NASCAR At Indianapolis 2012: Brickyard 400 Viewer's Guide

Here are some storylines, notes and drivers to watch for in today's NASCAR race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

Storylines

Winning Indy Is No Easy Thing

In the hierarchy of NASCAR races, Indianapolis is the second biggest just behind the Daytona 500. That allure in large part has to do with Indianapolis Motor Speedway being one of the oldest and most prestigious tracks in all of motorsports. And for that reason, racing at Indy is always special.

But winning here is a challenge, as illustrated by the fact only seven drivers in today's field have done so. Perhaps the biggest hurdle is overcoming a trio of drivers that tend to dominate, as Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart have combined to win nine of the 18 events. The expectation is that, today, each will again be formidable.

Penske and Roush Still Seeking First Indy Win

Roger Penske's success in motorsports is staggering. The legendary car owner has won just about everything there is to win, including a remarkable 15 Indy 500s. Yet, the one thing that has eluded Penske is a Cup win on the hollowed speedway. The same can be said of Jack Roush, who despite 127 Cup victories, is 0-18 at Indy.

Based on yesterday's events, however, both car owners could be in line for their first Brickyard 400 win.

Saturday, Brad Keselowski drove his Penske Racing Dodge to Victory Lane in the Nationwide Series race and showed speed in both Cup practice sessions. And in final practice, it was the Roush cars of Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards atop the scoring charts, with Matt Kenseth solidly in the fifth position.

Track Position

You would think with its long straights, drivers would have no difficulty attempting and completing passes. Unfortunately, that is not the case as you rarely see side-by-side racing for any period of time and the field usually gets spread out fairly quickly. Because of this, track position is everything at Indy and the reason why only three times in 18 races an eventual winner has started worse than 16th.

Worth Noting
  • If Matt Kenseth wins today, he will join Dale Jarrett (1996), Jimmie Johnson (2006) and Jamie McMurray (2010) as the only drivers to win both the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the same season.
  • Chevrolet has won nine consecutive and 10 of the last 11 Brickyard 400s.
  • Four drivers in today's field have made starts in both of the marquee events at Indy: Juan Pablo Montoya, Sam Hornish Jr., J.J. Yeley and Tony Stewart. And Montoya and Hornish Jr. are each former winners of the 500 - Montoya in 2000 and Hornish Jr. in 2006.
  • In his first race working with new crew chief Chad Norris, Carl Edwards posted the second-fastest time in qualifying.
Favorites

1) Jeff Gordon

With four wins and 14 top 10s, no NASCAR driver has had more success at the Brickyard than Hoosier native Jeff Gordon.

2) Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson is surprisingly hit-or-miss at Indy, as he's finished in the top 10 on just four occasions. But three of those top 10s saw the five-time Cup champ kissing the bricks at the day's end. So which Johnson will show up today? Judging on practice where the No. 48 Chevrolet was the fourth and sixth fastest in practice, expect the latter and not the former.

3) Matt Kenseth

If a Roush driver is finally going to get to Victory Lane, there is no better candidate than the series points leader. He has finished in the runner-up position twice and was fast in both rounds of practice.

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