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NASCAR at the Brickyard from A Fans View

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Rusty NormanIf you listen to all of the talk about where NASCAR Cup teams are racing this weekend, you hear a lot about the track in Indianapolis. There is no doubt the Brickyard is a historic track and has been around for many years. There is also no doubt it is a place that has an aura about it and, in my view, that aura is deserved.

For those of you that may not be familiar with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it was built in 1909. With a history spanning over 100 years, it would be easy to go off on a tangent and get distracted from the NASCAR events in the area this weekend so I won’t do that, but if you want to know more about its history, there’s plenty to be found on Wikipedia and other places.

The speedway became know as ‘the Brickyard’ for a very simple reason; it was paved with bricks (although that was not the case originally.) Over the years with the change of technology and the general advancement of the engineering of the vehicles that race at the place, it is now paved in a way more conventional to today’s technology. When they did repave it the last time, they chose to keep the historic “Yard of Bricks” at the finish line and that is why the winning NASCAR team can still “Kiss the Bricks” which is a recent tradition instigated by 1996 Brickyard 400 winner, Dale Jarret and crew chief Todd Parrot. The completely spontaneous action quickly became a tradition for the winners of the Brickyard 400.

There are several things to remember when thinking about the race this weekend and some of them are just how important this race is to all of the competitors and how prestigious a race it is to win. Three races stand above the rest in NASCAR competition and winning them carries a certain amount of prestige for the drivers that do. Those three are, the Daytona 500, the Charlotte 600 and the Brickyard 400 in no particular order (other than Daytona.)

Another thing to remember is the race to the Chase is winding down with only seven races left to decide which of the teams will be competing for the coveted Sprint Cup Championship. That makes this race even more important, and for those trying to earn a spot in the Chase, having a good finish is a must and winning at the Brickyard wouldn’t hurt at all either.

When the teams show up at this historic track, they don’t bring junk to compete with, they try to bring their best cars, best engine packages and all associated equipment along with the hope the crews are in top form both mentally and physically. The pits will prove to be a very important place this weekend and, once again, spots gained there, will be some of the easiest passes made all afternoon. The racing groove is very narrow, (I’ve even heard some say it is only a half a groove wide), and that should prove to make the whole race very interesting, (uh, that is as long as someone hasn’t shown up with the entire field covered, as has happened in recent weeks.)

From this fan’s view, qualifying showed that no one came expecting to squeak by. It was all out and though some felt they were conservative and could have done slightly better than they did, most of them didn’t leave anything on the track. From listening to the drivers, it is obvious they know how hard it is going to be to pass and they wanted to qualify as good as they could to hopefully have a better spot in the pits.

The biggest surprise, (from my view, of course), was how well most of the Hendrick teams qualified after watching their practice sessions. Jimmie Johnson sat on the pole after his qualifying run until David Ragan took the spot from him late in the session. Kasey Kahne put a cap on his good weekend so far by qualifying second and moving Johnson to third. Jeff Gordon qualified eighth and Mark Martin twelfth. Unfortunately, Dale Jr once again only qualified twenty second, but as I said, the qualifying was very competitive. It does mean he will have a ways to go if he hopes to end up at the front, which he needs to do, (also my opinion.)

The Roush Fords haven’t usually done well at the Brickyard, but this year could be different. In fact, all of the Fords looked pretty tough from the time the teams started unloading off the trucks, in particular, the Roush Fords.

Do I think it is going to be a Ford weekend like I thought is would be a Chevy weekend two weeks ago. That is a tough call at a tough track like Indy. I do think Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards all look like they will do well and their other teammate, David Ragan, is sitting on the pole.

Will that translate into a victory for them this Sunday afternoon? From this fan’s view that is a very good possibility, but although Indy hardly ever has unexpected winners, this is a place that is a bit unpredictable when it comes to picking winners based only on practice and qualifying. In my opinion, they have a very good chance, but so does the Toyota of Kasey Kahne. He has looked every bit as strong as the Fords and this could also be a Red Bull weekend if Kasey has anything to say about it.

A few things are certain… the race will come down to pit strategy, fuel mileage and track position. With all of the turbulence these cars cause, if someone isn’t near the front, they may not have much of a chance passing enough cars to get there. It is also certain teams have brought their best to the Brickyard… the question is, will their best be good enough???

See ya next time…
All views expressed are strictly the opinion of the writer
© July 30, 2011 – all rights reserved
Rusty Norman and
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By Rusty Norman

Amateur writer, NASCAR Fan, musician and former local Stock Car racer.