INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JULY 28: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, drives through the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 28, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images for NASCAR)

NASCAR At Indianapolis Results 2012: Jimmie Johnson Wins Fourth Brickyard Race

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NASCAR Point Standings: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Has Sprint Cup Series Lead

Dale Earnhardt Jr. took advantage of a top-five run to become the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point leader for the first time since Sept. 19, 2004 on Sunday at the Brickyard.

But that's not the only news about leading the points on Sunday.

Jimmie Johnson's third win of the season tied him with Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart for the most victories in 2012 – which means those three drivers would start the Chase with the most bonus points.

Meanwhile, the wild card race also tightened as it became clearer that Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon would have to win races to make the Chase.

Here's a look at the NASCAR standings and how they relate to the Chase:

  1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. +143 inside Chase
  2. Matt Kenseth +129
  3. Greg Biffle +121
  4. Jimmie Johnson +116
  5. Denny Hamlin +79
  6. Kevin Harvick +65
  7. Martin Truex Jr. +65
  8. Tony Stewart +64
  9. Brad Keselowski +61
  10. Clint Bowyer +55
  11. Kyle Busch -55 from Chase (Holds No. 2 Wild Card with one win)
  12. Carl Edwards -61 from Chase (no wins)
  13. Kasey Kahne -64 from Chase (Holds No. 1 Wild Card with two wins)
  14. Ryan Newman -70 from Chase, -15 from No. 2 Wild Card (one win)
  15. Jeff Gordon -79 from Chase (no wins)
  16. Paul Menard -79 from Chase (no wins)
  17. Joey Logano -99 from Chase, -44 from No. 2 Wild Card (one win)
  18. Marcos Ambrose -124 from Chase (no wins)
  19. Jamie McMurray -135 from Chase (no wins)
  20. Jeff Burton -138 from Chase (no wins)
  21. Juan Pablo Montoya -168 from Chase (no wins)
  22. Aric Almirola -171 from Chase (no wins)
Note: Drivers 23rd and below have virtually no shot of making the Chase this season.
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NASCAR Indianapolis Results 2012: Jeff Gordon 'Disappointed' With Top-Five At Brickyard 400

A top-five finish in the second-biggest NASCAR race of the year is usually a cause for celebration. But not so much if you're Jeff Gordon, who is in desperate need of a win and saw another potential victory slip through his fingertips on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"I'm pretty disappointed, really," Gordon said. "It's always nice to finish in the top five, but at this point in the season, the way our season has gone with so many missed opportunities that we've had, I feel like it was a little bit of a missed opportunity today."

RELATED: See the results from Sunday's Brickyard race here.

Considering where he is at in the standings, Gordon realizes that any result other than a win is all but meaningless. The only hope he has of making the Chase is by winning – something he is going to have to do twice in the next six weeks if he wants to qualify for the playoffs – and claim one of the two available wild card spots.

On Sunday, it was obvious that Jimmie Johnson had the car to beat. But the No. 24 car was no slouch either, never running lower than ninth. The problem was that on a day where track position is everything and on an oval where passing is limited, Gordon could never get ahead of his Hendrick Motorsports teammate.

Add everything up and it was another would've, should've, could've day in a season filled with them for Gordon.

"I thought we were as good as or better than Jimmie," Gordon said. "We just never could get in front of him. That's what it takes to win. You've got to get out front. Track position is very important here. We showed that we could run their pace, but we were always coming from behind."

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NASCAR Brickyard Results: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Leading Point Standings After Indianapolis

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is your NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader.

For the first time since Sept. 19, 2004 – a span of 280 races – Earnhardt Jr. is leading the NASCAR standings after a fourth-place result at Sunday's Indianapolis Motor Speedway moved him past former leader Matt Kenseth (who wrecked and finished 35th).

"I'm proud of that because it says a lot about our body of work," Earnhardt Jr. said. "All season long, we've been working hard and finishing well. That is symbolic of how well we've done. I'm proud of that. I have felt that way about our position in points all season long."

But even as Earnhardt Jr. reflected on his accomplishment, which includes posting a series-best 15 top-10 finishes, there was still the acknowledgement that for his team to be considered genuine title contenders they need to do more.

"We need to win more races," he said. "If we want to win the championship, we have to. I imagine we can win a couple races in the Chase. I don't know if finishing fourth or fifth is going to do it. We'll just have to see. We'd like to step it up just a little bit more."

Earnhardt Jr. entered the weekend thinking he had a good shot to win his first NASCAR race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It's a race he would like to win for a variety of reasons, but particularly due to his appreciation for the track's rich history.

When he qualified 20th on Saturday, a win didn't seem likely. But he clawed his way to the top five and had a good car – though perhaps not as good as teammate Jimmie Johnson. The fourth-place finish was a career best at the Brickyard.

"I give them a lot of credit," Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon said. "It's really awesome that they're out front. They've been consistent and if they can keep that consistency up and maybe even take it up a notch when the Chase starts, they're going to be a real threat for the championship."

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NASCAR Indianapolis Results 2012: After Brickyard Disaster, Carl Edwards Says Mission Is Clear

Carl Edwards said Saturday he needed "seven perfect races" to make the Chase. But Sunday's race result at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was anything but perfect, and now the strategy has changed.

