was great to run that good."

Smith finished third, while McMurray ended up with a season-best fourth-place run.

"We were really close on fuel," McMurray said. "I got by the No.27 [Menard], because I wanted to be leading the race. I knew that it was going to be easier to defend than it was to pass when everyone decided to take off. We got a little bit lucky today. We've had a tough year and a lot of bad luck, so it was nice to have good luck today."

Indiana-native Tony Stewart finished sixth, followed by Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch, who bounced back after making contact with the wall earlier in the race.

The 160-lap race featured five cautions, including one for an accident that involved Kasey Kahne and Landon Cassill in the late going. Cassill spun around after he and pole sitter David Ragan made contact.

Kahne spun around in the grass while trying to avoid the incident. He had led 47 of the first 51 laps. Kahne ended up finishing 18th.

Carl Edwards remained the points leader after his 14th-place run. He holds an 11-point advantage over Jimmie Johnson, who finished 19th. Kevin Harvick is 12 markers behind Edwards after placing 11th.

Menard's win allowed him to move from 19th to 14th in the rankings. He currently holds the second wild card spot with six races to go before the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship begins. Denny Hamlin occupies the first wild card position. Hamlin fell one spot to 11th in points following his 27th- place run.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 16th and continued to slide in the standings. Earnhardt Jr. has dropped from third to 10th in points since the June 19 race at Michigan. He is presently 19 points ahead of Hamlin.

07/31 18:19:29 ET


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