Even though the Brickyard 400 is NASCAR's second-biggest event in recent years, the excitement on the track hasn't always matched the prestige of winning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
There was hope heading into this year's race that NASCAR's new Generation-6 car would produce an increase in side-by-side racing and in turn, a more dramatic race.
By most accounts that goal was not reached Sunday, as NASCAR's annual visit to Indianapolis again feature prolonged periods of single-file racing and left drivers frustrated with their inability to overtake.
"This whole event, track position was key," said Carl Edwards, who finished 13th. "It was very difficult for me to pass people."
Not wanting to incur a fine from NASCAR, Edwards stopped short of directly criticizing the Gen-6 car. (Denny Hamlin was fined $25,000 in March for inconspicuous comments made regarding the competitiveness of the redesigned car.)
Edwards did admit that passing was more challenging than in years past. He attributed this in part to an overreliance on downforce and a tire that is not compatible with both the track and the Gen-6.
"My opinion is that we saw it Wednesday night (during the Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway)," Edwards said. "If you are not racing aerodynamic devices and the tire and track can interact so that the car can slide around a little more, I think you will see more side-by-side racing.
"I have been preaching that a long time. I am not an aerodynamicist, but that is just what I see."
Edwards wasn't alone in lamenting how difficult it was to maneuver. Throughout the afternoon, multiple drivers voiced their frustration. "You can't pass. It's just awful. Our car is great, just aero s***," Jeff Gordon radioed to his crew at one point.
Said Brad Keselowski post-race: "I think there is lots of things we can do to make the racing better. I am always open-minded."
However, not everyone was in agreement that Indianapolis was devoid of excitement. Tony Stewart was one driver who was adamant that the quality of racing was high.
"This is about cars being fast," said Stewart, who finished fourth. "It doesn't have to be two- and three-wide racing all day long to be good racing. Racing is about figuring out how to take the package you're allowed and make it better than what everybody else has and do a better job with it."
Stewart's point of contention is that past races at The Speedway have featured even less passing and wider gaps between cars.
The lead was exchanged a total of 20 times Sunday, which is three more than last year's race and two fewer than in 2011. And overall this year's edition of the Brickyard 400 featured the fourth-most lead changes in the 20-year history of the race.
"We're racing here," Stewart said. "That's all I'm going to say. This is racing."
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