Jimmie Johnson in rarefied air, closes controversial Brickyard weekend with fourth race victory

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JULY 31: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, stands on the grid prior to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 31, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Johnson would later win the race for a record-tying fourth time. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

This just in: Jimmie Johnson is really good at everything he does. And not just at Indianapolis, where Sunday saw him win his fourth Brickyard 400, tying him for the most race wins this season and at the Brickyard 400.

I think the last year and a half has made us forget just how great the Johnson and Chad Knaus combination really is. Last year saw the team win only twice, once at the ultra-random Talladega but 2012 is apparently the return of the king.

And I'm not talking about Richard Petty either. Although I may as well be when talking about the kind of roll that Johnson has been on since hitting his prime as a NASCAR driver in 2003.

Winning at Indianapolis is reserved for the best of the best, and last year's fuel mileage silliness aside, Johnson reminded us that only champions win here. In 19 years of the Brickyard, seven of 10 winners have gone on to win a championship, including seven in the same year. Can Johnson make it eight?

Johnson's victory is his third of 2012, tying him with Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart for the most in Sprint Cup. That's not even counting is dominant All-Star Race performance in May. The cream is starting to rise to the top and Johnson has officially staked his claim for a sixth Sprint Cup Series championship.

Johnson's recent success should have everyone in the paddock extremely worried.

A brief recap of the race and my thoughts on the spectacle of the Brickyard 400 can be found after the jump.



I've spilled a lot of vitriol this weekend about the first annual Indiana Super Weekend, and despite my discontent, I still found myself enchanted with Sunday's main event. Despite all that NASCAR and the Speedway have done over the last decade to make me fall out of love, all involved worked their magic again on Sunday, reminding me that the Brickyard is still a special event.

I just don't think there's room for numerous 'special' events at the same facility, all on the same weekend. It's like Tony Johns from PopOffValve wrote this weekend, "If every race at Indianapolis is special, none will be."

On the topic of diminished returns -- what in the world has become of the brick-kissing ceremony? When Dale Jarrett first started the tradition in 1996, it was a real grassroots notion, with the team and driver causally walking-up to the fabled line of bricks and just smooching them.

Today, much like drivers waiting on television to climb out of their cars, the brick-kissing ceremony has become a staged corporate advertisement. The brickyard was lined with obnoxious purple Crown Royal pillows, with Johnson and his team sitting impatiently, looking towards the camera waiting for the okay to 'act spontaneous.'

It's just too much for someone who grew up enamored with the spontaneity and impulse of kissing the bricks.

If the Indianapolis 500 is timeless, the Brickyard 400 has been surpassed by time.

But I'm nitpicking at this point. The Brickyard 400 was a really fascinating race. Pole-sitter Denny appeared to have the dominant car in the early stages of the race but that changed on a lap 46 when Denny Hamlin lost momentum and his track position when slid up the turn one racing groove. The combination of faster cars in the middle of the pack, differing fuel strategies, and an entertaining green-to-caution ration provided one of the better Brickyards in recent memory.

The end of the race gave us several captivating storylines, including:

-Jimmie Johnson's fourth Indianapolis Motor Speedway victory tying him with Michael Schumacher (5), Jeff Gordon, A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, and Rick Mears.

-Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the Sprint Cup Series points leader for the first time since summer 2004. Matt Kenseth entered Indianapolis as the leader, but lost his lead on lap 132 when he collided with Joey Logano and Bobby Labonte, ending his day. Earnhardt Jr. finished the race in third and assumes the championship lead by 14 points.

-Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards entered Indianapolis needing victories and are still on the outside of the Chase bubble. Gordon feels like he wasted a golden opportunity to pick up his first win of the season, while Edwards' day never got started. He developed a problem with his EFI system and required two early pit stops under green to correct the problem. Edwards finished 29th while Gordon led laps and finished fifth.

Neither matters at this point. Both driver require wins to make the Chase and are running out of opportunities to get it done. Only six races remain until the Chase for the Championship begins at Chicagoland Speedway.

