This Week in NASCAR: Crown Royal 400 at the Brickyard

By Jim Donahue

 

Other than Daytona, no stop on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule is bigger than Sunday’s visit to historic Indianapolis for the Brickyard 400 – technically called the Crown Royal Presents the Curtiss Shaver 400. Jimmie Johnson is the +650 to win at WagerWeb.com.

In the 18-year history of this race, only 11 drivers have claimed the brick-shaped trophy and they read like a who’s who of stock car racing. Only four drivers have won this race more than once and all of them are Cup champions.

Nearly half of the winners of this race went on to claim the championship later in the year. Three of Johnson’s Cups were earned after he won at the Brickyard in 2006, 2008, and 2009, Jeff Gordon won this race and the Cup in 1998 and 2001, while Dale Jarrett (1996), Bobby Labonte (2000), and Tony Stewart (2005) round out that list. Dale Earnhardt almost added his name to the rolls when he finished second in the points after winning Indy in 1995. Gordon’s 2004 and Jarrett’s 1999 Brickyard victories preceded third-place points finishes.

Winning at Indianapolis is not a guarantee of success since Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray finished 17th and 14th in the points in the 2011 and 2010 seasons respectively, but the vast majority of the winners of this event finished sixth or better in the standings. And that is an added incentive to run well this week. In the 18 previous Brickyard 400s, there has been only one true upset —Menard’s win last year.

Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Menard, Joey Logano, Gordon and a host of other drivers all need to win to have a shot to make the Chase. And of those, only Gordon has won at Indy.

Gordon won the inaugural race in 1994 and has a record four NASCAR wins at Indy. He led 36 laps and finished second last year and could turn around his season in a hurry with a fifth Brickyard win. Kahne is hot, having won the last Cup race two weeks ago, and also runs well at Indy. He has four top-10s in eight races there and led a race-high 48 laps last year.

Stewart is a second-favorite at +750 on WagerWeb.com. No one gets up for Indy more than the hometown boy and former IndyCar star. Stewart has won the Brickyard 400 twice and is running well enough this season — three wins — to do it again.

Indy Fact Sheet

Number of previous races: 18.

First race: August 6, 1994, won by Jeff Gordon.

Last Sprint Cup race: July 31, 2011, won by Paul Menard.

Won from pole: 2, last time by Jimmie Johnson in 2008.

Won from top-5 starting position: 9 times in 18 races (50%).

Won from top-10 starting position: 10 times (56%).

Won from 21st or worse starting position: 3 times (17%).

Worst starting spot for race winner: 27th, by Jeff Gordon in 2001.

Most laps led: 124, by Jeff Gordon in 2004.

Fewest laps led by a race winner: 11, by Dale Jarrett in 1996.

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