Edwards, in his first race with new crew chief Chad Norris, had a problem with the electronic fuel injection unit early tin the Brickyard race and required two lengthy pit stops to get his motor running again.

Before Edwards even had a chance to race much, he was already four laps down. He finished 29th and fell to 12th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings – a whopping 61 points out of the Chase.

With no race wins, Edwards now must win at least one race – perhaps two – for the preseason favorite to qualify for a Chase wild card spot. Trying to make the Chase via the top 10 in points is no longer realistic.

"The silver lining is this kind of makes it official that we just go race for wins now for the next six races," he said. "I don't think there is much of a chance we are going to march back up there in the points."

Edwards said the situation doesn't make things easier, it just makes them simpler. Knowing he doesn't have to worry about points racing means his team can just make decisions geared toward going for wins.

"For instance, if the same thing were to happen next week at Pocono, it is an easy decision: I would stay out and run it, no matter how sick the engine is, until we get a caution and then go work on it," he said. "We just have to do what we can. We have to plan to win these races."

Edwards tried his best to remain positive despite yet another disappointing day. Unfortunately for the Roush Fenway Racing driver, it's a feeling that's becoming all too familiar after dealing with his crushing Chase loss last year.

"I try to keep things in perspective," he said. "At the end of the day, we are just racing cars and it isn't life or death. I am ultra competitive, but I have learned to be the best I can on the race track I can't let something like this affect me past today.

"I have to go out there and make sure it doesn't affect the guys next week or me and we have to give the same effort every week. If there is a win there or a good run we will get it, but we can't beat ourselves."

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Tony Stewart After NASCAR Brickyard Race: Don't Block Me Again...Or Else

Tony Stewart was quite the in-race reporter for ESPN on Sunday.

During a late caution period, when Dale Jarrett innocently checked in to see how ol' Smoke's day was going, Stewart told the national audience he was tired of drivers blocking him on the track.

If another driver switched lanes to block him, he said, he would "park them" for the rest of the day. And after Stewart salvaged a 10th-place finish, he still felt strongly about the issue.

"If you block at all, that's too much," he told SB Nation. "It's racing, not blocking. I'm fed up with it, and it's a problem that's getting worse – it's not getting better. More guys are doing it."

Stewart said one unnamed driver blocked him twice coming off Turn 2. The first time, Stewart went in the opposite direction. The second time, the driver tried to box Stewart in behind another car – and Stewart got irritated.

"So I just went where I was going to go," he said. "When he blocked me the second time, I'm like, 'I've had it.' Pretty much from now on, if anyone blocks me, they're not going to like the consequences of it."

That Stewart was able to get a top-10 finish on one of the most difficult passing tracks was a boost for his No. 14 team, particularly after qualifying 28th (which he said was "terrible" on Saturday). Stewart said he "got lucky" by being able to start on the inside line of two late restarts, which he said was worth two spots each time.

"I didn't expect it by any means," Stewart said. "I'm really, really proud of the effort of these guys. That definitely wasn't where we were at yesterday. We weren't even a top-20 car yesterday. Pretty satisfied with that."

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NASCAR At Indianapolis Results: Denny Hamlin Notes 'Unique' Hendrick Setup

Denny Hamlin was watching Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 car during qualifying when something caught his eye: The rear of Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports car looked different than the others.

"The Hendrick cars had something going on with the back of their cars that was...unique," Hamlin said. "They were the dominant cars. No one was going to run with them – especially the 48."

Hamlin said the body and tires were "moving quite a bit in the rear of the car." The Joe Gibbs Racing driver could only assume that had something to do with Johnson's dominating victory on Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"They figured something out that is obviously working well," Hamlin said.

As for Hamlin, who finished sixth, he twice had problems on restarts when his No. 11 car suddenly wouldn't turn. After one restart, the pole-sitter dropped from second to 15th in a single lap.

"Whatever it is – and we did it again on the last restart – it laid on the front end and just took off dead straight," he said. "I don't know if it's because we had a car pushing us. It dug the nose in the ground, took the front tires off the ground. I couldn't steer it for a corner, and it did it again on last restart."

In general, Hamlin said it was "almost impossible" to pass due to the aerodynamic conditions at the flat, 2.5-mile oval.

"It's frustrating, but it's part of it," he said. "We come to this track that wasn't necessarily made for our cars, and it's just tough. Aero is so important anyway with our cars, but you put us on a flat track with a lot of speed, and it's going to be dramatic."

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NASCAR Brickyard 400 Results 2012: Jimmie Johnson Wins Fourth Indianapolis Race

Team owner Rick Hendrick may have had better days -- but not many.

Hendrick watched as Jimmie Johnson won Sunday's Crown Royal 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, taking the checkered flag 4.758 seconds ahead of runner-up Kyle Busch and tying teammate Jeff Gordon for most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins at the Brickyard -- four.

The victory was Johnson's third of the season -- all but assuring he will remain the only driver to have qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup each year since the inception of NASCAR's playoff format in 2004. Johnson won for the 58th time, leaving him eighth on the all-time list and second to Gordon among active drivers.

