Preview of the NASCAR Brickyard 400

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is coming off a well-deserved week off right into one of the marquee races of the season.  This week NASCAR is at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Brickyard 400, or more specifically, The Crown Royal Presents The Curtiss Shaver 400 At The Brickyard Powered By Big Machine Records.  The race is always popular among the race teams due to the over 100 year history of racing at Indianapolis.  NASCAR has been adding to this history since 1994 when Jeff Gordon won the inaugural race.  Since then there have been eleven different drivers who have won this race. Jeff Gordon leads all of them with four victories.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a large 2.5 mile track like Daytona and Talladega, but the similarities end right there.  At those tracks the cars need restrictor plates in order to keep the speeds down.  At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, or Indy as it is called by race fans, the track is very different from any other track.  This track races kind of like a short track due to only having 9 degrees of banking in the corners, and 0 degrees in the straight aways.  When talking about the banking in the corners at every track, what is really being discussed is the banking in the U-turn at each end of an oval or D shaped track.  This track is the only one that actually has four corners.  Indy is actually a big rectangle; the front and back stretch are long and there is actually a small straight away between turns one and two and between turns three and four.  The racing here is similar to Pocono Raceway, where the NASCAR Cup series is going next week.  However the pit strategy required to win the race is just like that of a road course.

The race is 400 miles, or 160 laps.  During the race, look for race teams to work on their cars for the first 110 laps until they get them fast and handling right.  After that they will be using pit strategy to get to the front, perhaps stretching it on fuel mileage, in order to win the race.

At every race it comes down to who is good at this track.  Indy is no exception.  It is a tough track to drive but the pit strategy is what will win the race.  Looking at this race by Driver Ratings, one would have to go with Tony Stewart, who leads all drivers with a great rating of 105.8. Mark Martin is in the No.  55 again and for good reason, he is the next highest rated driver at 104.5.  Previous Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya is next with a rating of 102.4.  Notice that of the top three drivers by Driver Rating; only Tony Stewart has won this race.  The rest of the top 12 Driver Ratings are below.

Jeff Gordon has won four races here, his teammate Jimmie Johnson has won three, and Tony Stewart has won two races.  Notice that these drivers have a really good Driver Rating at this track.  The active drivers who have won one race are last year’s winner Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray, Kevin Harvick, and Bobby Labonte.  Of these drivers only Kevin Harvick shows up on the top 12 Driver Rating chart.  The pit strategy part of the race has a lot to do with that.  14 of the 18 races have been won by a past, reigning, or future NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion; the exceptions were Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray, Kevin Harvick, and Ricky Rudd.

If you are watching the race on TV, expect previous Indianapolis 500 winners Juan Pablo Montoya and Sam Hornish Jr. to be focused on.  Tony Stewart, an Indiana native and driver who has previously raced in the 500 will also be a part of the discussion.  Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman will also be a focus.  The NASCAR Nationwide Series is also making its own history by holding its first race on Saturday, the day before.  Don’t forget the history of the speedway itself, which will always be a big part of the coverage.

If you are lucky to get to the track, the festivities before the race are incredible. The public atmosphere on Georgetown Road in front of the speedway is a must see.

If you can’t get to the track this race is the first race for ESPN this year.  Coverage starts at 12 PM ET.  The race starts at 1 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is the Lead NASCAR writer for RantSports.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary. On Facebook at NASCAR News and Commentary

Top 12 Driver Rating at Indianapolis

Tony Stewart……………………….. 105.8
Mark Martin…………………………. 104.5
Juan Pablo Montoya…………….. 102.4
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 100.0
Jeff Gordon………………………….. 99.4
Matt Kenseth………………………… 96.4
Greg Biffle……………………………. 95.9
Kasey Kahne………………………… 94.3
Kevin Harvick………………………… 93.5
Kyle Busch…………………………… 92.8
Jeff Burton…………………………… 90.9
Clint Bowyer…………………………. 89.4

Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005-2011 races (seven total) at Indianapolis.

 


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