The Brickyard is the home of champions.
Or is it?
A quick point-counterpoint on the subject…
Heading into the 20th anniversary of NASCAR racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN, IMS Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), legendary names have conquered more often than not.
· 15 of the 20 races have been won by past, future or reigning series champions.
· 8 winners have gone on to win that year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
· Three NASCAR Hall of Famers have won: Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jarrett (twice) and Bill Elliott (and three others, at least, will undoubtedly one day be enshrined: Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart).
Lately, those facts above have been turned on their head.
The recent winners list includes names like Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman, all of whom are winless in 2014. Even Stewart, a two-time Brickyard winner, still seeks his first victory of the season.
A part-time driver like Juan Pablo Montoya could win – and probably should have in 2009, if not for a pit road speeding penalty. Montoya will make his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start of the season on Sunday, driving the No. 12 Team Penske Ford.
Either way, know this: This one should be interesting.
No driver falls into both the “legit contender” and “potential surprise” categories like Stewart. The three-time series champion remains winless, and in real danger of missing the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
But Stewart boasts a brilliant history at his home track, so there’s hope. The two-time Brickyard winner has finished in the top 10 in five consecutive Indianapolis races, and nine of the last 10.
“You always want to win it,” Stewart said. “Every driver has a home race. Some of the tracks we go to twice, and Indy is one we get to go to once, and this is our trip to it. If you can only win one race a year, I’m still going to pick the Daytona 500. But if you can’t win Daytona as that one race a year, I want to win the Brickyard. It’s always big when you come home. It’s always big when you have friends and family that don’t get the opportunity to go see you race anywhere else, but can be there in person to watch and experience it. So, you always want to run well.”
Chase Elliott hopes to join Dad on Brickyard wins list
Chase Elliott, the runaway leader in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year battle, has three wins and the NASCAR Nationwide Series points lead. He’s zeroing in on the single-season wins record of five, held by Greg Biffle (2001), Kyle Busch (2004) and Carl Edwards (2005). No rookie has ever won the Nationwide Series championship.
But more immediately, there’s Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Chase and his father Bill can become the first father-son winners in NASCAR’s 21-year history at the track.
The Dawsonville, Ga., native will be making his series debut at Indianapolis this weekend, the track at which his father and NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Bill Elliott won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in 2002.
“It’s one of the places I look back on, I do have memories of The Brickyard win he (Bill Elliott) had, I think it was 2002,” Chase Elliott said. “That’s a special race track for me. I always love going back there ever since then knowing he has been to Victory Lane. We are going to give it our best shot.”
JR Motorsports now has won seven of the 18 races this season – Chase Elliott (Texas, Darlington and Chicago), Kevin Harvick (Richmond, Kentucky), Regan Smith (Daytona-1) and Kasey Kahne (Daytona-2). The team has led the driver points after 17 of 18 races this season (Elliott Sadler was the lone outlier, leading the points after Kentucky).