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Brickyard Preview: It's brick kissing time in Indy

by Dave Grayson
Thursday, July 22, 2010

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The winning NASCAR team will prostrate themselves on Sunday and kiss the yard of bricks at Indy.  How silly.
This Sunday the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will make its annual visit to hallowed ground that has played such a huge role in the history of American motorsports: the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It's the one time that you will see all drivers and members of Sprint Cup teams in a total state of awe struck wonder. These teams respect the vast history of this speedway which began back in 1909. They also want to be the ones to observe a time honored NASCAR tradition and kiss the bricks on the frontstretch following the conclusion of Sunday's Brickyard 400.

THE STORY BREAKDOWN

Okay, let's get this over with. We already know what one of the big NASCAR stories is going to be this weekend. It's the final dregs of drama from the Carl Edwards versus Brad Keselowski feud. You can pretty much expect to see that piece of video from last Saturday night's Nationwide Series race several more times backed with expert opinions regarding the punishment NASCAR officials handed out this past Wednesday morning. The only aspect to this story that could possibly bring something new and different is Edwards' reported intent to address the media on Friday morning.

That is unless these two drivers accept a unique challenge from the Charlotte Motor Speedway. CMS will be hosting their annual Kangaroo Express Summer Shootout on Tuesday featuring the whacky side of racing. Edwards and Keselowski have been invited to settle their differences once and for all while driving 13 ton school buses on the track. There's no word regarding if they will accept the offer but here's hoping that they do.

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Keep a sharp eye on driver Jeff Gordon during Sunday's Brickyard 400. It's no secret that Gordon hasn't exactly visited victory lane lately. The truth be known, he wants that next win almost as bad as he wants his fifth Sprint Cup championship.

The next win, along with giant strides towards his next NASCAR championship, could come at Indianapolis. That's because Gordon owns the stats there in just about every category you could name. That includes a series high four wins including the inaugural Brickyard 400 back in 1994. He also holds the record for most laps led at the Brickyard at 440 as well the most laps led by a race winner: 124 of the 160 laps during the 2004 event. When it comes to strong finishes at Indianapolis, Gordon rules those stats as well leading in top fives with 13 and top tens with nine. He also leads the Sprint Cup drivers with the best average finish: 8.6. His qualifying is also strong at this track. He has a series high three Coors Light Poles.

But Gordon's greatest nemesis in Sunday's race could turn out to be his team mate Jimmie Johnson driving a car that, ironically, is partly owned by Gordon. Johnson is not only the defending race champion. He has also won the Brickyard 400 two years in a row as well as three times in the last four years.

Needless to say, because of the stats these two drivers have compiled at Indy, Hendrick Motorsports holds the record for track wins at 7 while Chevrolet tops the manufacturer's win list at 11.

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Sunday's Brickyard 400 could create an amazing milestone for team owner Chip Ganassi who will be seeking the triple crown of American Racing. On the Sprint Cup side of the slate, Earnhardt- Ganassi Racing, presented by Felix Sabates, won this year's Daytona 500 with driver Jamie McMurray behind the wheel. Then last May, in the Indy Racing League, Target-Chip Ganassi won the Indianapolis 500 with driver Dario Franchitti. Ganassi is already the first team owner to win both of these prestigious events in the same year. A win Sunday completes the trifecta.

What are the possibilities? First off, McMurray could get hot at the end of the race and join his boss in victory lane. The better bet is the other Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing driver: Juan Pablo Montoya. A former Indy 500 winner, Montoya has a lot of laps on this track and knows the fast way around it. There are many, including yours truly, who believe that had it not been for that unfortunate pit road speeding penalty Montoya would have won the Brickyard 400 last year.

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There are two more milestones, connected to Sunday's race that are virtually guaranteed to happen. The first is former Sprint Cup champion Bobby Labonte's 600th career start. Labonte will be driving the #09 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet for owner James Finch in the Brickyard 400. Anyone who has ever met this Texas driver will tell you that Labonte is absolutely one of the nicest guys in the Sprint Cup garage. He well deserves the accolades that comes with his 600th start.

