News & Media


Driver Reports: Breaking down the Brickyard

July 22, 2013, Brad Norman, NASCAR.com

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Johnson, Gordon and Stewart among drivers with rich Indianapolis history

1. Jimmie Johnson (No. 48)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet

Where he stands: Johnson leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings with 696 points.
This week: In 11 career starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Johnson has four wins, four top-fives, five top-10s and one pole. In the past eight years at Indianapolis, Johnson ranks fourth out of 51 drivers with an average place of 11.7.
Last year: Johnson had a good starting spot (sixth) for the 2012 Crown Royal presents the Curtiss Shaver 400, and he had an even better car. That combination makes Five-Time practically unbeatable. Johnson was up to second place through 10 laps, and he was never out of the top three. When the white flag dropped, Johnson was sailing clear ahead of Kyle Busch to pick up the win after leading 99 of 160 laps.
Most memorable Brickyard moment: Jeez, how to pick from Johnson’s four wins at Indianapolis Motor Speedway? Although winning three of four races there from 2006-2009 was impressive, we’ll go with last year’s triumph. Not only did Johnson lead the most laps in a race in his career at Indianapolis, the victory put him in the exclusive four-win club at the track with Brickyard master Jeff Gordon.

2. Clint Bowyer (No. 15)

Michael Waltrip Racing, Toyota 

Where he stands: Bowyer is second in the standings with 640 points.
This week: In seven career starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Bowyer has two top-fives and two top-10s. In the past eight years at Indianapolis, Bowyer ranks 10th out of 51 drivers with an average place of 14.0.
Last year: Bowyer was grateful for the effort of crew chief Brian Pattie after the No. 15 team turned in a real clunker of a qualifying run, starting 33rd on the grid. Bowyer had the vehicle to move up through the field, but got caught in a three-wide position on the outside groove and cut his tire. Still, he nursed the No. 15 Toyota to pit road and eventually had a good enough car to finish 15th.
Most memorable Brickyard moment: How about 2006, when Bowyer was a bright-eyed rookie driving the No. 07 for Richard Childress Racing. In that race, Bowyer posted the second-fasted qualifying time, for his career-best start at the track, then finished fourth. Bowyer wouldn’t finish that high again until another fourth-place effort in 2010.

3. Carl Edwards (No. 99)

Roush Fenway Racing, Ford 

Where he stands: Edwards is third in the standings with 623 points.
This week: In eight career starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Edwards has one top-five and three top-10s. In the past eight years at Indianapolis, Edwards ranks 16th out of 51 drivers with an average place of 17.7.
Last year: Edwards was in position to challenge for his first win at the Brickyard. He started second on the grid with a fast No. 99 Ford but ended up with his worst finish at the track at 29th. He was four off the lead lap after experiencing motor problems, causing him to pit and change the ECU and spark plugs.
Most memorable Brickyard moment: Without question, it's the 2008 race. Edwards led four laps and finished second, his best showing at Indianapolis. It was a test for the veteran, who fell to 14th place by Lap 50 and was 10th with 10 laps to go.

4. Kevin Harvick (No. 29)

Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet 

Where he stands: Harvick is fourth in the standings with 622 points.
This week: In 12 career starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Harvick has one win, four top-fives, seven top-10s and one pole. In the past eight years at Indianapolis, Harvick ranks 12th out of 51 drivers with an average place of 14.2.
Last year: Harvick’s 13th-place finish was the best among Richard Childress Racing drivers, and the veteran wasn’t too happy about it. He started 27th on the grid after getting tight during qualifying and, although he moved through the field, it was an effort to do so.
Most memorable Brickyard moment: Aug. 3, 2003. At age 27, Harvick brought the same car he had in 2002 at Indianapolis, which resulted in a fifth-place finish. He would do better in 2003, piloting the No. 29 to a victory in what was the biggest win of his career at the time. On the Coors Light Pole, Harvick led the first 17 laps and the final 16. A restart on Lap 151 (of 160) was his biggest late challenge, and he had cleared the field heading into Turn 1.

