Like us to subscribe
Pit road was a busy place Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and perhaps no one experienced more struggles than Tony Stewart. Although he was in position to stretch his fuel at the end, Stewart's day suffered a number of setbacks on pit road, making his pursuit of a third Brickyard 400 win much more trying.
The first incident came early in the race on Lap 25 when the field began to peel onto pit road for the first round of green flag stops. As he followed Kevin Harvick in for service, the No. 29 car slowed and forced Stewart to jump to the outside. In doing so, the two made contact and the No. 14 hit the commitment cone and was issued a pass-through penalty by NASCAR.
Despite the contact with Harvick, Stewart did not see the move as blocking and said there were no hard feelings.
"It just was what it was," he said. "Kevin lifted earlier than I did coming off of Turn 4 and versus running into him, I went to the outside of him and when we got to the cone there, I was in the wrong spot. It was just one of those things, you are trying to get everything you can get. It was either hit the cone or run over the guy in front of me so I chose to hit the cone."
The penalty put Stewart in danger of going a lap down, but a caution for debris 10 laps later allowed the No. 14 to make up for the lost ground.
That was not the end of Stewart's struggles on pit road, however. Later in the race, as Stewart was entering his stall for service, Kyle Busch was leaving after a quick two-tire stop. The two made contact, damaging Busch's left-front fender and knocking Stewart's steering wheel about three inches off center.
The contact, however, did not cause any vibration and wound up hurting Busch's day more in the long run.
"It's a long pit road, but it's a narrow pit road," Stewart said. "I feel bad for Kyle and those guys because they had a good day going at that time too. Just a rough day, but we fought for everything we could get."
The team fought through the adversity and that hard work nearly paid off. In the closing laps, Stewart found himself in the top spot and in fuel conservation mode. Looking for his first victory of the 2011 season and second-straight for Stewart-Haas Racing, Stewart did his best to save fuel, but was unable to make it last to the end.
Pitting with only a handful of laps left, Stewart gave up the win, but rallied back for a solid sixth-place finish.
"It was a lot of hard work by Darian Grubb (crew chief) and the guys on this Mobil 1/Office Depot team," Stewart said. "We just had a long, long hard day. To get almost a top-five out of this thing, running sixth was a good day for us."
Paul Menard's victory in the Brickyard 400 on Sunday was extremely well-received in the NASCAR garage, as several competitors went way out of their way to praise Menard's character and express their happiness to see the Richard Childress Racing driver in Victory Circle.
"Paul's been around this place for a long time – he's been here since he was a kid," Tony Stewart said. "It couldn't have happened to a better guy; that is a pretty deserving win right there. I'm happy for him getting his first one that way."
Regan Smith, who called Menard one of his closest friends in NASCAR, knew how much it meant to see the No. 27 car cross the finish line first.
"He always talks about coming up here," Smith said. "He always talks about how much he loves this place. I know if you had to highlight one race to get his first win, I'm sure he'll tell you in a minute he couldn't be happier (to do it at Indy)."
Jeff Gordon finished second to Menard but went to Victory Circle to congratulate the race winner. He said Menard seemed to be "in awe" of what had just happened.
"His eyes, he's like a deer in the headlights," Gordon said. "I"m so happy for him; I think a lot of people are. It's one thing to get your first win here, but it's another when you can appreciate how special it is to win here. Paul certainly has that."
Other drivers were similarly happy for the soft-spoken Wisconsin native. Carl Edwards said he "couldn't think of a better person" to win the Brickyard 400 if Edwards himself couldn't do it, and said Menard was a "great race driver (and) a better person."
Mark Martin said he was "really, really, really happy" for Menard, and even Matt Kenseth – who was "irritated" that Menard forced him down the track on the restart – said "I'm so happy for Paul Menard."
"It's not like Paul runs around 25th every week and lucked into the (win)," Kenseth said. "Paul's been running good all year. You knew it was a matter of time before they got a win, so it was pretty cool for him to be able to win the Brickyard."