A fourth-place finish propelled Hendrick teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. into the lead in the series standings, after points leader Matt Kenseth wrecked out in 35th place.

Greg Biffle came home third, followed by Earnhardt and Gordon. Pole-sitter Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart completed the top 10.

The last time Earnhardt led the Cup standings was October 2004 after Talladega, but he held the top spot for only two days, thanks to a 25-point NASCAR penalty for cursing during a post-race television interview.

Racing side-by-side with Trevor Bayne on Lap 132, Joey Logano spun his No. 20 Toyota, bounced off the No. 47 Camry of Bobby Labonte and wiped out the No. 17 Ford of Kenseth, who was running near the outside wall, trying to slip past the wreck.

Carl Edwards' first race with new crew chief Chad Norris went awry nearly from the outset. Edwards started second and contested the lead with Denny Hamlin for half a lap, but lost power and slowed on Lap 12 and brought his car to pit road.

By the time the No. 99 crew had the issue straightened out -- after a green-flag pit stop followed by another under yellow on Lap 42 -- Edwards was four laps down and effectively out of contention -- not the sort of effort he needed in a winless season with a Chase position on the line. Edwards finished 29th.

Here are the full results from Sunday's NASCAR race at the Brickyard:

  1. Jimmie Johnson
  2. Kyle Busch
  3. Greg Biffle
  4. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  5. Jeff Gordon
  6. Denny Hamlin
  7. Ryan Newman
  8. Martin Truex Jr.
  9. Brad Keselowski
  10. Tony Stewart
  11. Mark Martin
  12. Kasey Kahne
  13. Kevin Harvick
  14. Paul Menard
  15. Clint Bowyer
  16. Sam Hornish Jr.
  17. Trevor Bayne
  18. Regan Smith
  19. Aric Almirola
  20. Marcos Ambrose
  21. Juan Pablo Montoya
  22. Jamie McMurray
  23. Dave Blaney
  24. David Stremme
  25. Landon Cassill
  26. Bobby Labonte
  27. David Gilliland
  28. David Ragan
  29. Carl Edwards
  30. Ken Schrader
  31. Stephen Leicht
  32. Jeff Burton
  33. Joey Logano
  34. Casey Mears
  35. Matt Kenseth
  36. Kurt Busch
  37. Travis Kvapil
  38. Scott Speed
  39. JJ Yeley
  40. Josh Wise
  41. Scott Riggs
  42. Mike Skinner
  43. Mike Bliss
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Roger Penske Uncertain About AJ Allmendinger's Future, Will Meet With Driver

Roger Penske will meet with suspended driver AJ Allmendinger this week to discuss their future together -- or perhaps apart.

Penske, speaking to reporters after Sunday's drivers meeting at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said he's got a "very open mind" to who could drive his No. 22 car next season.

"Quite honestly, our phone is ringing off the hook with people who are interested in the ride in the 22," Penske said. "... But I want to sit down face to face with him -- which is the only fair way to do it -- and determine what's the best thing for the team and what's the best thing for him. We had a lot invested in him to this day. He's invested a lot in this sport. I'd like to see him land on his feet."

Penske said he's spoken frequently to Allmendinger and reminded the driver that much bigger names have failed drug tests and later redeemed themselves in the public eye. Allmendinger is young and still has time to come back, he said.

But it's unclear if Allmendinger will remain with Penske Racing for several reasons:

• Allmendinger had a one-year contract with the team, and it's unsure when he'll complete NASCAR's "Road to Recovery" program and be allowed to return. Penske may have to make a decision on a driver for 2013 long before that.

• Penske Racing has a no-tolerance drug testing program. The organization has conducted 300 random tests of its employees in the past year alone; Allmendinger is an independent contractor and isn't subjected to Penske's policy.

Still, Penske wondered aloud: "You have people within your company that if this would happen, what action would you take that way? Can you have a different set of circumstances for someone?"

In Allmendinger's absence, Penske said the team will continue using Sam Hornish Jr. as often as possible because sponsor Shell likes the continuity. Plus, it gives Penske a chance to evaluate whether Hornish Jr. is a good fit for next season.

"It gives us a chance to see how Sam develops, quite honestly," he said. "Then if we get further down the road and we want to make a change, we can do that."

One unknown: Penske said he had sponsors lined up to run a third Cup car for Hornish Jr. later this season. Now that Hornish Jr. will already be in the 22 car, what driver could Penske get to race those events?

While everything is still uncertain, Penske said he feels bad for Allmendinger's situation because he viewed the driver like one of his own children.

"I hope he'll rebound and have a successful career, because he's a terrific kid," Penske said.

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NASCAR Lectures Drivers On Restarts At Indianapolis

In light of Saturday's controversy over restarts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, NASCAR race director David Hoots stepped to the microphone during Sunday's pre-race Sprint Cup Series drivers meeting and delivered a lecture.

It was the equivalent of a schoolteacher scolding a class of rowdy students. The message? Start being more responsible on restarts or we'll step in -- and you don't want that.

"We spend a lot of time talking about this," Hoots said sternly. "We tear up race cars, we ruin people's days because we can't handle those responsibilities. Whether it be you, I, whatever. We're all in it together.