5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet

Where he stands: Earnhardt Jr. is fifth in the standings with 578 points.
This week: In 13 career starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Earnhardt has one top-five and three top-10s. In the past eight years at Indianapolis, Earnhardt ranks 20th out of 51 drivers with an average place of 18.3.
Last year: Earnhardt Jr. didn’t lead any laps and he didn’t win. But he vaulted 16 spots from his starting position to finish fourth on the day, and he also rose to first in the points standings, 14 ahead of Matt Kenseth.
Most memorable Brickyard moment: Junior doesn’t have a great history at the Brickyard. Last year was his best finish (fourth), and he wasn’t truly in position to challenge for a win. Maybe this is a cop-out, but perhaps Junior’s personal most memorable Brickyard moment was getting to celebrate with his father when Dale Earnhardt won the 1995 race in just NASCAR’s second race at the speedway.

6. Matt Kenseth (No. 20)

Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota 

Where he stands: Kenseth is sixth in the standings with 576 points.
This week: In 13 career starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Kenseth has five top-fives and seven top-10s. In the past eight years at Indianapolis, Kenseth ranks seventh out of 51 drivers with an average place of 12.9.
Last year: Kenseth has a lot of near-wins at Indianapolis, but last year wasn’t one of them. It wasn’t his fault, but Kenseth’s No. 17 got caught in a late wreck that ended his day and knocked him out of the points lead. His 35th-place showing ended a string of top-12 showings.
Most memorable Brickyard moment: Not a good one, unfortunately, for Kenseth. He finished 38th in 2008 when the field was plagued by tire issues; his right rear tire exploded so abruptly that it blew off part of his quarter panel. A usually reserved Kenseth was angry and expressive in his post-race news conferences.

7. Kyle Busch (No. 18)

Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota 

Where he stands: Busch is seventh in the standings with 576 points.
This week: In eight career starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Busch has two top-fives and six top-10s. In the past eight years at Indianapolis, Busch ranks sixth out of 51 drivers with an average place of 12.9.
Last year: Busch was happy with his car and his second-place result in 2012. Typically, drivers can be frustrated with taking second. They think of all the possible moves they could have made to bring home the checkers. Busch said his No. 18 Toyota was in “another zip code” from everybody in the field … except for winner Jimmie Johnson, who Busch said was in “his own country.”
Most memorable Brickyard moment: Let’s go with the 2012 race. Second place is Busch’s best finish at the track. He also started seventh, which is by far his best starting spot on the grid at the Brickyard. In fact, it’s his only start in eight attempts better than 16th.

8. Greg Biffle (No. 16)

Roush Fenway Racing, Ford 

Where he stands: Biffle is eighth in the standings with 545 points.
This week: In 10 career starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Biffle has three top-fives and six top-10s. In the past eight years at Indianapolis, Biffle ranks second out of 51 drivers with an average place of 10.1.
Last year: Biffle was the class of the field in 2012 when it came to racing on the circuit’s longest tracks. And Indianapolis Motor Speedway is 2.5 miles, making it the second-longest track in the series, along with Daytona International Speedway. Biffle followed suit and finished third in last year’s race. He started fifth on the grid and was never out of the top five. Biffle ceded the lead to Jimmie Johnson on the final restart of the day (Lap 132), and later said it didn’t matter where he was on the restart -- Johnson was going to pass anyone with the car he had.
Most memorable Brickyard moment: Biffle has a pair of third-place finishes at Indianapolis, including his effort in 2012. In 2010, though, Biffle finished third and led 38 laps, the best effort at Indy in his career. His 36-lap stretch of running P1 was second most in the race, and he expertly gained five positions over the final 20 laps to leave the track feeling good.