Joey Logano said he wasn't thrilled with how the race ended, though his comments weren't directed at Menard personally.
"It's frustrating getting the car better and being better than then having a fuel-mileage race," Logano said. "Seemse like anyone can win these things these days. You have to get lucky these days more than anything."
When you have four Brickyard 400 victories under your belt, you obviously know how to get the job done. And in the closing laps of Sunday's race, it appeared veteran driver Jeff Gordon was going to score his fifth all-time victory at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Coming up perhaps just one lap shy of overtaking eventual race winner Paul Menard, Gordon at least fulfilled one of two goals – making a solid championship statement.
"While we didn't win, I think we definitely showed that we're a championship‑caliber team," Gordon said. "We've been knocking on the door, getting closer every single weekend, won a couple races. For me, this is going to be a huge boost for this race team and hopefully a bit of a statement to the competition as well that we're serious about our efforts at a championship this year.
"If we can run like we did today here at Indy, you know, I know we're capable of winning just about any place we go."
Gordon admitted it took him awhile to learn to communicate with crew chief Alan Gustafson, but as of late, things have really started to click.
That may be good news for the four-time Sprint Cup Series champion as he heads to six of his better tracks before the 2011 Chase field is set. Sitting seventh in points, Gordon has 22 combined wins at Pocono, Watkins Glen, Michigan, Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond.
Of course, that may be bad news for the competition.
Paul Menard's dramatic fuel mileage win in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis did more than give the Richard Childress Racing driver his first career victory – it thrust him into a Chase wild card spot.
Gaining five spots in the standings, Menard is now in 14th – 55 points behind 10th-place Dale Earnhardt Jr., but with an all-important victory in the win column. He joins Denny Hamlin as the two current wild card contenders.
Hamlin's day was a constant battle after being forced to the rear of the field on the start for an engine change earlier in the weekend. With a strong car, Hamlin was able to gain a number of spots on the initial green flag run, but used pit strategy to make his way into the top 10, where he stayed for much of the afternoon.
Finishing the day 27th, Hamlin dropped out of the top 10 in the standings, but his lone win at Michigan International Speedway kept him in the Chase hunt as a wild card contender.
Despite a strong run for much of the afternoon after starting on the pole, David Ragan finished a disappointing 23rd and dropped to 16th in the standings – seven points behind Menard.
Carl Edwards was able to remain atop the point standings after struggling for much of the afternoon at Indianapolis, gaining ground on second-place Jimmie Johnson.
Kurt Busch took the biggest hit in the points, dropping three spots to sixth after a 21st-place finish.
With six races left before the field for the 2011 Chase is set, here is a look at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings:
NASCAR said Brickyard 400 attendance declined by only 2,000 this year, which would beat most expectations and be a major victory for Indianapolis Motor Speedway if accurate.
Because the attendance number – NASCAR said there were 138,000 people at Sunday's race – is just an estimate and not an official number, it's impossible to say for sure. But there were several sections in the turns that were completely empty and weren't sold at all.
Last year, when the attendance was estimated at 140,000, that wasn't the case. Longtime track observers said Sunday's crowd was the smallest in the 18 NASCAR races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Since the 2010 crowd declined by an estimated 40,000 people from 2009 and by 60,000 the year before, a decline of only 2,000 this year would be considered a huge win. But again, there's no way to know whether it was an accurate number or an inflated one.
Here's a look at some of the recent Brickyard 400 attendance estimates:
2007 – 270,000
2008 – 240,000
2009 – 180,000
2010 – 140,000
2011 – 138,000
Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn't have much of a reaction to his 16th-place finish at the Brickyard 400 on Sunday. Why? Because he didn't know what he or his team could have done to get a different result.
"We played it out, and that was the result we got," he said. "I don't know – if I was to be angry about it – what to be angry about."
Earnhardt Jr.'s finish dropped him one spot to 10th in the Chase standings, but he actually gained ground on the 11th-place car. NASCAR's most popular driver entered Indianapolis with only a seven-point buffer between himself and a position outside the Chase, but is now 19 points clear of Denny Hamlin.
