Very few tracks in motor racing hold such a special place and feeling in the hearts and minds of the competitors and the fans; the Brickyard at Indy is one of those places. It is, by no means, all by itself in that category but it is a place that has a mystique about it like no other. Perhaps it is all of the history that has taken place there or maybe it is just some of the names that come to mind when people think about it, but the Brickyard is one place that Nascar drivers still face with a bit of awe.
Now, I wouldn’t say they are “overwhelmed” with awe by the place but winning at the Brickyard is one of the most treasured victories in Nascar. To the Cup drivers, it ranks very close to winning at Daytona and is a victory that stays with them all their lives.
Even with all of the history surrounding the Brickyard, not all of the memories from there are necessarily good ones. The hottest topic in many circles is the tire problems from last year and some have suggested the problem isn’t fixed yet. If that is the case, it isn’t because Goodyear didn’t put forth the effort. They have done numerous test sessions and the word from all of those efforts is they are ready to race. Personally, I believe they have the situation in control and only ‘race day’ will tell the tale. In other words, we’ll see…
In watching the practice sessions, it is interesting the names I’ve seen at the top of the leader board so far at Indy. Looking at the first two practices, it is interesting that Juan Montoya was second in both, qualified second and will start outside pole on Sunday. That is very interesting even though I don’t put a lot of stock in the practices or in the qualifying times. Montoya has been showing himself to be very consistent and he’s even been showing some strength lately. He’s already proven himself to be a winner at the Brickyard in “Indy cars” and is absolutely capable winning there.
Once again, Mark Martin has shown up at the top of the leader board in practice and made a good strong showing in qualifying by taking the pole. It should be interesting to see how he performs on Sunday afternoon. Just because he has shown some speed doesn’t mean he is going to take the victory but I think he and his crew chief have made it quite clear they want to finish strong over the next few weeks. From this fan’s view, I think they find it more important to solidify their chances in making the Chase rather than taking another victory. That doesn’t mean they will be terribly disappointed if they do take the victory at Indy and also improve their standings in the Chase.
A quick glance at the final qualifying has a few surprises in the lineup. There are some that did qualify well, but the question remains, will they follow it up with a great performance in the race. Names like Juan Montoya, Dale Earnhardt Jr, David Reutimann, Kasey Kahne and Reed Sorenson. Some of these guys have been known to qualify well this year but not turn a good finish. It remains to be seen how they hold up as the laps wind down nearer the end of the race.
Also this weekend at Indy there are several strong names that did not qualify near the front, but that doesn’t mean they should be counted out for finishing strong at the end of the race. Names like, Jeff Gordon, starting 22nd, Matt Kenseth starting 25th, Kurt Bush starting 40th and Carl Edwards starting 41st. Those are some pretty strong performers and, if you consider only their qualifying times, the chances of them finishing at, or near, the front looks fairly bleak.
To me, it would be a mistake to count them out but they do have a bit of a struggle ahead of them and they will have to not only be fast but there won’t be much room for error either on the track or in the pits if they’re going to win.
The race this weekend could be a race that has a completely unexpected winner or it could be one that sees the usual car numbers and drivers out front and finishing in the top five. When I say “the usual car numbers out front”, naturally I am talking names like, Kurt Bush, Kyle Bush, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Mark Martin and Kasey Kahne. A few of the unexpected winners would be names like, David Reutimann, Juan Montoya, Greg Biffle, Sam Hornish Jr, Marcos Ambrose, Ryan Newman and, yes, even Dale Earnhardt Jr.
From this fan’s view, whoever takes the trophy home for the Allstate 400 will have to work for it. It is going to take excellent pit strategy, flawless pit stops and minimum driver error throughout the day.
So … who do I think is going to win the Allstate 400? That, my friend is a great question and I do have the answer. It will be the one that crosses the finish line first to take the checkered flag…
See ya next time …
(all views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer)
© July 2009 – all rights reserved
Just A Fan’s View and Rusty Norman