Originally written on Start 'N' Park Blog  |  Last updated 11/19/14

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series makes its way to the Indianapolis for the 19th annual running of the Crown Royal 400. Start ‘N’ Park Blog is here to provide you with the inside track for the race by taking a look at historical statistics, driver’s past performance, breaking down the points, and providing random thoughts on the event and venue.

Indianapolis Stat Line:

18 races have been run
2 (11%) have been won from the pole
9 (50%) have been won from a top five starting spot
10 (56%) have been won from a top ten starting spot
3 (17%) have been won from a starting spot of 21st or worse
08 /06/1994 was the first race
Jeff Gordon won the first race
Paul Menard won last time out at the track

Indianapolis Driver Ratings:

Tony Stewart: 105.8 rating, 1 pole, 2 wins, 6 top fives, 9 top tens
Mark Martin: 104.5 rating, 1 pole, 6 top fives, 11 top tens
Juan Pablo Montoya: 102.4 rating, 1 pole, 1 top five, 1 top ten
Jimmie Johnson: 100.0 rating, 1 pole, 3 wins, 3 top fives, 4 top tens
Jeff Gordon: 99.4 rating, 3 poles, 4 wins, 10 top fives, 14 top tens
Matt Kenseth: 96.4 rating, 5 top fives, 7 top tens
Greg Biffle: 95.9 rating, 2 top fives, 5 top tens
Kasey Kahne: 94.3 rating, 2 top fives, 4 top tens
Kevin Harvick: 93.5 rating, 1 pole, 1 win, 4 top fives, 7 top tens
Kyle Busch: 92.8 rating, 1 top five, 5 top tens

Driver Standings:

Top ten in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver standings are 1 – Matt Kenseth, 2 – Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (-16), 3 –Greg Biffle (-40), 4 – Jimmie Johnson (-51), 5 – Denny Hamlin (-79), 6 – Kevin Harvick (-85), 7 – Tony Stewart (-89), 8 – Martin Truex, Jr. (-90), 9  – Clint Bowyer (-93), 10 – Brad Keselowski (-94). Kasey Kahne (2 wins) and Kyle Busch (1 win) lead the wild card to get into the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Indianapolis Firsts (Active Drivers):

First career starts:

First career poles:
Reed Sorenson – 07/29/2007

First career wins:
Paul Menard – 07/31/2011

Recapping Last Week:

We’re going back two weeks to Kasey Kahne picking up his second win of the season in the Lenox Industrial Tools 301. With the win, Kahne has solidified himself into the Chase with his two wins. With seven races to go it will be hard for many to get ahead of Kahne because how he’s running he’ll either move into the top 10 or pick up another win.

That was Kahne’s 14th victory in 307 Sprint Cup races and 7th top ten finish at New Hampshire.

Denny Hamlin had the race won until a miscommunication with his crew over two or four tires put him in the back. Had there been more laps, then we’d be talking about Hamlin the victor. He got second place which was his 9th top ten finish in 13 starts at New Hampshire and he got credit for leading the most laps, 150, in the race.

Clint Bowyer had another strong run for Michael Waltrip Racing coming home in third place, that was his 5th top ten finish in 13 starts at New Hampshire.

Weirdly only two infractions happened during the race, Kyle Busch was caught speeding on pit road, and David Reutimann pitted before the pits were open.

With that only three cautions flew for 15 laps, debris on lap 90, debris again on lap 191, and oil from Retuimann’s car on lap 235.

Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart flip flopped points positions, Hamlin moved up two to 5th place and Stewart dropped two to 7th place. Kahne jumped up four spots from 16th to 12th aided by poor outings by Paul Menard and Joey Logano, who both fell two spots, from 13th and 14th to 15th and 16th respectfully.

Random Thoughts for the Crown Royal 400:

The last two winners at Indianapolis have been random. Let’s be honest, Paul Menard last year and Jamie McMurray in 2010. Before then it was Jimmie Johnson (2009 and 2008) and Tony Stewart (2007). Those drivers you expect, being multiple champions of the sport, but McMurray and Menard? Especially Menard, where did he come from!? This is what is great about NASCAR is that anyone can win at anytime. This is what is terrible about NASCAR for my winner picking is that anyone can win at anytime.