"We did OK," Earnhardt Jr. said. "We had a pretty good car. Track position was everything, like I thought it would be. You couldn't pass. You could run in fast as the guys in front of you, and that was it."
As he said before the race, Earnhardt Jr. and the other drivers were mostly unable to get around the car in front of them if they were only slightly faster.
Earnhardt Jr. said it was like "an invisible wall keeping you back from getting there."
"Even if I had new tires or better tires, I couldn't pass people," he said. "I was going to finish behind whoever was in front of me – as long as he had enough gas."
The Hendrick Motorsports driver said it was "pretty crazy" to see Paul Menard win the Brickyard 400, but Earnhardt Jr. had plenty of praise for the Indy champion.
"I mean, he's been running great all year long," Earnhardt Jr. said. "He's a good talent, and he's got a really, really good crew chief in Slugger (Labbe). It was a matter of time. He'd been doing well."
Earnhardt Jr. said he'll continue to be optimistic about the Chase situation and "won't really worry about" his points position. His team is going testing this week, and there are still six races left until the postseason cutoff.
"I'll focus on the next track and try not to let that overwhelm us or consume us, you know?" he said.
Though Earnhardt Jr. said he wasn't exactly happy with his day at Indianapolis, he did find one positive in the performance.
"We got to the checkered, at least," he said. "I haven't done too well the last couple times I've been here."
Paul Menard shocked the racing world at Sunday afternoon's Brickyard 400 by saving enough fuel to hold off a hard-charging Jeff Gordon and score his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory in one of the sport's biggest races of the year.
The majority of Sunday's race was typical Indianapolis Motor Speedway racing, with the field getting strung out during long, green-flag runs. Yet as the closing laps approached, a late caution put many teams in a position to gamble on fuel.
With the leaders stretching their fuel mileage to the end, Menard was able to save enough gas to hold off a charge by Jamie McMurray in the closing laps.
As Menard and others worked to conserve fuel, Gordon made his move towards the lead with plenty of gas in the tank. Gaining nearly a second a lap on the leaders, the No. 24 Chevrolet was able to get to second on the white flag lap but did not have enough to move past Menard.
Taking the checkered flag, Menard scored his first career win and became a serious contender for the Chase wild card in the process.
Here is how they finished:
Brickyard 400 race day is finally here, and we're live at historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway for all the action.
Though the Brickyard race typically isn't one of the more exciting showcases of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing, it's still NASCAR's second-biggest race. With more than 100 years of racing history at IMS, every NASCAR driver wants to drive to Indy's Victory Circle and kiss the bricks.
Who will get it done today? We're going with Jimmie Johnson. Tell us your pick below and start your chatting!
Make sure to click the auto-refresh box so you can see the latest replies from other fans.
It's NASCAR Brickyard 400 race day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and we've got the actual race start time, the starting lineup and some other facts about the second-biggest race of the season for you below.
Start time: The command to start engines will be given by grand marshal Ned Jarrett – a NASCAR Hall of Famer – at 1:09 p.m. Eastern time. After a few pace laps, honorary starter Scott Borchetta (CEO of Big Machine Records) will wave the green flag at 1:21 p.m. Eastern. So if you want to skip the pre-race show and just tune in for the race, flip on your TV set at 1:21.
Race name/distance: The Brickyard 400 is NASCAR's second-most prestigious race, behind the Daytona 500. That's 160 laps around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
TV and radio: Today marks the first race of ESPN's portion of the NASCAR season. Every Cup race will be on either ESPN or ABC for the rest of the year. If you aren't near a TV, the radio broadcast can be found on your local IMS Radio Network affiliate. Click here to see a list of stations where you can listen.
National anthem: Country stars Rascal Flatts will sing the anthem today after playing a three-song set on the Yard of Bricks prior to the race. Also, Reba McEntire will perform "America The Beautiful" before the Brickyard 400 gets rolling.
Tickets: There are a massive amount of tickets remaining for the Brickyard 400. Attendance is feared to rival the smallest crowd yet for a NASCAR event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. If it does, it may be a big story in the media.
