Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indianapolis Motor Speedway, or the Brickyard, hosts only one race each season, but make no mistake about it: This is an important race in the drivers' eyes. The rich history of the track creates a very competitive and challenging race. Adding to the excitement, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns after a week off with the running of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.
Indianapolis is the consensus most challenging track for the Car of Tomorrow. The track is very demanding on the line of the car. One of the biggest challenges is handling because the corners are banked at only 9 degrees, which leads into four separate straightaways of two very different lengths. Two of the straightaways are short, which causes a low rpm. This requires excellent torque to enable drivers to power through those two corners; in turn, they attain top-end power on the longer straights.
Length: 2.50 miles
Banking: Turns 9 degrees
Table: Do not bench
Leading the Pack
Jimmie Johnson | No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports
Johnson came very close to winning for the second time this season in his last race at Chicagoland Speedway, finishing second. The strong finish might be the tonic he needs to gain momentum in the second half of the season. Johnson currently is in fifth place in the standings and poised to make a run at a third consecutive championship. Johnson has run six times at Indianapolis and has one victory. His last visit to Indianapolis Motor Speedway was cut short by an accident, and he finished 39th. He hasn't had much luck running here, with three DNFs in the six races. In the races he completed his average finish was 9.3. Johnson needs to be considered a favorite in this week's race.
Juan Pablo Montoya | No. 42 Juicy Fruit Slim Pack Dodge | Chip Ganassi Racing
Montoya has run only one time at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but it was memorable: He finished second. Since he has run at the track only once, an accurate measurement of his abilities is difficult to gauge. To date this season, Montoya hasn't shown us his tremendous promise as an up-and-coming NASCAR driver. He currently is in 20th place in the standings, well outside qualifying for the Chase. However, this is a track that he has shown he can win at. Selecting Montoya at Indianapolis would be based on his impressive second-place finish last year. He has the talent and historical record that indicates a strong finish, though.
Mark Martin | No. 8 U.S. Army "Salute the Troops" Chevrolet | Dale Earnhardt Inc.
Martin makes his presence known on the track while maintaining a professional and low-key personality. Don't be deceived; he is a very competitive driver who has shown his ability to win on any type of track. Martin has run 14 times at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with nine top-10s and five top-five finishes. Given Indianapolis' challenges, experience is a definite plus. His average finish at the track is 14.4, without a win. Martin would like to add Indianapolis to his impressive list of victories. Selecting Martin this week for his experience along with his competitive prior results is a good choice.
Kasey Kahne | No. 9 Budweiser Dodge | Gillett Evernham Motorsports
Indianapolis Motor Speedway is not a track that Kahne has won on. His average finish of 20.5 in four starts is a bit skewed since his last two races ended with accidents. Prior to the DNFs, his average finish at Indianapolis was a very remarkable 3.0 in two starts. Kahne currently sits in 11th place in the standings. His last two finishes (15th and seventh) were very competitive, but he had a recent string of three victories and five top-five finishes in six outings before his last four races. Kahne's driving has vastly improved, and he is currently one of the hottest drivers on the circuit.
Clint Bowyer | No. 07 DirecTV Chevrolet | Richard Childress Racing
Bowyer is looking to improve his current standing of 13th. He is also trying to establish himself as the top driver on the Richard Childress Racing team. He has run only twice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with one top-10 finish and no victories. His average finish is a respectable 8.5. In his last race he finished 14th. The track is very demanding, but Childress offers the resources and expertise necessary to produce a competitive Car of Tomorrow setup. Selecting a driver like Bowyer, who has an excellent record in his limited opportunities at Indianapolis and could be forging a hot streak, makes sense.
Brian Vickers | No. 83 Red Bull Toyota | Red Bull Racing
Vickers has proven that he can run competitively this season, as he is near qualifying for the Chase with a 14th-place standing. At Indianapolis Motor Speedway he has a fair amount of experience, having run four times, with an average finish of 17.5. He has improved his record in his last six times out; he has an average finish of 8.8, along with two top-fives and three top-10s, in those races. He finished in sixth place in his last race, at Chicagoland Speedway, and he led two laps. Vickers merits consideration this week when you consider his momentum, too.
