INDIANAPOLIS -- John Menard tried unsuccessfully for 35 years to win the Indianapolis 500 as a car owner. On a sweltering afternoon today, his son gave him something even more exceptional - a win in the Brickyard 400.
Paul Menard, who first came to the fabled Indianapolis Motor Speedway with his family when he was 3, patiently stretched his final tank of gas for 35 laps to beat hard-charging Jeff Gordon for his first Sprint Cup Series win.
His voiced cracked and he choked back tears after climbing out of the Richard Childress Racing No. 27 Chevrolet - which carried sponsorship from the Menard family's chain of home improvement warehouses.
"This is just a really special place for my family and myself," Menard said. "Indianapolis, this is the greatest race track in the world. We've got the best fans here, too."
Twenty-seven different drivers worked for John Menard during a 35-year stretch in IndyCar racing. Included in that list were: Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon, Al Unser, Johnny Rutherford and Eddie Cheever.
Years of frustration at Indianapolis suddenly was replaced by a greater sense of accomplishment for the entire family.
"I've been waiting to kiss these bricks for such a long time," John Menard said.
Like so many races in NASCAR this year, the finish had little to do with miles per hour. It was more about miles per gallon.
Menard gained track position in the final 35 laps by not coming to pit road for a splash of gas. Four other drivers - Jamie McMurray, Regan Smith, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth - did the same.
Gordon stopped to make sure he had enough gas, going from the lead to a quarter-lap deficit. The leaders were forced to slow down to save every drop; Gordon was on a relentless charge that ended seven car lengths short of the winner.
"There were some guys that were going to try to stretch it on fuel and all I could do is run as hard as I could to put pressure on them and hope that I got there in time," Gordon said.
"We got there just a little bit short. But Paul did a great job saving fuel because when I got there, even Regan and other guys, they were still pretty much checking up when I got there. It was easy to get by them. But Paul had saved enough to where he could go back to a full pace. By that time, my car was just too tight behind him."