9. Brad Keselowski (No. 2)

Penske Racing, Ford 

Where he stands: Keselowski is ninth in the standings with 529 points.
This week: In three career starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Keselowski has two top-10s. In the past eight years at Indianapolis, Keselowski ranks 15th out of 51 drivers with an average place of 17.0.
Last year: Keselowski started 22nd on the grid and fell to 26th in the opening 10 laps. Needing to come up with something to contend, crew chief Paul Wolfe put Keselowski on a different pit strategy. The No. 2 was in second place by Lap 50, then down to 33rd by Lap 60 and up to the lead by Lap 80. A wreck on Lap 95 was the break Keselowski needed, and he was back as the leader by Lap 100 and on the same strategy as everyone else by that point; he would finish ninth for the second consecutive year.
Most memorable Brickyard moment: It came last year, for multiple reasons. Keselowski had finished ninth the previous year while starting fifth, but last year’s ninth-place effort had some compelling story lines. There was crew chief Paul Wolfe putting the driver on another pit strategy that worked out perfectly. It was a moment that showcased Wolfe’s ingenuity, a story line that would carry through to Keselowski’s race for the Sprint Cup Series championship. There was a bit of on-track bumping, too, as Keselowski was dinged by Regan Smith in the No. 78, all but ending his chance to win it.

10. Kasey Kahne (No. 5)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet

Where he stands: Kahne is 10th in the standings with 523 points.
This week: In nine career starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Kahne has two top-fives and four top-10s. In the past eight years at Indianapolis, Kahne ranks ninth out of 51 drivers with an average place of 13.4.
Last year: Kahne’s car was fast, but it was also damaged. The No. 5 Chevrolet got together with Joey Logano’s No. 20 on pit road, which dinged Kahne’s right front fender and negated just a bit of his speed. It was enough to keep Kahne out of the top 10 for the third consecutive year. He finished 12th.
Most memorable Brickyard moment: In just Kahne’s second start at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the upshot driver dueled with veteran Tony Stewart in a thrilling 2005 race. Kahne was driving the No. 9 Dodge for Evernham Motorsports and qualified fourth. Kahne led for two different stretches and 39 total laps. He took the lead from Stewart on Lap 134 and held it until ‘Smoke’ passed Kahne on a restart with 10 laps remaining.

11. Martin Truex Jr. (No. 56)

Michael Waltrip Racing, Toyota 

Where he stands: Truex Jr. is 11th in the standings with 521 points.
This week: In eight career starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Truex Jr. has one top-10. In the past eight years at Indianapolis, Truex Jr. ranks 23rd out of 51 drivers with an average place of 19.4.
Last year: Truex Jr. built up points last year through his strong performances at intermediate tracks. He wasn’t bad on the short stuff either. Leaving Indianapolis, though, the driver knew he made gains in the standings at a superspeedway with his eighth-place effort. Truex started 17th and saw some of his gains undone by restarts when he was on the outside. On the final restart though (Lap 141), he was on the preferred inside lane and gained spots.
Most memorable Brickyard moment: Count Truex among the guys whose best showing was last year. Considering the driver has an average finish of 21.5 at the superspeedway, finishing eighth at Indianapolis was a huge step. Now we’ll see if he can keep it going.

13. Tony Stewart (No. 14)

Stewart-Haas Racing, Chevrolet 

Where he stands: Stewart is 13th in the standings with 518 points.
This week: In 14 career starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Stewart has two wins, six top-fives, 10 top-10s and one pole. In the past eight years at Indianapolis, Stewart ranks third out of 51 drivers with an average place of 11.6.
Last year: In a rare moment, Stewart proclaimed he was happy with his 10th-place finish. Yes, the all or nothing driver took a new stance after he gained 14 spots in the final 60 laps in his not-very-good car. The driver didn’t have an entirely new view of things, though. He made sure to chastise drivers in his post-race news conference for blocking at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.
Most memorable Brickyard moment: Boy, this is easy. Stewart grew up less than 60 miles from Indianapolis Motor Speedway and used to drive in IndyCar, making this track absolutely historic for him. In 2005, in his seventh race at the Brickyard in NASCAR, Stewart kissed the bricks for the first time … and then climbed the fence. The climb up the mesh with his crew came as thousands of fans chanted Stewart’s name and served as perhaps the defining moment in a season in which Stewart won the Sprint Cup Series championship.

