Here are the winners and losers from the just-completed NASCAR weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway:
Here is Chevrolet's 2012 Brickyard 400 in a nutshell: For the 10th consecutive year, the manufacturer went to Victory Lane in the sport's second-biggest event; it won for the sixth time in the last 10 races; Jimmie Johnson firmly cemented himself as the driver to beat come the Chase; and perhaps most importantly, Dale Earnhardt Jr. – the face of NASCAR – moved atop the point standings for the first time in nearly eight years.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
What impressed me Sunday wasn't the continued consistency demonstrated by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Instead, what jumped out was what he said afterward when asked about his accession to the top of the standings. It was in this moment Earnhardt Jr. showed his maturity, recognizing that despite the success he's had this season, there is still more work to be done. Specifically, he acknowledged that he needs to win more races if he is to contend for the Cup title.
You're asking yourself, how is the guy who finished 29th a winner? Well, it's quite simple. For weeks on end, Carl Edwards has insisted that a stretch of top-10 finishes would be enough to move him inside the Chase cutoff, even though the likelihood of this happening seemed remote. Now reality has set in for Edwards, as he admitted post-race that the only way he's going to get into the Chase is by winning. And for this realization, Edwards is a winner.
First, there was that whole restart fiasco during Saturday's Nationwide Series, which was followed by a lecture the next day from Sprint Cup Series director David Hoots. Then, there were the events which transpired during Sunday's race. Or, more accurately, events that didn't occur – as the Cup race was everything we thought it was going to be: Little-to-no passing up front, cars stretched out like an old rubber band and a finish which left little to the imagination as Jimmie Johnson won by nearly five seconds.
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing
Be it in a stock car or an open-wheel car, every time a Chip Ganassi-owned vehicle turns a lap at Indianapolis the expectation is that they will be in contention. That, however, wasn't the case Sunday – or for that matter, really all season –as Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray finished 21st and 22nd, respectively.
Until the closing stages, Matt Kenseth was in line for another top-10 finish. But hard contact with Joey Logano spiraled Kenseth down to 35th in the final running order – easily his worst result of 2012. On top of that, it dropped him to second in the championship order – just the second time all year a Roush Fenway Racing driver hasn't held the top spot.