Weather: According to the unofficial NASCAR weatherman, the temperature at race time is expected to be around 88 degrees under mostly sunny skies.
Last time: One year ago, Jamie McMurray picked up his second stunning win of the season with a victory in the Brickyard 400. McMurray benefitted from teammate Juan Pablo Montoya's faulty pit strategy, and car owner Chip Ganassi swept both the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the same year.
Starting lineup for today's NASCAR Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway:
Jamie McMurray said he's already "looking at next year" and trying to develop setups that will get his team back to the level of competitiveness it enjoyed in 2010.
"I haven't really written this season off, but for the most part, I have," the defending Brickyard 400 winner said Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "...You're already building on what you have for next year. There's a lot of racing left and I still think we'll have the opportunity to win a race, we just have to hit on the right stuff."
The problem, McMurray said, is that none of his team's race setups from 2010 – including the one that helped win the Brickyard 400 last year – have been effective this season. Even when the team returns to the same tracks where it won.
Coupled with two engine failures and a transmission failure at Pocono, McMurray's season has been "really disappointing," he said.
But McMurray said there is hope: The intermediate track program (where the team has been off this year) seems to have made some gains during practice at Indianapolis, and the driver is hoping his team can apply those new ideas to the setup.
Jimmie Johnson said he texted buddy Travis Pastrana on Friday after the action sports star's X Games crash resulted in a broken leg and foot.
"He's bummed," Johnson said. "He texted he was disappointed he let everyone down ... and I told him he's crazy. There's not many people with the stones to try to pull off what he did on the motorcycle, so he shouldn't worry."
Pastrana also texted Johnson about his plans to try and run his Rally car at the X Games with just hand controls, but Johnson was skeptical. Still, he wasn't surprised by Pastrana's willingness to try it.
"I respect it," Johnson said. "That's what makes Travis, Travis. When we were racing the Race of Champions in Paris, I had broken my wrist on the golf cart. I came in a cast to support him, and he's like, 'Well, you're going to drive, aren't you?' I'm like, 'Nah...' He's like, 'Come on, it's in a cast! Let's go, I need you.' But that's why he's Travis Pastrana."
Joey Logano said he doesn't know if the Carl-Edwards-to-JGR rumors are true or not, but would like to know how they get started. As far as Logano knows, he still has a ride with Joe Gibbs Racing next season.
"No one's told me any different," he said. "I don't know. Maybe you guys can tell me who starts the rumors."
Scott Speed said he was happy to make a return to the Sprint Cup Series garage, which reminded him what a big family NASCAR is.
"It's weird to come back," he said. "I've seen so many people that I haven't seen in awhile, I forgot I knew so many people, honestly."
Speed, who is expecting a child soon with wife Amanda, said his Max Q Motorsports team plans to run the full races and not start-and-park. The team continues to seek sponsorship, he said.
While he makes his return to NASCAR, he's preparing to be a father for the first time. But he said having a new child won't make him grow up.
"I won't mature, that's the thing," he said with a laugh. "To be honest, I fully expect (Amanda's 10-year-old son) Rex to become the male, reasonable, responsible figure very soon here."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he would favor doing more of the autograph sessions like the one each of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers participated in at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday.
Though all of the drivers were present on Saturday, they'll be split up into smaller groups for autograph sessions at future tracks. A representative for Earnhardt Jr. said NASCAR's most popular driver will participate in the free sessions at Michigan and Kansas.
"I think the fans that got the opportunity to come in there and get autographs really, really appreciated it – and I enjoyed doing it," he said. "...I don't mind doing it at all. I'm game for whatever individual participation they want out of the drivers."
Drivers used to do many more autograph sessions than they do now, Earnhardt Jr. said, but many of the corporate sponsor appearances have turned into speaking events.
"(Autographs) used to be the norm," he said. "Appearances are more production-based and less autograph-based (now), so it's cool to kind of get back to the basics."
Kasey Kahne said his scary sprint car wreck at Williams Grove last week left him sore for a few days, but otherwise unscathed.
