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Gordon, Johnson looking for fifth win at Indy

<p>A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser have won the Indianapolis 500 four times each.</p>

A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser have won the Indianapolis 500 four times each.

The 400-mile race at Indianapolis is arguably the second most prestigious race on the Sprint Cup Series schedule -- the Daytona 500 being the first.

Johnson, the six-time and defending series champion, has won three of the last six Brickyard 400s. He finished second to Ryan Newman in last year's race, despite leading the most laps with 73.

Prior to his first Brickyard 400 win eight years ago, Johnson had struggled at Indianapolis, posting DNFs in two of his first four races here.

"There are certain tracks that are very difficult to get sorted out and to know how to lead your team, and for me, this was one of the toughest ones that I came to," Johnson said of Indy. "It took me a long time to get it. The light finally turned on in my head - I think it was maybe in 2004 or 2005 - I've driven this track wrong since practice opened. I set my car up wrong and led the team in the wrong direction. It really dawned on me during the race.

"I just think this track is so challenging that the best teams and the best drivers have a chance to stand out."

Johnson is the only driver who has won the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 and the Cup Series championship in the same season, doing so in 2006.

Two other drivers have won the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the same year: Dale Jarrett (1996) and Jamie McMurray (2010).

If Johnson wins Sunday's Brickyard 400, then Indianapolis would be the fifth track on the current Sprint Cup schedule where he holds the record for most all-time victories in the series. He holds the track record at California (Fontana), Charlotte, Dover and Las Vegas. Johnson and Carl Edwards are tied for most wins at Texas with three each.

"There are tracks that your natural driving tendencies suit, and [Indianapolis] just isn't one of them for me," Johnson said. "So I really have to change my game coming here. I've been able to identify with it, and I think that's half of the battle is to just understand that don't do what you think you need to do, try to think in the opposite manner to find speed."

Gordon heads to Indianapolis atop the point standings. He holds a 12-point lead over second-place and Hendrick teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. Brad Keselowski moved up to third in the standings (-36) after winning the July 13 race at New Hampshire.

Gordon, who grew up in nearby Pittsboro, Indiana, won the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994. The four-time series champion also scored victories at this track in 1998, 2001 and '04. His three poles, 11 top-five finishes and 16 top-10s here is tops among all drivers.

"I think there's always a huge amount of effort that is put into this race," Gordon said. "That first year in 1994 we knew something special was happening here, and all the teams and drivers made the extra effort to prepare for this race. It paid off for us then, and I think every year, certainly at Hendrick Motorsports, we look at this as a very unique and special event and one that we want to win. We put that extra effort into it."

For 20 years, Gordon has held the record as the youngest driver to win a NASCAR race at Indianapolis. His 1994 win here occurred two days after his 23rd birthday.

"I feel like every year we come that we have a shot at winning," he said. "This weekend, there's no doubt I feel like this is the best chance that we've had at winning this race legitimately with the speed of the car as we've had in a very long time.

"It's obvious that there are some competitors out there that are going to be tough, including our teammates, but I think the preparation that we've put into this race and what we've been working on since the break [this past week] are things that we're really excited about for this weekend."

Right now, Earnhardt and Keselowski are the only drivers who have clinched a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, assuming they attempt to qualify for each of the remaining seven races in the regular season.

At Indianapolis, Gordon, Johnson, Edwards, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano can lock down a position in the playoffs by winning the race or clinching a top-30 spot in points.

Forty-six teams are on the entry list for the Brickyard 400. Juan Pablo Montoya is scheduled to make his second Sprint Cup start of the season, driving the No. 12 Ford for Team Penske. Montoya, the 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner, 1999 CART champion and seven-time grand prix winner in Formula One, is a full-time competitor in the IndyCar Series this year.

Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Sunday, July 27. Race: Brickyard 400. Site: Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Track: 2.5-mile oval. Start time: 1 p.m. ET. Laps: 160. Miles: 400. 2013 Winner: Ryan Newman. Television: ESPN. Radio: IMS Radio Network/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.

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