Brickyard 400 winners tough to beat in Chase for Sprint Cup
Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson share a common bond entering the tense finale of the Race for the Chase on Saturday, Sept. 12 at Richmond International Raceway.
They've already qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup this season. They've won multiple NASCAR Sprint Cup titles. And they've won multiple Brickyard 400 races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Ten drivers will face intense pressure under the lights at Richmond in the Chevy Rock & Roll 400, competing for the final eight spots in the 10-race Chase that will determine the season champion. Stewart, Gordon, Johnson and Denny Hamlin - who occupy the top four spots in the standings, respectively - already are in.
And if history is any indication, there's a good chance a Brickyard 400 winner will emerge as this season's champion. Since the Chase for the Sprint Cup started in 2004, four of the five winners have been Brickyard 400 champions. Only the best win at Indy.
Stewart won the Brickyard 400 in 2005 and 2007, and he also claimed his second Sprint Cup in 2005. Gordon won at Indy in 1994, 1998, 2001 and 2004, and two of his four season titles also came in years he won at the Brickyard, in 1998 and 2001.
Johnson is aiming for his unprecedented fourth consecutive Sprint Cup title this season. He earned his third Brickyard 400 victory in July, a good omen for his success in the Chase. Johnson achieved a season "double" by winning the Brickyard 400 and the championship in 2006 and 2008.
While either Stewart, Gordon or Johnson has won every Brickyard 400 since 2004, prior winners at Indy also fared well in NASCAR's premier title race.
1995 Brickyard winner Dale Earnhardt was a seven-time season champion, two-time winner Dale Jarrett also claimed the title in 1999, Bobby Labonte pulled off the Brickyard-championship "double" in 2000, and 2002 Brickyard winner Bill Elliott wore the season crown in 1988.