"It was just like any other wreck, other than I was in the air for a long time," he said. "I haven't been in the air for a long time for awhile. That was the difference. ... But you get over it pretty quick."
Casey Mears said his Germain Racing team may be small, but that doesn't mean it can't be competitive.
Mears' Brickyard 400 car – which he also ran at Kentucky – is the best vehicle the veteran driver has had since joining the Geico-sponsored team.
Before, his No. 13 car would be a half-second off the pace at some of the big tracks; now, Mears said, that gap has been cut in half.
"Things are looking up for next year," he said. "There are things around the corner that we might be able to run a full season next year, and I really see this team surprising people if we're able to do that."
Robby Gordon says his team is in "survival mode."
"Probably like 90 percent of the teams out here," he said. "A lot of them won't admit it."
Gordon said he's trying to juggle building his SPEED Energy drink brand, running his race team and focusing on driving all at the same time.
How does he do it?
"It's pretty simple," he said. "If you don't do the (business side), there won't be any driving."
Just like a UPS delivery man, David Ragan apparently has a good sense of timing.
On a Brickyard 400 weekend in which Ragan is running a special throwback paint scheme to honor NASCAR Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett, Ragan claimed the pole for Sunday's NASCAR race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a speed of 182.994 mph.
"Maybe we'll talk them into keeping this color next week," Ragan told Jarrett.
Ragan will start alongside Kasey Kahne (182.927 mph), with Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski lining up behind them.
AJ Allmendinger, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards rounded out the top 10.
What does Ragan plan to do in order to take advantage of his starting position on Sunday?
"I'm not going to change lanes before the start/finish line," Ragan cracked, referring to his infamous mistake in the Daytona 500 – which cost him a shot at the win. "That's the first thing I'm not going to do."
Ragan, currently in a wild card Chase spot, would love to have another win to solidify his postseason position. Can he win the Brickyard 400?
Here is the NASCAR Brickyard 400 starting lineup at Indianapolis Motor Speedway:
The cold front that brought showers and storms Friday afternoon and evening will be into southern Indiana and Kentucky by Saturday afternoon. There could be a few lingering showers or storms but most of that activity should stay south of Indianapolis and be out by midday.
Despite being a "Cold Front" there won't be much relief from the heat or steam of summer in central Indiana. The best news I have is the remaining race schedule for Nationwide and Sprint Cup looks to remain dry.
10:00 a.m EDT
Nationwide Practice– Partly sunny, slight chance of an isolated storm/shower - temp: 81
10:00 a.m EDT
Sprint Cup Final Practice – Partly sunny, slight chance of an isolated storm/shower - temp: 81
11:30 a.m EDT
Nationwide Final Practice – Sun & Clouds - temp: 85
2:00 p.m EDT
Brickyard Qualifying – Sun & Clouds - temp: 88
4:30 p.m EDT
Nationwide Qualifying – Sun and clouds - temp: 89
7:30 p.m EDT
Nationwide Race – Patchy clouds - temp: 86
1:00 p.m EDT
Brickyard 400 – Mostly sunny- temp: 88
"ok, ok, i give. I am going to TRY twitter.....looking forward to getting back to the racetrack, INDY is a huge race, i cant wait!" -@matt_kenseth17
With just three tweets and 11 follows, Matt Kenseth has gained himself close to 3,300 followers on his first day in the Twittersphere.
His first tweet was retweeted over 30 times.
His third tweet was his a twitpic of football video game score on his PlayStation 3 (his Packers over the Bears by a 24-0 margin) with the following message: "Boy are these games getting realistic!"
So why did Kenseth decide to finally give the social media tool a try?
"Just because I told everybody I would never do it," Kenseth said Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Makes perfect sense.
"I was sitting around and I was like, 'You know, maybe I'll start for awhile and see what it's like," Kenseth said. "I can't guarantee how long I'll do it, but I figured I would check it out."
Kenseth called the decision a "time to get out of the dark ages."
