COMMENTARY | Sunday, July 28 marks the 20th running of the Crown Royal Presents the Samuel Deeds 400 at the Brickyard, the race most fans simply refer to as the Brickyard 400.
While it is a thrill for any driver to win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it's even more special when you're a native of the Hoosier state. Two-time Brickyard winner Tony Stewart, a native of Columbus, Indiana, has raced at the "Brickyard" five times in an IndyCar as well and is the only driver to complete "double duty" -- racing the Indy 500 and Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte the same day (1,100 miles of racing) -- with finishes of sixth at Indy and third at Charlotte.
With a tight points battle for the Chase and a lot of media attention surrounding his team recently, Stewart will be in the spotlight at Indianapolis this weekend, as will his fellow Hoosier and teammate Ryan Newman, his future teammate Kevin Harvick, and his rookie driver Danica Patrick.
Spotlight on Stewart - The focus on Stewart is both on the track and off. On the track, "Smoke" is fighting for a Chase spot and going to a track he can call home: Indy, where he has 19 starts since 1996 in both the IZOD IndyCar Series and the Cup Series. In Cup, Stewart has the best average finish among active drivers -- 8.2 -- and has 10 top 10 finishes in 14 starts. Off the track, Stewart put on his track owner hat this week as the Camping World Truck Series made its first visit to Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio -- NASCAR's first dirt track race since September 1970.
Spotlight on Newman - The focus for Newman is two-fold: winning and securing a ride for next season, and one could have a lot to do with the other. The Indiana native has won a race in each of the last three seasons, proving he's still a more-than-capable driver, but he'll be out of his SHR ride following the season due to his lack of sponsorship and the fact that Harvick brings said sponsorship with him in Budweiser. A win at Indy, where he has two top 10 finishes and a top finish of fourth in 2002, could open the eyes of owners looking for drivers for 2014 and beyond.
Spotlight on Harvick - Harvick has a win (2003) and seven top 10 finishes in 12 races at Indianapolis, all of which came with his current team, Richard Childress Racing; for 2014, Harvick joins his friend Stewart at SHR. Harvick has something in common with points leader Jimmie Johnson this weekend: They're the only two drivers currently in the top 10 with wins at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.
Spotlight on Patrick - Patrick will become the first woman to start a NASCAR Cup Series race at Indy -- quite fitting for a woman who has a couple of other "firsts" at the track in IndyCar. She was the first woman to lead laps at IMS and the highest-finishing woman at Indy (third - 2009); in seven IndyCar starts at the track, she picked up six top 10 finishes. Last year, she finished 35th in the Nationwide Series race at Indy.
Other spotlights at Indy - Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon both have four wins apiece -- a win by either would tie them with Michael Schumacher (Formula One) as the winningest driver at IMS. Penske Racing, which has 15 wins in the Indy 500, has yet to translate that success to NASCAR; Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano will both be looking for the win on Sunday.
Sources: "Storylines: Indianapolis and Eldora," NASCAR Media, July 22, 2013
"Statistical Advance: Analyzing Indianapolis Motor Speedway," NASCAR Media, July 22, 2013
Paula is a freelance writer and photographer who specializes in motorsports. She also covers NASCAR at Skirts & Scuffs and Examiner.com.
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