Mid-Pack: At the BrickyardThursday, July 26, 2012
Track history: Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a 2.5-mile semi-banked oval with 9-degree banking in all four turns. The lengths of the flat front and backstretches are 5/8-mile each and the short chutes are each a 1/8th-mile. The track is almost a perfect rectangle due to the confines of the property that was available at the time. It was built as a test facility for the growing car industry and was paved with 3.2 million bricks in 1909. The Brickyard has hosted the Indianapolis 500 since 1911. When the track began to get worn around 1935, asphalt was applied to the rougher areas. By 1941, the main straightaway was the only bricked portion remaining. In 1961, except for the “yard of bricks” at the start/finish line, the entire track was blacktop. When NASCAR announced it was coming to Indy over a million fans applied for the 300,000 tickets to the inaugural event.
Track Quick Facts (courtesy NASCAR Media):
Last five winners: Paul Menard 7/31/11, Jamie McMurray 7/25/10, Jimmie Johnson 7/26/09, Jimmie Johnson 7/27/08 and Tony Stewart 7/29/07.
First Cup start at this track (Active drivers): None
First Cup pole at this track (Active): Reed Sorenson 7/29/07.
First Cup win at this track (Active): Paul Menard 7/31/11.
August 6, 1994: The first 400-mile NASCAR Cup race at Indy was the 1994 Brickyard 400. Rick Mast qualified on the pole with a lap of 172.414 mph in the No. 1 Skoal Racing Ford. Jeff Gordon drove the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet from third in the lineup to the win with a race speed of 131.977 mph. It was the first of four Indy Cup wins for Gordon. Mast finished 22nd.
July 31, 2011: Paul Menard won the Brickyard 400 from a 15th place start. It was the No. 27 Chevrolet driver’s first career victory in 167 NSCS races. Menard is the first driver to win his first career race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Drivers leading 10 or more laps: No. 14 Tony Stewart (10 laps, finished sixth), No. 17 Matt Kenseth (10 laps, finished fifth), No. 2 Brad Keselowski (17 laps, finished ninth), winner Menard (21 laps), No. 24 Jeff Gordon (36 laps, finished second) and No. 4 Kasey Kahne led the most laps (48 of 160, finished 18th). Pole-sitter No. 6 David Ragan led one lap and finished 23rd.
Fantasy games won’t allow you to pick all track favorites so Mid-Pack Attack is here to help. A mid-packer may not win the race but has as good a shot at a top 15 finish as track favorites Greg Biffle, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart. There were 47 cars on the preliminary entry list for this weekend’s Cup race. Here are our picks for Sunday’s Crown Royal Curtiss Shaver 400 in Speedway, Indiana.
Over the last six races at the Brickyard, Mark Martin has scored the most driver championship points. In the last seven races, NASCAR Statistics shows his 8.8 average running position is tops. His 7.1 average finish is second-best (behind favorite Stewart) and he spent the most time running in the top 15 (945 laps – 84.4%) in those seven races at IMS. Martin’s overall average finish for 18 starts here is a respectable 12.9. With worst results of two 11th place finishes since 2004, and a best of 2nd from the pole in 2009, we think he’ll be a strong contender at Indy on Sunday.
It could be the owner/driver relationship that makes the difference, but Jamie McMurray seems to have done better while driving for Chip Ganassi. He drove for him between 2003 and 2005 and had Indy finishes of third, seventh and 17th. He moved to Roush Racing and had only one top-10 in the next four IMS starts. After reuniting with Ganassi (Earnhardt-Ganassi) in 2010, he won the 2010 Daytona 500 and the 2010 Brickyard 400. Last season, he finished fourth in this event. McMurray might not be heading to victory circle again this weekend, but he should be considered a top-15 or better possibility at one of his better tracks.
Sam Hornish Jr., who is fourth in the Nationwide Series points, will not only be racing in the NNS inaugural event at Indy on Saturday, he will also be piloting the No. 22 Dodge (AJ Allmendinger’s ride) on Sunday. His open-wheel history at the Brickyard includes eight starts in the Indianapolis 500 with an average finish of 16.5, including a win from the pole in 2006. He hasn’t done as well in a stock car. In three Cup starts here (2008-2010), Hornish averaged a 29.3 finish. He is in a tough spot this week. This will be his best shot at showcasing his talents in the hope of securing a full-time ride back in the Sprint Cup Series. We think he’ll be a driver to watch this weekend.
Like the lead-in to this column says, we’re here to give you possible top-15 finishers. Jeff Burton, who made all 18 races at this track, comes to mind. With the exception of last year when he lost the engine with about eight laps to go, Burton has finished all races at the Brickyard. Overall, he has an 18.4 average finish. He scored top-15 finishes in five of the last eight IMS races; top-10s in three of the last five. You can be sure you won’t see Burton leading 87 laps like he did in the 2006 Brickyard 400 (finished 15th), but look for the No. 31 Chevrolet near the front on Sunday.