Kenseth's current follows include a majority of fellow NASCAR drivers, a couple members of the NASCAR media and Green Bay Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
As for his future on Twitter?
"It's only been a day," he said. "So yeah, I'll stick with it for a little while longer than that."
Greg Biffle has been teammates with Carl Edwards ever since the latter driver came into NASCAR with Roush Fenway Racing.
But Biffle sounded frustrated on Friday when he was asked about Edwards' still murky future. Edwards, a free agent after this season, has yet to decide whether he will stay at Roush Fenway Racing or leave for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Biffle compared Edwards' decision process to the wrangling over the debt ceiling in Congress: Sooner or later, he said, it has to end.
"At some point, he's gonna have to say, 'I'm not coming back,'" Biffle said. "He's not gonna be able to wait until Homestead – we all know that. Carl is a big boy, he's a man and he has to make his own decisions."
Biffle said Edwards should make a decision quickly so the team can start planning for next year – sponsorships and teams and personnel – either way.
"There are a lot of people's jobs on the line (depending on) if we're gonna be three teams or four teams," Biffle said. "I understand contract negotiations take a long time and there is a lot to them, but truly if you know or you've made a decision, then it's time to give everybody enough opportunity to make their (move) on the back side of that."
Jeff Gordon, who drives for rival Hendrick Motorsports, said if Edwards announces he's leaving Roush for Gibbs, then the 99 team "is done."
"I just don't see them winning the championship knowing that they're leaving," Gordon said. "I might be wrong. If he stays, it might have just been a blip and then get back on track. So I think that's definitely playing a factor."
Two of Edwards' potential future teammates, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, said they would welcome Edwards to Joe Gibbs Racing with open arms.
"I think it would be good for our team," Hamlin said. "I think that the dynamic of the three drivers that we already have is good. Having a guy that has already contended for championships and wins on a weekly basis can't be a bad thing."
Said Busch: "He's really good at what he does, he's got great communication, he's got good feedback. He's been one of the top three or four guys in the sport every year he's been around. ... I feel like Carl would certainly mesh well and fit in."
Edwards, for his part, remained tight-lipped about his future and said he preferred to negotiate out of the public spotlight.
Jeff Gordon got out of his Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet last Sunday at New Hampshire and onto an airplane for a 28-hour flight to the Congo, in central Africa.
What Gordon flew into is an area with some of the poorest citizens in the world and some disheartening sights.
"It was very eye-opening from the struggles that the people there are going through just trying to make 10 cents or a dollar or five dollars, to the roads, the structure of the military, the government," Gordon said Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "From every aspect, it was an experience that will change me forever."
Gordon's trip lasted just two and a half days, but his "reentry" into the American culture made him rethink his lifestyle.
"I feel guilty about buying a bottle of water for two bucks,"Gordon said. "I mean, you look at your refrigerator. You go, 'Oh, my gosh, so much waste here.' You just start to look at every aspect of your life and the things that you take for granted."
Had Gordon stayed longer, he said it would have become difficult to his life and lifestyle of luxuries. After New Hampshire, Gordon mentioned the trip would be an eye-opening experience. He now says it's one he never could have prepared for.
Sick people. Barefoot two-year-olds walking along the side of the road with nobody to watch them. Large sacks of coal on women's backs.
They're just a few of the experiences Gordon mentioned.
Jimmie Johnson has received apologies before from Juan Pablo Montoya, but he's tired of hearing them and the excuses behind them.
As for an apology after the two drivers had another incident? Johnson is still waiting.
Johnson said Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway he's upset Montoya hasn't apologized to him personally after the most recent race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Johnson said it's the third time this year he's been spun around by Montoya nearing the end of the race.
Although Johnson only feels two of the incidents were intentional, he said there comes a time when a driver needs to "respect the people you're racing around."
"I'm tired of hearing apologies," Johnson said. "I don't want the contact and I don't want to be raced that way. ... So there's times where you can understand, but after three times of being turned around and hearing 'I'm sorries,' it can't happen. "
Montoya said he actually apologized to Johnson's crew chief Chad Knaus while still in Loudon, N.H.