Minus those two drivers, it’s a veritable who’s who of NASCAR looking back at the winners. Jeff Gordon won the first edition in 1994, then it was Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jarrett, Ricky Rudd, Gordon, Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, Gordon, Bill Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Gordon, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Stewart, Johnson, Johnson, McMurray, and Menard.

Little surprised that Danica Patrick was not entered into this race. She will be in the Nationwide race Saturday, but I would have thought Indianapolis would have been a perfect venue for her to finally crack the 30th place finish mark.

Pointed out on Twitter to me by Tyler Fiske, Mike Skinner is entered in the #79 owned by Go Green Racing. I looked them up and they’ve made the three races they’ve attempted this year, going a whopping 47 laps total. Certainly will be a parking effort out of this team, but with Skinner they have a solid chance of making the show.

Hard to imagine it’s been 18 years since Jeff Gordon won the first Brickyard 400. Seems like just yesterday the Bodine brothers (Brett and Geoff) took each other out because of a off the track family feud and Gordon passed Ernie Irvan on the last lap to pick up his second career win. For the record Rick Mast, in all his Skoal Classic glory, won the pole for the inaugural race. Easily the highlight of his Sprint Cup Series career.

The seat Carl Edwards is sitting in is getting hotter. A lot hotter. Now that Bob Osbourne has been replaced by Chad Norris, it is time for Edwards to perform or else he’s not making the Chase. He sits in 11th place, 46 points behind Brad Keselowski. He needs to get 2-3 wins or get into the top 10, which will not be an easy task. I don’t see him getting into the Chase at this point, which will be a giant disappointment based on how he ran last year. And even more how I picked him to be champion.

ESPN kicks off their coverage of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this weekend, from what I’ve heard and read they are saying the right things. The biggest step they took was eliminating the tech garage, as that was neither adequately used nor informative.  Each time we have a switch it’s the same response, whoever did the coverage before was deemed terrible and the next team will obviously be better just by not being the previous team.  Truth is no one will ever be happy with the TV coverage, it’s just a balancing act of the good and the bad. Fox has some good, innovative stuff, it’s just lost in the double dose of Waltrip. TNT has a solid group of on air personalities, but it’s lost in their over commercialization (mashed potatoes or mac ‘n cheese anyone?). ESPN will fine the same fate, Allen Bestwick is fantastic in the booth, Dale Jarrett is decent, and Andy Peetre has fallen out of favor with myself. Their pit reporters are great, it’ll be interesting to see how they handle not only commercials but the end of race side by side action, if they go that route.

Drivers to Watch at Indianapolis:

Jeff Gordon – Numbers don’t lie for Gordon. His name is all atop the all time leader list at Indianapolis, doesn’t hurt that he’s run all 18 races. In those 18 races the Pittsboro, IN native has 3 poles, 4 wins, 10 top fives, and 14 top tens finishes. He has an average start of 12.611 and finish of 9.056 and had there been five more laps here last year, he would have caught Paul Menard for the win. He’s big time due for a win in 2012 and I would not be surprised if he gets it at Indianapolis.

Tony Stewart – Another Indiana boy, Columbus’ Stewart has always been strong at Indianapolis in whatever he drives. Be it stock car or Indy car he will be near the front. Stewart has the best driver rating at 105.8 and has collected 2 wins, 6 top fives, and 9 top tens in his 13 starts. His average start is 15.846, and average finish is 8.077. He has some catching up to do in all time laps led, as Jeff Gordon has led 476 laps to Stewart’s 227 laps. He can certainly make a dent in that this weekend and challenge for the win.

Jimmie Johnson – The other two drivers, Gordon and Stewart, jumped out at me and then I was stuck on the third pick. Then I went back to basics, looked at driver rating (even 100.0, fourth overall) and wins (3) and that clinched Johnson for me. Johnson is coming off a 7th place finish at New Hampshire and will be looking to get back into the groove of a top five or better finish. At Indianapolis he’s last two finishes have been 19th and 22nd, not that good. And taking a broader look back at his finishes, it’s feast or famine. First start was 2002 where he finished 9th, then 18th, 36th, 38th, 1st, 39th, 1st, 1st, 22nd, and 19th. So with this pattern, Johnson will bring you the trophy or the steering wheel. Here’s to better on the trophy!


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