NASCAR Wire Report Recap

Audiovisual

Logano gets loose, collects Kenseth (via TheOfficialNASCAR)

Final Laps: Johnson kisses Indy's bricks for a fourt... (via TheOfficialNASCAR)

Post-Race Reactions: Brickyard 400 (via TheOfficialNASCAR)

Race Results

Indianapolis Motor Speedway
19th Annual Crown Royal Presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 at The Brickyard Powered by Big
UNOFFICIAL Provided by NASCAR Statistics Sunday, 7/29/2012 @ 4:53 PM Eastern UNOFFICIAL
Fin Str Car Driver Team Lap Pts BPts Status TLd LLd
1 6 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet 160 48 5 Running 5 99
2 7 18 Kyle Busch M&M's Toyota 160 43 1 Running 2 3
3 5 16 Greg Biffle 3M Ford 160 42 1 Running 1 4
4 20 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet 160 40 Running
5 9 24 Jeff Gordon Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet 160 40 1 Running 1 1
6 1 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Express Toyota 160 39 1 Running 2 27
7 11 39 Ryan Newman Quicken Loans Chevrolet 160 37 Running
8 17 56 Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Auto Parts Toyota 160 36 Running
9 22 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Dodge 160 36 1 Running 3 22
10 28 14 Tony Stewart Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet 160 34 Running
11 19 55 Mark Martin Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota 160 33 Running
12 15 5 Kasey Kahne Farmers Insurance Chevrolet 160 32 Running
13 27 29 Kevin Harvick Jimmy John's Chevrolet 160 31 Running
14 8 27 Paul Menard Menards/Nibco Chevrolet 160 30 Running
15 33 15 Clint Bowyer 5-hour Energy Toyota 160 29 Running
16 24 22 Sam Hornish Jr.(i) Shell Pennzoil Dodge 160 0 Running
17 18 21 Trevor Bayne(i) Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford 160 0 Running
18 14 78 Regan Smith Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet 160 26 Running
19 4 43 Aric Almirola Eckrich Ford 160 25 Running
20 23 9 Marcos Ambrose DeWalt Ford 160 24 Running
21 12 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet 160 23 Running
22 16 1 Jamie McMurray Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Chevrolet 160 22 Running
23 32 36 Dave Blaney SealWrap Chevrolet 160 21 Running
24 26 30 David Stremme Inception Motorsports Toyota 160 20 Running
25 38 83 Landon Cassill Burger King Toyota 160 20 1 Running 2 2
26 29 47 Bobby Labonte Scott Products Toyota 160 19 1 Running 1 1
27 31 38 David Gilliland Big Machine Records Ford 160 17 Running
28 36 34 David Ragan Scorpion Coatings/Al's Liners Ford 160 16 Running
29 2 99 Carl Edwards Fastenal Ford 156 15 Running
30 42 32 Ken Schrader Special Operations For America.org Ford 156 14 Running
31 37 33 Stephen Leicht # LittleJoesAuto.com Chevrolet 154 13 Running
32 21 31 Jeff Burton Rain-X Chevrolet 151 12 Running
33 3 20 Joey Logano Dollar General Toyota 144 11 Running
34 25 13 Casey Mears GEICO Ford 137 10 Running
35 10 17 Matt Kenseth Fifth Third Bank Ford 132 10 1 Accident 1 1
36 13 51 Kurt Busch Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet 126 8 Engine
37 30 93 Travis Kvapil Burger King Toyota 40 7 Accident
38 34 95 Scott Speed Leavine Family Racing Ford 23 6 Brakes
39 41 10 JJ Yeley Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet 20 5 Transmission
40 35 26 Josh Wise # Taco Bell Chevrolet 19 4 Brakes
41 40 23 Scott Riggs North Texas Pipe Chevrolet 14 3 Rear Gear
42 39 79 Mike Skinner Koma Unwind Ford 11 2 Rear Gear
43 43 19 Mike Bliss(i) Humphrey-Smth Racing LLC Toyota 5 0 Engine
# = Rookie, Fin = Finish, Str = Start, Pts = Total Points, BPs = Lap Leader Bns Pts, TLd = Times Led, LLd = Laps Led. (i) Ineligible for driver points in this series
Average Speed: 137.680 MPH Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 54 Mins, 19 Secs. Margin of Victory: 4.758 Seconds
Lead Changes: 17 among 9 drivers Cautions: 5 for 25 laps Attendance: 125,000
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