"If you really look at it, he had plenty of the race track at the bottom, so do I have apologize after the race? No," Montoya said. "I think the other time that I hit him, he actually ran into the wall and I decided not to hit the wall and hit him, so it all depends on how you see it. His point of view (and) my point of view are very different."
Asked why he would still apologize to Johnson if Montoya didn't think he needed to, he said it was the smart thing to do.
"Why?" Montoya said. "Because you don't want to have problems with people here."
As for how they'll settle the argument, Johnson acknowledged that they usually talk about it – sometimes in unique ways.
"I've been in my motorhome at Darlington when he spun me out there," Johnson said. "I'm in my motorhome showering and he walked into my bus and into my shower to apologize. Then he told me I'm naked and I said, 'Well of course I am – I'm in the shower.'"
When Dale Earnhardt Jr. rolled into Michigan International Speedway six weeks ago, he was third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings and only seven points away from taking over the lead.
Earnhardt Jr., his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team and Junior Nation were all feeling positive and enjoying what had been the most consistent season of Earnhardt Jr.'s career to that point.
Then came a string of bad luck, bad decisions and bad finishes that have dropped Earnhardt Jr. to the brink of losing a spot in the Chase.
Heading into Sunday's Brickyard 400, Earnhardt Jr. is ninth in the standings, 75 points behind leader Carl Edwards. Instead of being only seven points from the Chase lead, NASCAR's most popular driver is now only seven points inside the Chase.
So is it panic time yet? Hardly, Earnhardt Jr. said.
"I don't really get urgent," he said. "When things aren't going good and time is running out, (then) time is running out. I'm a realist about it. I know we've got seven races to make something happen, and we're going to try to do that.
"If you get urgent and you get panicky, man, that's when you make mistakes."
Earnhardt Jr. fans can look at history, though, and feel somewhat positive. In 2006, Earnhardt Jr. arrived at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after a string of five bad finishes and was 11th in the point standings.
He then finished sixth in that season's Brickyard 400, which sparked a turnaround and eventually led to his team making the Chase.
Now, after a similar string of five straight finishes of 15th or worse, Earnhardt Jr. knows there's plenty of time to get his momentum back on track.
"I know we're a good team and I know we were doing pretty well earlier in the season," he said.
Does he still feel confident about making the Chase?
"Yeah," he said matter-of-factly. "I'm in position to make it right now, so sure. That's a question you might ask someone if they're 18th. I'm (ninth)."
Earnhardt Jr. pointed to the new NASCAR points system as a reason that his sub-par finishes have led to a drop in the standings.
"I knew the points system was going to be kind of weird this year, and when you don't finish good, it's big with this new system," he said. "... It's just crazy how this new system can make gaps in just a week or two between people. Where in the old system, the pace between guys kind of coming and going in the points system was a lot slower.
"Now it's chunks of points. You can be out one week, then you can be way up in there two weeks later."
"What are you going to do, you know?" he said. "I'm not going to make myself miserable worrying about it. I'm just going to try to put the hammer down when I get in the car today and see what happens."
This was supposed to be a grand weekend for Travis Pastrana, ESPN and NASCAR. The action sports star was to pull off his long-planned "Pastranathon," going back and forth from the X Games in Los Angeles to Indianapolis for his highly anticipated NASCAR Nationwide Series debut.
Instead, this weekend has turned into one of incredible disappointment.
Pastrana crashed his bike during Thursday night's X Games Moto X Best Trick competition and Pastrana broke both his leg and foot, according to an ESPN.com report. The injury will require surgery, thus canceling his attempt to run the Nationwide Series race at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.
The lack of Pastrana's presence in the Nationwide race is a huge letdown for NASCAR and ESPN. The entire reason Pastrana was making his NASCAR national series debut this weekend was to provide a way to cross-promote NASCAR to the X Games demographic, and vice versa.
NASCAR and ESPN would like nothing more than for Pastrana's 18-24-year-old fans to tune in and give stock car racing a try. The Pastranathon would have made that an easy transition.