"So let's do it right and do it the way we know how to do it so we don't have to take the extra steps of getting out there with micrometers and measurements and bring the field down. Usually, when we get involved to that point and you ask us to, you don't like the results! So I'm asking you to accept your responsibilities and do it properly."

Hoots said several times each driver had "roles and responsibilities" in starting and restarting the race. Whether it's the pole-sitter conducting a smooth restart or a driver on the second row not pushing the cars in front of him too much, all drivers need to play a part, he said.

"If this is not done in this very simple process, there's a chain reaction that occurs," he said. "... You have shared responsibilities on not trying to take advantage of something that's this simple and create such a mess that could ruin a lot of people's days at the start."

Hoots emphasized the flagman -- not the pole-sitter -- starts the race. The pole-sitter then must lead at the start line, barring "some exceptions." The leader, he said, should not brake-check or "burp" the car or do any kind of false start.

On restarts, the rule is different because the flagman isn't the decision-maker. The leader has earned the right to decide when to hit the gas in the restart zone, and the second-place car cannot beat him to the line. But the leader has not earned the right to "screw around with the restart," Hoots said.

"You all have a role in this," he said. "You have a role in this every week. Sometimes the role is from the pole, sometimes the role is from 43rd. But you're all responsible."

During the question-and-answer portion of the meeting, Jimmie Johnson was the only driver who dared speak up about restarts.

"So I understand my role and responsibilities, if I'm on the front row and I get pushed past the leader, what do I do?" Johnson asked.

"Well, one, I'm hoping we're not in that box because (it means) somebody is not accepting their role and responsibilities," Hoots replied. "Two, you can drag your brake -- but that's not what I'm after. I think we're all very capable of coming up to speed and not trying to take advantage of a situation that's not called for.

"I can't give you a definitive way to do this, but I promise you, you don't want us to start policing it down to a micrometer."

Johnson persisted, pressing for a specific solution.

"Would you consider throwing a caution again for a proper restart?" he asked.

The crowd murmured. At that point, NASCAR president Mike Helton stepped to the microphone to deliver a lecture of his own. He told Johnson and the other drivers to do it the right way so NASCAR didn't have to consider any reactions.

"What we've tried to do the last two or three years is give as much back as we can back to the drivers to manage this stuff ... and all of you know how it's supposed to be," Helton said. "But if you want to get trick with it and it starts messing up the restart for everyone else, then we're going to step in."

Helton also cautioned drivers against trying any funny business in the gray area of pushing another driver. One car should not push another past the leader, he advised.

"I guess you can kind of, sort of, maybe say this is your warning – especially today," Helton said. "If you try to shove a guy across the start/finish line and we're even being close to being clear (on the ruling)? Well, you put us in a box now and we may react to that driver.

"We're not going to let the whole race get screwed up because one guy is overanxious or overeager."

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. Appreciates History Of Indianapolis, NASCAR Brickyard Race

Even Dale Earnhardt Jr. will admit he isn't at his best whenever the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But in preparation for today's race and in spite of his lack of success here, Earnhardt Jr. does have fond memories of racing on one of the more historic speedways in America.

Chief among them, he fondly recalls the 1995 race. It was on that day that seven-time Sprint Cup champion Dale Earnhardt fended off Rusty Wallace to win what was the second running of the Brickyard 400.

"I knew it meant a lot to him when he did eventually win here because he knew, I think, that he was on the backside of his career," Earnhardt Jr. said Saturday. "He wasn't certainly wasn't staring at 15 more years, and knew the opportunities would be limited coming here once a year. It meant a lot to him to get a win."

Earnhardt Jr. is hoping to join his father on the list of Brickyard winners, and in the midst of the best start of his career, the drivers is confident he is in the best position he's ever been in to finally score an Indy victory.

This is despite the fact he has just two top-10 finishes in 12 career starts on the 2.5-mile oval.

"I don't come here thinking, ‘I've never been able to get my finger on this place,'" Earnhardt Jr. said. "I feel like I know how to get around here. I'm just looking for the right balance in the car and just putting together a good race. That's something we've been able to do this year."

The opportunity to join what is a prestigious group of Indy winners is a something Earnhardt Jr. desires. Seeing his name alongside Indy winners like Foyt, Mears, Andretti and Gordon would be meaningful for a driver who has a keen understanding and appreciation of the history of NASCAR and racing in general.

"We like coming here," Earnhardt Jr. said. "Like the history of the racetrack; the history here is incredible all the way to when it was shut down through the war. How they had to renovate the place and bring it back. Just how it was able to survive a lot of things like that.

"Here we are racing on it today. It is just incredible."

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NASCAR At Indianapolis 2012: Brickyard 400 Start Time, Lineup, TV/Radio Schedule And More

It's NASCAR race day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and we've got the actual race start time, the starting lineup and some other facts about today's race for you below.

What time does the race start today? Mari Hulman George will give the famous "Gentlemen, start your engines" command at 1:10 p.m. Eastern time today, followed by the green flag of NASCAR's second-biggest race of the season at 1:19 p.m. So if you want to skip the pre-race show and just tune in for the race, turn on your TV set at 1:19 p.m.

