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Who knew kissing bricks could be so rewarding?
When NASCAR arrived at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway back in 1994, there was widespread belief the Brickyard 400 would turn into a midseason version of the Daytona 500. Mobs of people. Seven days of parties. A celebration of the sport.
Then a funny thing happened. Some of the races weren’t good. The 2008 Tiregate was a complete debacle. A complete sellout turned into a few empty seats which morphed into a bunch of empty seats which now leads to $40 race day tickets on the track’s pretty sweet website. Some still believe this is the second biggest race on the calendar. Others devote little energy to the race because it's not on the Chase schedule and doesn't set up like many Chase tracks.
Still, kissing the bricks at Indy matters to these drivers who grew up watching the 500 Memorial Day weekend. Those who win this race tend to win championships later in their career; so, putting your name next to Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart offers as much figurative value as literal value from the winner’s check.
The track is a 2.5 mile oval. Long straightaways mean the engine guys will earn their keep. Qualifying is critical because track position is even more critical. The tires have improved, but it’s always in the back of a team’s head. Drivers with bad qualifying runs will have a tough time moving forward, unless their pit stops make Chris Farley look like Usain Bolt.
The Brickyard 400 is an event. Whether we remember it for the right or wrong reasons is a story that will unfold Sunday on ESPN at 1 EDT. Now here are some other random facts to impress your friends with while baking in the summer sun.
- The frontstretch and backstretch are each 3,300 feet in length and devoid of baking.
- There is nine degree banking across the turns.
- Paul Menard won this race last year.
- Jeff Gordon has won here four times. Jimmie Johnson has won at Indi three times. Neither has the highest average finish.
- Tony Stewart holds that honor and has won the Brickyard twice.
- Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer have the second through fifth best average finish.
- Harvick, Menard and Bobby Labonte are the only other active drivers to win this race once.
- Eight times the person who has won the Brickyard has gone on to win the season championship.