Now, it's over before it really even started. Pastrana has to be tremendously disappointed on a personal level.
Though he has six more Nationwide starts scheduled for the fall, it's unclear when Pastrana will recover and make his debut. With an injury like the one he sustained on Friday night, it might be awhile.
The same system that brought heavy rains and storms to Chicago and northern Illinois and Indiana will continue to slowly drop south during the day. This cool front won't bring temperatures down much but could produce scattered showers and storms during the day and evening on Friday. That really appears to be the main weather concern for this weekend. There is a small chance of showers and storms, more the isolated variety on Saturday, but drier and lower chances for rain as the day wears on with dry conditions on Sunday.
10:00 a.m EDT
Truck Practice– Sun & Clouds, chance of storms - temp: 83
11:45 a.m EDT
Truck Final Practice – Sun & Clouds, chance of storms - temp: 87
1:00 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup Practice – Sun & Clouds, chance of storms - temp: 89
3:00 p.m EDT
Sprint Cup Practice – Sun & Clouds, chance of storms - temp: 91
4:30 p.m EDT
Truck Qualifying – Sun & Clouds, chance of storms - temp: 90
7:30 p.m EDT
Truck Race – Patchy clouds, chance of a storm - temp: 87
10:00 a.m EDT
Nationwide Practice– Sun & Clouds, chance of storms - temp: 81
10:00 a.m EDT
Sprint Cup Final Practice – Sun & Clouds, chance of storms - temp: 81
11:30 a.m EDT
Nationwide Final Practice – Sun & Clouds, chance of storms - temp: 84
2:00 p.m EDT
Brickyard Qualifying – Sun & Clouds, chance of storms - temp: 88
4:30 p.m EDT
Nationwide Qualifying – Sun and clouds - temp: 88
7:30 p.m EDT
Nationwide Race – Patchy clouds - temp: 86
1:00 p.m EDT
Brickyard – Mostly sunny- temp: 89
There's a bit of an unusual schedule this weekend, as is typically the case when NASCAR heads to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Qualifying is on Saturday – not Friday, which will see two 75-minute practice sessions for the Sprint Cup Series. Then the Cup cars will return to the Brickyard on Saturday morning for their final practice, followed by qualifying on Saturday afternoon.
If you're heading to the track, make sure you seek out information on how to attend the 12 p.m. autograph session on Saturday, which will feature most of the big-name drivers and is being billed as the largest of the season.
Here's the complete weekend schedule for NASCAR's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (all times Eastern):
1 p.m. – Sprint Cup Series practice (1 hour, 15 minutes)
3:15 p.m. – Sprint Cup Series practice (1 hour, 15 minutes)
10 a.m. – Sprint Cup Series final practice (1 hour, 30 minutes)
12 p.m. – Largest Sprint Cup Series autograph session of the season
2:10 p.m. – Sprint Cup Series qualifying
Approx. 1:15 p.m. – Brickyard 400 (160 laps, 400 miles)
NASCAR's Brickyard 400 weekend has arrived, and we're live at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – as well as Lucas Oil Raceway – for all the activities.
It's a big weekend in Indianapolis. Not only is the Brickyard 400 the second-biggest race of the season – trailing only the Daytona 500 in prestige – but Travis Pastrana is making his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut on Saturday night.
Though NASCAR undoubtedly is happy to race at IMS, the sanctioning body and the track can't be pleased with the severe dropoff in attendance since the Goodyear tire debacle in 2008.
Whether that incident was to blame for declining ticket sales or whether it was another reason, the Brickyard 400 only draws a fraction of the crowd it once did.
Can NASCAR and IMS rebound and get back in the right direction? One thing that would help is an entertaining race with lots of passing; most of the Brickyard races in the last five or six years haven't been overly interesting.
Despite that, it only takes one race to change the perception. We'll find out together how it all shakes out on Sunday.
We'll email you a reset link.
If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.
You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.
We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.
You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.
We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.
Choose an available username to complete sign up.
In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.