Fuel mileage played a pivotal role in today’s 18th running of the Brickyard 400 from Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Paul Menard was able to run the last 35 laps on fuel to nab his first victory.
While others were forced to pit because they were laps short on fuel, Menard and a handful of others stayed out hoping that by pitting later on their previous stop they would have enough fuel to make it.
Menard wasn’t the leader the for the entirety of the last fuel cycle. At one point it appeared that Tony Stewart may win the race, at another time the 2010 winner Jamie McMurray passed Menard for the lead. Word came from the pits that crew chief Slugger Labbe was planning to turn Menard loose with 3 to go.
While the front of the field was driving around at some of the slowest times on the track, Jeff Gordon was closing in. Gordon had fueled up and was gaining nearly a second a lap on the front of the field.
With Gordon moving into the picture the question became would Menard have enough fuel and was there enough time for the #24 to take the top spot.
Menard was told to go for it. He passed the #1 of McMurray with ease and was reeled in by Gordon. With two to go Gordon had pulled closer but not close enough. By the back stretch on the final lap it became clear that Menard was going to win unless he ran out of fuel.
There was enough fuel in the tank though and Menard won at the track he grew up attending. The track that his father spent 30 years trying to get to victory lane.
Both Menard’s went to victory lane and kissed the bricks, it was an unpredictable finish that again came down to fuel mileage.
In total 13 different drivers traded the lead a total of 22 times. Kasey Kahne led the most laps but finished 18th.
Rounding out the top five behind Gordon were Regan Smith, McMurray and Matt Kenseth who next to Godon may have had the best overall car on the day.
The win moves Menard up to 14th in the Sprint Cup standings and right now places him as the second ‘Wild Card’ for the Chase. He is currently 7 points ahead of David Ragan for that spot.