Race name/distance: This race is not called the Brickyard 400 anymore. It's officially called (deep breath), "Crown Royal Presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard Powered by BigMachineRecords.com." What the heck, right? (Related: Who is Curtiss Shaver?) Anyway, the race is 160 laps around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a total of 400 miles.

TV, radio and live streaming: The race can be seen on ESPN. This is ESPN's first Sprint Cup Series broadcast of the season, and the network will show every race for the rest of the year. There IS live streaming of the race today, which can be found via the "Watch ESPN" app. If you'll be away from your computer and TV, check the Performance Racing Network's web site for a list of affiliate radio stations in your area.

*** NOTE: If you're out and about and can't watch the race, make sure to follow me (@jeff_gluck) on Twitter. I'll be tweeting updates about the event. ***

National anthem: Raul Malo, lead singer of "The Mavericks," will sing the national anthem today. The Mavericks were a country music group who disbanded early last decade, but recently announced a reunion.

Tickets: Indianapolis has been hit hard by attendance woes. There are plenty of tickets available if you're thinking of making a last-minute trip.

Weather: Nice. The Brickyard can be a humid and uncomfortable race, but the unofficial NASCAR weatherman, Brian Neudorff, is predicting a pleasant day with temperatures in the high 80s (and no rain).

Last time: Paul Menard stretched his fuel to win last year's Brickyard 400, holding off a closing Jeff Gordon in the final laps. The year before, Jamie McMurray won at Indy.

Starting lineup for today's NASCAR race at Indianapolis:

  1. Denny Hamlin
  2. Carl Edwards
  3. Joey Logano
  4. Aric Almirola
  5. Greg Biffle
  6. Jimmie Johnson
  7. Kyle Busch
  8. Paul Menard
  9. Jeff Gordon
  10. Matt Kenseth
  11. Ryan Newman
  12. Juan Pablo Montoya
  13. Kurt Busch
  14. Regan Smith
  15. Kasey Kahne
  16. Jamie McMurray
  17. Martin Truex Jr.
  18. Trevor Bayne
  19. Mark Martin
  20. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  21. Jeff Burton
  22. Brad Keselowski
  23. Marcos Ambrose
  24. Sam Hornish Jr.
  25. Casey Mears
  26. David Stremme
  27. Kevin Harvick
  28. Tony Stewart
  29. Bobby Labonte
  30. Travis Kvapil
  31. David Gilliland
  32. Dave Blaney
  33. Clint Bowyer
  34. Scott Speed
  35. Josh Wise
  36. David Ragan
  37. Stephen Leicht
  38. Landon Cassill
  39. Mike Skinner
  40. JJ Yeley
  41. Ken Schrader
  42. Scott Riggs
  43. Mike Bliss
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Controversy Overshadows NASCAR Nationwide Series Debut At Indianapolis

Elliott Sadler was black-flagged for beating race leader Brad Keselowski to the start line with precious few laps remaining in Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Indianapolis, causing controversy and prompting questions from even the drivers who race under the rules every week.

In order to sort out the situation and gain some understanding, let's first take a look at what NASCAR says are the rules for restarts and starts (these are paraphrased explanations from NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton):

Here's the rule for RESTARTS:

• The No. 2 driver cannot beat the No. 1 driver to the line under "normal" circumstances. Abnormal circumstances would include the leader breaking a transmission or blowing a motor. If the No. 2 driver does beat the No. 1 driver to the line, he must make an attempt to give back the position.

And here's the rule for the START of the race:

• At the beginning of the race, the flagman controls the start – not the pole-sitter. When the green flag waves, the second-place car is allowed to beat the leader to the line if the leader "does not go" (like in the case of spun tires).

Now let's talk about what happened on Saturday. First, we'll examine the start of the race.

Kahne Incident

As the field came to the starting line to take the green flag, pole-sitter Kasey Kahne was caught off guard by a green flag he expected to come a few seconds later. Kyle Busch then took off when Kahne hesitated.

"This was the first time I'd ever see them throw the green that early compared to where the restart line is," Kahne said after the race. "I'm looking at the restart line and I'm like, 'OK, we just got by,' and I'm getting ready to take off – and Kyle took off and he threw the green. I wasn't ready to go yet, but he threw the green."

Because Kahne didn't "go" at the start – in NASCAR's judgment – Busch was allowed to continue without a black flag.

"The call on that was when we displayed the green flag, the leader of the race did not go," Pemberton said. "In all our judgment, and on the replays, the leader absolutely didn't go. That's why there was a no-call on that."

Kahne, though, was still upset at when the flagman started the race, which he felt was premature.

"To me, it should just be a consistency thing and the flagman should know where the fucking restart line is," Kahne said. "And if he doesn't, then go look. But whatever.

"That is definitely not consistent, I'll tell you that. I start about 55 (NASCAR races) a year, and that was the first one they started that soon. I was like, 'Holy shit, are you kidding me?'"

Now let's look at how the ruling in the Sadler case was different.

Sadler Incident

With 18 laps to go, Keselowski was the race leader and chose the inside line in front of Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish Jr. Sadler was the No. 2 starter and had fourth-place Austin Dillon – a Richard Childress Racing teammate – behind him.

