Track Size: 2.5 miles:
• Race Length: 400 miles (160 laps)
• Banking/Corners: 9 degrees
• Banking/Straights: 0 degrees
Indy has four distinct corners with two extremely long straights and two short chutes. Passing is difficult, but the best drivers in the field know precisely how to do that without crashing their competitors. The cream will rise to the top this week and catastrophes should be limited to the back of the pack.
Despite taking last weekend off before the long run to Homestead begins drivers had the chance to find the rhythm that they desperately needed at New Hampshire. Drivers who performed well in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 can expect to carry that momentum into this weekend. As for the next weekend, NASCAR will head to the tricky Pocono Raceway, which had one of its three corners patterned after Indy.
Finding the lead early at the Brickyard 400 could lead ultimately to winning the race and kissing the legendary bricks.
Tony Stewart took some time to find his summer groove but has quickly found the rhythm needed to lead him into victory. He had one of the dominant cars at Loudon and was in position to pounce if Ryan Newman ran out of fuel. The No. 14 team didn’t need strategy at New Hampshire, which is good news because potentially running out of gas at Indy has dire consequences and few will take the risk. Stewart’s victories in 2005 and 2007 are only part of the foundation for recommending him this week. The bigger reason is because he finished in the top five in his past two attempts at Indy. His Driver Rating at Indy is: 109.3
Jimmie Johnson has been perfect at Indy when he stays out of trouble. When entering this event last year, he had three victories in his previous six starts. The other three efforts in that span were catastrophic, however, with a best result of 36th — often caused by crash damage. Last year was his first mediocre finish since his sophomore year, but a solid run in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 will have restored this team’s confidence and will make them contenders again. But his crew’s problems on pit road could end up costing this team more than a race win. His Driver Rating at Indy is: 100.1
Jeff Gordon won the 1994 inaugural race at Indy. He leads the league with four and the most recent of these came in 2004. He is the only major driver in the field this week with top-five finishes in 50 percent of his Indy starts and he has top-10s in 72 percent of the races, which makes him a solid choice regardless of his salary cap expense. Last week, Gordon threatened to win his third race of the season, but Newman had more fuel, Stewart was slightly stronger in the final run, and Gordon himself blew a tire on the final lap. That will all be forgotten as soon as he straps on his helmet this week. His Driver Rating at Indy: 92.7
The Dark Horses:
Kyle Busch because he seems to find a way to win where most people wouldn’t expect him to win. And really why wouldn’t Kyle want to win the Brickyard 400? His Driver Rating at Indy: 94
Juan Pablo Montoya hasn’t had the best of luck here recently but don’t count him out. His aggressive driving and new crew chief could land this formula one driver turned NASCAR driver into victory lane and kissing the bricks. His Driver Rating at Indy: 106.9
Fun Facts and Notes:
- Indy is like Daytona in respect to being the other big race that everyone wants to win so we could see another first time winner in victory lane like Menard. Or Bayne could sweep the two biggest races.
- There have been 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since the first race, in 1994.
- Four drivers have competed in all 17 races: Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte and Mark Martin.
- Hendricks Motorsports has won seven races, more than any other organization.
- 14 of the 17 races have been won by a past, reigning or future NASCAR Sprint Cup champion. The only three that were not: Ricky Rudd in 1997, Kevin Harvick in 2003 and Jamie McMurray in 2010.
- The winner of the Indianapolis race has won the championship in the same year eight times in the 17 years the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has raced there:
2009: Jimmie Johnson
2008: Jimmie Johnson
2006: Jimmie Johnson
2005: Tony Stewart
2001: Jeff Gordon
2000: Bobby Labonte
1999: Dale Jarrett
1998: Jeff Gordon
Now, will history be made? Or will tire issues plague the Brickyard 400 Again? We are set to find out this Sunday on ESPN!