Meanwhile A J Allmendinger, driver of the #43 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports, will be making his 100th career Sprint Cup start on Sunday. This milestone is also significant because, back in the day, there were many observers who truly thought that this open wheel racing driver would not be able to handle the transition to NASCAR stock cars.

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THE VEGAS BREAKDOWN

The Las Vegas based World Sports Exchange, WSE, to no real surprise has reigning Sprint Cup champion, and three time race winner, Jimmie Johnson on top of their favorites list at 7 to 2 odds. Right behind him is two time Indy winner Tony Stewart at 7 to 1.

A mild surprise is Jeff Gordon in the third grouping at 8 to 1 despite the fact he's has a series high four wins at the brickyard. Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch are also in this group.

At 12 to 1 odds you will find 2003 winner, and current Sprint Cup points leader, Kevin Harvick along with pre race favorites Juan Pablo Montoya and Kurt Busch. By the way, it's believed that Montoya will generate a lot of wagers. Behind them at 14 to 1 is Ryan Newman.

In the mid pack rankings the WSE has rated drivers Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and Carl Edwards at 20 to 1 odds. At 25 to 1 is the duo of Matt Kenseth and Mark Martin while Greg Biffle and Dale Earnhardt Jr comes in at 30 to 1.

At the bottom of the list you will find drivers David Reutimann, Ryan Truex and Jamie McMurray rated at 35 to 1 odds. If you're into long shot bets that could turn out to be lucrative, Reutimann could make an interesting wager. Joey Logano closes the WSE list this week at 40 to 1.

Now for the disclaimer: NASCAR wants us to remind you that these numbers are posted for entertainment purposes. They neither encourage or condone the placing of wagers on their races. Instead you may want to consider spending your gambling money on Carl Edwards souvenirs. It will help him recoup some of that $25,000 check that he'll be sending to NASCAR.


THE RACE BREAKDOWN

The Brickyard 400 is 160 laps around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's mammoth 2.5 mile quad oval.

The track is extremely challenging for the drivers because of its virtually flat layout. The turns only have nine degrees of banking and no banking at all, as in zero degrees, on the straightaways. The turns are connected by incredibly long straightaways measuring 3,300 feet, The four corners of the speedway are also connected by short chutes measuring 600 feet long.

The Brickyard 400 has 47 entries vying for the 43 starting spots. Ten of those entries are on the go or go home list meaning those drivers are not guaranteed a starting berth in the race because they are currently outside of NASCAR's top 35 in owner's points. These ten drivers will have to earn a starting berth based on their qualifying speed.

The NASCAR qualifying record for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 186.293 MPH, is held by Casey Mears set back in 2004.

The Brickyard 400 has been very kind to championship caliber drivers. In the past 15 years 14 of the events has been won by either a past, reigning or future champion. Seven of the 15 races have been won by drivers who went on to win the Sprint Cup championship that same year.

The weather forecast for the NASCAR-Indy weekend will be dominated by partly cloudy skies and a chance of showers. Look for partly cloudy, 94 degrees and a ten percent chance of rain on Friday. Saturday's weather calls for cloudy skies, 93 degrees and an increased chance of showers in the late afternoon-early evening hours. Sunday race day expect partly cloudy conditions and a cooler daytime high of 85 degrees.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway reigns as the largest and highest capacity sporting event facility in history. The grandstands has seating for 257,325 fans. Add the infield accommodations and the fan base could go as high as 400,000.

The ESPN Network officially begins their 2010 tenure as the live broadcaster of NASCAR Sprint Cup racing this Sunday. The Brickyard 400 will be aired live beginning at 1 pm eastern time. Race re airs will be presented on Monday, 230 am et, on ESPN2 and again on Wednesday, 12 pm et, on SPEED.

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