Keselowski started the race in the restart zone, but then he appeared to check up (hit his brakes or got out of the gas). At the same time, teammate Sam Hornish Jr. gave him a push which caused Keselowski to spin his tires.

Sadler had already hit the gas and contended it was too late to stop, especially since he was being pushed by Dillon. But that wasn't an excuse for Sadler to be so far ahead, Pemberton said.

"(Keselowski) went first and was in front of Elliott at the start, and then he checks up like he does every week and false-started," team owner Richard Childress said. "I mean, that's racing. These guys are doing what they have to do to win, but I hate to lose one and I hate to see Elliott and those guys lose like that, too."

NASCAR considers that sort of "gamesmanship" to be legal, Pemberton said. Officials permit drivers to use varying speeds and strategies when starting the race, and Keselowski is particularly known for using those tricks.

While NASCAR agreed Sadler technically did not "jump the restart" – which is taking off before the leader – he did beat the No. 1 starter to the line. Sadler should have given the position back, NASCAR said, and he wouldn't have been penalized.

But Sadler – who said he had his "heart ripped out of my chest" – said he had no idea what he did wrong or what he should do in the same situation if it happened again.

"I asked them, 'What would the protocol be?'" Sadler said. "... It's just like missing a shift. Do I stop and wait for him to get his shifting right? Do I stop and wait or him to get his tires? Oh yeah, and I'm getting pushed by the 3 car, who is also getting pushed by the 43.

"I don't know the protocol, and they did not give me one."

Pemberton said he was sympathetic to Sadler's situation, but the explanation was not enough.

"Their contention is they didn't jump the start and they were being pushed across the line and it was kind of out of his hands," Pemberton said. "I understand that argument, but that's not the way the rules go."

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NASCAR At Indianapolis: Danica Patrick Crashes At Inaugural Nationwide Brickyard Race

Danica Patrick had high hopes of a solid finish at the track which made her famous. Instead, she crashed out of Saturday's inaugural NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and finished 35th.

While Patrick was going for 15th place and racing with Reed Sorenson on lap 39, the latter driver backed up his corner entry to help the car turn.

Patrick, who was just behind him, didn't slow down enough and made contact with Sorenson's car. Sorenson bobbled, then lost control and turned sharply up the track. Patrick, who was trying to go high, couldn't avoid Sorenson and plowed straight into his side door.

Her car was undriveable and crew chief Tony Eury Jr. told the JR Motorsports team to pack up the car instead of trying to repair it.

"When we do stupid stuff like that, we don't go back out," Eury Jr. said.

After leaving the infield care center, Patrick told ESPN she was trying to work her way through the field and said she "might have tapped" Sorenson in the middle of the corner (replays showed she did).

"I'm not sure," she said. "He was slowing down quite a bit. I didn't mean to take him out. I don't know if he's still going or not, but I'm sorry if I did anything. ... Just a bummer."

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NASCAR Brickyard 400 Starting Lineup: Denny Hamlin Leads Indianapolis Qualifying

Toyota has never won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but Denny Hamlin took a first step toward a breakthrough victory for the manufacturer with a decisive pole run on Saturday afternoon.

The 27th driver to make a qualifying run, Hamlin put down a lap no one could touch, touring the vaunted Brickyard in 49.244 seconds (182.763 mph) to collect his first Coors Light pole award at Indy, his second of the season and the 11th of his career.
Hamlin will lead the field to the green flag in Sunday's Crown Royal 400 in his No. 11 Toyota.

In his first competitive outing with new crew chief Chad Norris, Carl Edwards qualified second at 181.984 mph. Third was Joey Logano (181.756 mph), Hamlin's teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Aric Almirola (181.679 mph) will start fourth, followed by Greg Biffle (181.532 mph), as two Toyotas and three Fords comprised the top five, threatening to end Chevrolet's nine-year dominance at the 2.5-mile speedway.

Hamlin certainly thinks he has a strong chance to do just that. Short of calling his shot a la Babe Ruth, Hamlin exuded confidence in his post-race press conference.

"I think, if you put me out front on the last run, no one's going to get around me," Hamlin said. "So it's all going to be about maintaining track position and maintaining the balance of your race car. I've been good here before and not been able to pass.

"There's always been about two cars, in every single race here, that's been capable of passing. Everyone else just kind of runs where they're at. All you can do is hope that you've got a fast enough car to be one of those two, where, if you do get set back, you can be one of the cars that can get back to the front.

"One thing about it is having the No. 1 pit stall now (the inevitable choice of the pole winner). That's going to be an advantage on pit road. I think it's hard to point to the outfield right now, but we've got the bat halfway raised."

Dale Earnhardt Jr., second in the Cup standings, will start 20th, 10 spots behind Kenseth, the driver he is chasing for the series lead.

"We didn't have a good race car in qualifying trim, and it showed today," Earnhardt said. "But we have a good car in race trim, and we'll race good."

Michael McDowell, Reed Sorenson and Joe Nemechek failed to make the 43-car field. Nemechek had competed in 17 of 18 Cup races at the Brickyard, failing to qualify only in 2007. McDowell was fast enough to make the field on speed, but his time was disallowed after post-qualifying inspection because the nitrogen gas in the rear shocks exceeded the allowable pressure.

