Blog: NASCAR makes stop at the Brickyard
By Paul Corliss
In NASCAR, Indy matters.
The Brickyard 400 this weekend in Indianapolis is as significant as any race on the Sprint Cup schedule for a number of reasons. For starters, the race carries the prestige, pomp and circumstance that teams, drivers and fans have come to expect from the hallowed racing grounds of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Additionally, the race signifies the beginning of a key stretch run heading into the Chase for the Sprint Cup. But above all else, Indy is a proven momentum-builder for teams seeking a Sprint Cup championship.
How important is the Brickyard 400? Consider this: Eight of the last 12 NASCAR winners at Indy have won the season-long Sprint Cup championship. There was Jeff Gordon in 1998 and 2001, Dale Jarrett in 1999, Bobby Labonte in 2000, Tony Stewart in 2005 and Jimmie Johnson in 2006, 2008 and 2009.
“It's such a historic place that makes everybody put a little more effort into trying to go to Victory Lane and kiss the bricks at the end of the day on Sunday,” said Jarrett, who won at Indy in 1996, as well as his in his Sprint Cup championship season of 1999. “It's just a phenomenal place, and I think that's why you see the group and list of drivers and teams that have won this race are literally ones that – a lot of times – went on to win championships.”
With three wins at Indy the past four seasons, defending Brickyard and Sprint Cup champ Johnson certainly rolls in as the man to beat. In addition to his historical success at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Johnson has won a pair of races in the past month and – sitting at No. 3 in the 2010 Sprint Cup season standings – seems poised to reel in an unprecedented fifth consecutive season championship.
Then there’s Gordon, who currently sits at No. 2 in the 2010 season standings and has four career wins at the Brickyard to match his four career Sprint Cup championships. Racing at Indy is especially significant for the driver of the No. 24 Dupont Chevrolet, as Gordon was raised just 20 miles from Indianapolis in Pittsboro, Ind. and won the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994.
“Living in Indiana, racing around Indiana – Indianapolis Raceway Park, the fairgrounds, Bloomington … all over the place – it was every short track open-wheel Sprint Cup driver's dream to race at Indianapolis one day,” Gordon said. “To be able to do that in the very first ever (NASCAR) car race there in '94, win it, then go on to win it three more times, is something that I probably put up as the highest accomplishments of my career. This place has been really good to us in the past. With the way things are going for us, I think we've got an excellent shot at it.”
The other championship contender with local ties to Indianapolis Motor Speedway is Stewart, a two-time Brickyard and two-time series champ Stewart who still owns and lives in his childhood home located in nearby Columbus, Ind. Other top contenders at Indianapolis this weekend include current points leader and 2003 Brickyard 400 champion Kevin Harvick and former Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya.
Phoenix International Raceway is holding a viewing party for the Brickyard 400 this Sunday at F1 Race Factory, located at 317 South 48th Street in Phoenix. Doors open at 10 a.m. and the first 50 NASCAR fans through the door will receive buy-one-get-one-free passes for F1’s indoor kart racing. Fans can expect great food specials from F1 Race Factory, exciting NASCAR giveaways from PIR, and much more.