Drivers to Keep an Eye On
Dave Blaney | No. 22 Caterpillar Toyota | Bill Davis Racing
Blaney has not been able to break out of his also-ran status this season. He currently sits in 31st position but has two top-10 finishes this season. His record at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with an average finish of 24.8, is not any better than his 2008 pace. In his nine starts at Indianapolis he has not won, but he ran very well in his last race there, finishing ninth. His record certainly could be stronger, but he could build upon his last race at Indianapolis. Blaney looks particularly attractive in salary cap leagues where teams need drivers who will fit under the cap.
Greg Biffle | No. 16 3M Ford | Roush Fenway Racing
Biffle began the season with a bang. He is comfortably qualifying for the Chase in the seventh position. Last week's fourth-place finish in the Lifelock.com 400 race has re-established Biffle as a force to be reckoned with. Getting momentum back in his garage is the key to his finish. Biffle's record at Indianapolis Motor Speedway isn't anything spectacular, though. He has run at Indianapolis five times, with an average finish of 19.2. He also has one top-10 finish. Indianapolis is a track that Biffle enjoys; he has the ability and resources to win there. Take into account his recent rebound performance along with his comfort level at this track, and it could make for a winning combination.
Kurt Busch | No. 2 Miller Lite Ford | Penske Racing
Busch has run seven times at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He is one of the more experienced drivers at the track, which is a definite advantage. After falling well back in the standings (18th) this season, Busch has made the necessary adjustments and is racing much more competitively, too; he has two top-fives, including a win, in his last three races. His average finish at Indianapolis is 14.9, which includes three top-10 finishes, one top-five and one DNF. What stands out from his record at Indianapolis is his consistency. Outside the single DNF, Busch has run a strong race at Indianapolis. Busch is a recommended pick based on his experience and consistency running at the track.
Casey Mears | No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Chevrolet | Hendrick Motorsports
Mears has not had much success at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His average finish in five starts is 23.8, with one top-10. In his last start at Indianapolis he finished 35th, well off the pace. Mears has to be considered given the fact that he has the resources of Hendrick Motorsports. Winning at Indianapolis requires everything to come together. The engine, body, handling, strategy and pit crew all need to be in synch; that is precisely what you get when you race for Hendrick. He finished 34th and 33rd in the last two races, but in the two before them, he earned a top-five and another top-10. Mears deserves to be near the top of your list not for his experience in Indy but based on who he races for and his solid, though spotty, recent performance.
Reed Sorenson | No. 41 Target/Maxwell House Dodge | Chip Ganassi Racing
Sorenson began the season impressively, finishing fifth in the Daytona 500. Since his strong start, though, Sorenson has not had much success. His average season finish this year is 26.9, versus an average finish of 17.5 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He has only run twice at Indianapolis, but he finished very strongly in his second race there with a fifth-place run. Sorenson has comfort levels at specific tracks, and his strong showing last year in Indy indicates that he could be poised for another good run. Last season he finished 22nd in the standings, and currently he resides in a disappointing 32nd. He may not improve his standing after this week's race, but if you're looking to take a shot, there are worse options.
David Gilliland | No. 38 FreeCreditReport.com Ford | Yates Racing
Gilliland has run on Indianapolis Motor Speedway only once but had a respectable showing, finishing 17th. His average finish this season is 23.7. He currently resides in 25th place in the standings and had one very strong second-place finish, in the Toyota/Save Mart 350. Gilliland has very little experience at Indianapolis, but he has demonstrated that he can run well at superspeedways. In eight races in that track classification, he has an average finish of 18.5, with a top-five and two top-10s. Another strong showing would add credibility to his racing resume. He may be a long shot but should be considered given the indicators.