Here's the Brickyard 400 starting lineup:

  1. Denny Hamlin
  2. Carl Edwards
  3. Joey Logano
  4. Aric Almirola
  5. Greg Biffle
  6. Jimmie Johnson
  7. Kyle Busch
  8. Paul Menard
  9. Jeff Gordon
  10. Matt Kenseth
  11. Ryan Newman
  12. Juan Pablo Montoya
  13. Kurt Busch
  14. Regan Smith
  15. Kasey Kahne
  16. Jamie McMurray
  17. Martin Truex Jr.
  18. Trevor Bayne
  19. Mark Martin
  20. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  21. Jeff Burton
  22. Brad Keselowski
  23. Marcos Ambrose
  24. Sam Hornish Jr.
  25. Casey Mears
  26. David Stremme
  27. Kevin Harvick
  28. Tony Stewart
  29. Bobby Labonte
  30. Travis Kvapil
  31. David Gilliland
  32. Dave Blaney
  33. Clint Bowyer
  34. Scott Speed
  35. Josh Wise
  36. David Ragan
  37. Stephen Leicht
  38. Landon Cassill
  39. Mike Skinner
  40. JJ Yeley
  41. Ken Schrader
  42. Scott Riggs
  43. Mike Bliss
DNQ: Michael McDowell (failed post-qualifying inspection, time disallowed), Reed Sorenson, Joe Nemechek

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Who Is Curtiss Shaver? Namesake Of NASCAR Brickyard Race Won Contest

The official title of this weekend's NASCAR race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the "Crown Royal presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 at The Brickyard Powered by Big Machine Records."

Curtiss Shaver? Who is that and why is the race named after him?

Shaver is a firefighter from Troy, Ala. who lost part of his lower left leg in a farming accident at age 18. The tragedy was an eye-opener for Shaver, as he realized his calling and put him on the path to beginning a lifelong career as a firefighter and certified EMT.

Since then, Shaver's goal as become fairly straightforward: Give back to his community and help those in need.

For that, Crown Royal is rewarding Shaver as part of its "Your Name Here" program. Now in its sixth year, the contest focuses on unsung heroes, from firefighters and police officers, to first responders and local volunteers, who make a difference in their communities.

Shaver was one of five finalists and won the grand prize after receiving the most votes via Facebook. As part of his prize, the father of three will ride in the pace car, be in Victory Lane to present the trophy – bearing his name – and will kiss the bricks afterward.

"I'm a huge NASCAR fan, so having my name as a race title is absolutely unbelievable," Shaver said in a press release. "I'm honored that I was nominated for this incredible contest and humbled that so many people voted for my story. I'm looking forward to representing emergency personnel everywhere who risk their lives for others on a daily basis."

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NASCAR At Indianapolis 2012: Carl Edwards Discusses Crew Chief Bob Osborne's Departure

Former Roush Fenway Racing crew chief Bob Osborne had legitimate health issues that helped caused his departure, driver Carl Edwards insisted on Saturday.

Edwards, speaking to reporters at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, also said he could reunite with Osborne as soon as next season if the crew chief felt better and new crew chief Chad Norris didn't work out.

Those were two of the key points Edwards made during a news conference that lasted more than 20 minutes, one in which Edwards talked extensively about what led to Osborne's departure.

Following the New Hampshire race, Roush Fenway announced Osborne was stepping aside as crew chief due to health reasons. But given Edwards' fading Chase hopes after being the preseason favorite – and missing last year's championship by a single point – some speculated the "poor health" was a cover for poor performance.

Not true, Edwards said.

"I know a couple of you guys have insinuated this health thing isn't as big as it seems," Edwards said. "But I cannot tell you guys – I can't overrstate it – that Bob is a very, very dedicated guy to our sport and he's going through something right now that would be tough for anyone. For him to have done what he's done at this level and to have kept it quiet, he's just a tough, tough man."

Edwards said he would not elaborate on Osborne's issues – and said the former crew chief wouldn't even tell the driver exactly how he's feeling – but said the illness was not life-threatening.

"As far as I know, he's going to be fine," Edwards said. "It's just I don't think it would have been possible for him to continue in the capacity he was in."

On the Monday following the New Hampshire race, Edwards said he sat down with Osborne and team owner Jack Roush and discussed what was going on. The driver had been somewhat aware of Osborne's health issues, he said, but "didn't know the extent of them and how much was going to impact him."

Once Osborne laid it out, all parties felt it was best for everyone – not only the ill crew chief, but the struggling team – to go in a different direction for now.

"We obviously haven't been as good as we were last year, and more importantly, we weren't as good as we should be compared to our teammates," Edwards said. "... If we knew we were going to make this change, we probably would have made it earlier. But pressure makes diamonds sometimes, so hopefully it works."

Edwards also insisted – again – that the disappointment of last year's championship loss had nothing to do with how the team was performing this season.

"Everybody else thinks they know better than me – and I guess they may – but I'm telling you guys, 100 percent, I don't think last year had an effect on how fast or slow we're going at these races," he said.