Five in the rearview mirror …

Jeff Gordon (No. 24)

Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet

Where he stands: Gordon is 12th in the standings with 521 points.
This week: In 19 career starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Gordon has four wins, 11 top-fives, 15 top-10s and three poles. In the past eight years at Indianapolis, Gordon ranks fifth out of 51 drivers with an average place of 11.8.
Most memorable Brickyard moment: There’s no time like the first time. Gordon is one of two drivers (Jimmie Johnson is the other) to win four races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and he won the inaugural event in 1994. In the No. 24 Chevrolet that hadn’t quite yet become historic, Gordon led 93 of 160 laps against the likes of Brett Bodine, Bill Elliott, Rusty Wallace and Dale Earnhardt. Ernie Irvan caught Gordon as the race wound down and actually made the pass with 10 laps to go. The two began dueling down the track, before Irvan eventually cut a tire with five laps to go, giving Gordon the lead for good.

Kurt Busch (No. 78)

Furniture Row Racing, Chevrolet 

Where he stands: Busch is 14th in the standings with 516 points.
This week: In 12 career starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Busch has one top-five and four top-10s. In the past eight years at Indianapolis, Busch ranks 24th out of 51 drivers with an average place of 21.4.
Most memorable Brickyard moment: Busch hasn’t done well at Indianapolis. His best finish (fifth) came in 2001, his first race there, and his average finish is 19.8. The most memorable moment was in the 2002 race, when Busch’s feud with Jimmy Spencer took off. Still smarting from an incident earlier in the season at Bristol, Spencer tagged Busch’s bumper hard entering a corner, sending Busch’s No. 97 into the wall and out of the race after 34 laps. Busch climbed out of his destroyed car and waited, arms crossed, until Spencer came back around, at which point he ran down onto the track and gestured wildly. Busch went on a rant after the race as a feud that lasted into the next year reached its boiling point.

Jamie McMurray (No. 1)

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet 

Where he stands: McMurray is 15th in the standings with 507 points.
This week: In 10 career starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, McMurray has one win, three top-fives and five top-10s. In the past eight years at Indianapolis, McMurray ranks 19th out of 51 drivers with an average place of 18.1.
Most memorable Brickyard moment: McMurray completed a historic sweep in 2010 when he won his first and only (to date) race at the Brickyard. Earlier in the year, McMurray won the Daytona 500, and he later won the fall race at Charlotte. Those are three of his six career wins in the Cup Series. He is one of three drivers to win the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 in the same year -- the other two are Dale Jarrett (1996) and Jimmie Johnson (2006).

Jeff Burton (No. 31)

Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet 

Where he stands: Burton is 17th in the standings with 498 points.
This week: In 19 career starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Burton has one top-five, five top-10s and one pole. In the past eight years at Indianapolis, Burton ranks 11th out of 51 drivers with an average place of 14.1.
Most memorable Brickyard moment: Despite his pedigree and success as a driver, Burton has never won at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He has a fifth-place finish and two sixth-place showings, but we’re going with 2006 as his most memorable outing. There, Burton won his only Coors Light Pole at the track and led six times for 87 laps. He fell back at the end, though, and finished 15th, but his pole award is one he’ll long remember.

Paul Menard (No. 27)

Richard Childress Racing, Chevrolet 

Where he stands: Menard is 20th in the standings with 487 points.
This week: In six career starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Menard has one win, one top-five and one top-10. In the past eight years at Indianapolis, Menard ranks 27th out of 51 drivers with an average place of 23.3.
Most memorable Brickyard moment: Menard entered the 2011 season unsure of his immediate future, having just five top-fives in his first 166 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts. That all changed two years ago, when Menard saved as much gas as he could and crossed the start/finish line under checkers ahead of a blistering Jeff Gordon, who had stopped for fuel and never could catch back up despite posting lap times a full 2 seconds faster at the end. It was the first (and only) win of Menard's Cup career at a track where his father had been trying to get to Victory Lane as an owner for years.

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