Norris now steps in, and Edwards expressed confidence in a crew chief who has little experience atop the pit box at the Cup level. Norris had mostly worked in Roush Fenway's research and development department. The team will need to put together "perfect races" in an attempt to try and make the Chase, Edwards said.

"I don't expect to really miss a beat with Chad," he said. "We talked a lot this last week...even through the off-weekend. I don't think there's really much of a learning curve. ... I don't think it should be a big hiccup."

There's one main difference between Osborne and Norris, though: While Osborne made decisions from an engineering standpoint, Norris does not have that background. As such, he may call races a little differently.

"He's not worried about things maybe Bob was worried about," Edwards said. "He's going to go do what he thinks is best based on his strengths, and he's going to rely on these other guys.

"If anything, I'm curious about Sunday and how it's going to go. You might tune into our radio. Who knows what we'll be doing? We might be misunderstanding and yelling back and forth, but I think it's going to go pretty well."

And if it doesn't work out and Edwards can't get the requisite race wins he needs to make the Chase? It's probable Osborne and Edwards could reunite in the future, he said.

"Everybody knows right now we're trying to fix any issues we might have," Edwards said. "... If we don't do any better here and Bob is up to it, we'll probably put Bob right back in as soon as he's able. If this goes well and Bob doing best in new role and that's what's best for him and Chad is doing great, we'll move forward doing this.

"Nothing is in stone right now. ... Everything we can right now to be as good as we can right now."

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NASCAR At Brickyard: Sprint Cup Series Drivers Support Nationwide Race

Later today, a Nationwide Series driver will get to kiss the bricks at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway and add his (or her) name to the list of Brickyard winners.

Is that right? Does the lower-tier NASCAR series running at Indy weaken the track's prestige?

Early indications are that Cup drivers don't seem to think so.

"To me, it doesn't matter," three-time Brickyard 400 winner Jimmie Johnson said. "When I heard, my mind instantly went to how great of an opportunity it is for those series, for the drivers competing and for the winners.

"You have up-and-coming drivers and teams in a tough economy and a tough sport, trying to raise notoriety for themselves. So my mind instantly went to, 'Wow, what an opportunity.' It wasn't, 'It's gonna affect the history of the sport.'"

Kevin Harvick was of a similar mindset and said he was impressed by the atmosphere on Friday, where Grand-Am sports cars raced for the first time. Fans spending their hard-earned dollars "want to have things to do" when they come to the track, Harvick said, and more on-track activity is a plus.

"When I walked into this place yesterday, there was a tremendous amount of energy, it seemed like, from the people walking around," Harvick said. "There was a lot going on."

Harvick also noted the Indy Lights Series races on the oval during Indy 500 weekend, much like Nationwide now does with Cup.

"I think things have changed," he said. "... It's just something that gives the fans more to do and it adds a new element to the weekend."

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Danica Patrick's Return To Indy Highlights NASCAR Nationwide Series Debut At Brickyard

Danica Patrick will mark her eighth straight year of racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this Saturday. It's a solid streak, but this season's trip will be a different beast altogether.

Patrick hopes to build upon her wealth of Indy experience in the NASCAR Nationwide Series' first-ever visit to the 2.5-mile speedway for Saturday's Indiana 250 (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). While Patrick certainly knows her way around the Brickyard, this will be her first Indy experience in a stock car, which weighs more than twice as much as the IndyCars she used to pilot.

Patrick is no stranger to firsts at Indianapolis -- she became the first woman in track history to lead laps in the 2005 Indianapolis 500 and notched a best finish of third place in the 2009 race.

"I have such good memories and feel so good when I come into the track and just see the facility," Patrick said. "I think those good emotions, those positive emotions a lot of times can translate to a good weekend, so I look forward to that. I look forward to seeing the fans from Indianapolis. My family lives there -- my sister and my parents do now -- so it should be a fun weekend and I look forward to the experience in a stock car."

Saturday's race will also have extra incentive in the form of the Dash 4 Cash program, with points leader Elliott Sadler, defending series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Justin Allgaier and Michael Annett eligible for a $100,000 bonus that goes to the highest finisher among that quartet.

Six-figure payday or not, Sadler -- last week's winner at Chicagoland Speedway -- suggests motivation won't be a problem at one of NASCAR's crown-jewel tracks.

"It's going to be a big deal," Sadler said. "It's always pretty special when you can win the inaugural race anywhere. I was able to do that in St. Louis in 1998 and I still look at that trophy and think that's something no one can take away from you. We're going to go there loaded for bear."

Sadler holds an 11-point edge in the standings over Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon after 18 of 33 races this year. Stenhouse -- like Sadler, a three-time Nationwide winner this season -- ranks third, 19 points back.

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NASCAR Brickyard 400 2012: Tony Stewart Ready For Stress-Free Weekend

Tony Stewart would love to win at the Brickyard in the Crown Royal Curtiss Shaver 400, but he's not taking an all-or-nothing attitude into Sunday's race.

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Opinion: NASCAR's Brickyard Visit Has Lost Its Luster

With parade-like racing and dramatically reduced attendance, it's time for NASCAR to consider moving a race away from the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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