NASCAR will make its annual stop at the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway for this weekend's Brickyard 400. The Brickyard plays host to this prestigious stock car racing event on motor racing's most identifiable and iconic track. Indianapolis has seen 18 Sprint Cup Series races, so we have some very longstanding data on how the drivers perform at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
IMS is a rectangular oval with very flat banking all the way around. The straights are completely flat, and the four corners have banking that varies from nine to 12 degrees. The track is very temperature sensitive, so constant adjustments to the race car are a must to keep up with the changing handling conditions throughout the event. Goodyear developed a great tire for stock cars at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the last few seasons, so tire wear should not to be an issue this Sunday afternoon. The long green flag runs that are commonplace at Indy could bring the fuel-mileage factor into the strategy; keep that detail in the back of your mind when picking drivers this week.
Recent history show that Chevrolet has a complete stranglehold on this historic venue. The last nine victories at Indy have gone to Chevrolet drivers of various camps. Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart alone have won five of those nine victories at IMS. These dominant drivers are set up to be the focus of attention again this weekend. With Stewart starting to find his stride and Johnson beginning to rediscover his groove, the duo should step up its game to mount a challenge for the win at Indianapolis.
Tony Stewart - Stewart's two wins and four Top-5s in the last seven years at Indy make him the class of the field this weekend. The fact that the owner/driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet already has three wins to this season is just further evidence that Smoke is in race-winning form this year. Considering that Stewart and this team can win any given week, the timing looks right for the veteran driver to challenge for another victory in the 2012 season. Stewart is one of only three multi-race winners at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and that fact puts him in some pretty select company.
Jimmie Johnson - Johnson's luck at Indianapolis has really been boom-or-bust over his career. The excellence of his three victories at the huge track is only rivaled by his three DNFs in this significant race. So deploy Johnson with just a hint of caution this weekend. The No. 48 team is sitting on two wins this season, so the five-time Sprint Cup Series champion has the great potential to kiss the bricks this Sunday afternoon at Indianapolis. We have to keep in mind that Johnson's three wins have come in the last six years at IMS, so the upside potential is tremendous.
Matt Kenseth - The No. 17 Ford team has been strong lately, with Kenseth entering this event atop the championship standings. Despite leading more than 300 laps for the season, the veteran driver has forged only one victory. That could easily change at the Brickyard. The Roush Fenway Racing star has never won at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but he does crack the Top 5 here at a stellar 42 percent. Kenseth led 10 laps and finished fifth in this event in 2011, so the pieces might finally be in place for Kenseth to kiss the bricks this weekend.
Kasey Kahne - Another good, veteran driver to rely on this weekend would be Hendrick Motorsports star Kahne. The No. 5 Chevy team is racing as Kahne has finished in the Top 10 in the last three races, including the recent win at New Hampshire. Indianapolis has been a good track for him, with two Top-5s and four Top 10s in eight career starts. Kahne led a career-high 48 laps at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last season, so he and crew chief Kenny Francis surely haven't forgotten those lessons. Now with a powerful Hendrick Chevy at his disposal, Kahne could finally realize his potential at the Brickyard.
Jeff Gordon - Outside of Tony Stewart, Gordon has one of the longest and most impressive resumes of NASCAR racing Indianapolis. The Hendrick Motorsports veteran might be looking at his best chance to get back into victory lane at the Brickyard in a long time in this weekend's race. Gordon's a four-time winner of this event and has led close to 500 laps at Indy for his career. His last win came here in 2004, but he flirted with victory lane last season by leading 36 laps and finishing second. Gordon should be a steady Top-5 finisher at IMS.
Kyle Busch - The Joe Gibbs Racing star has had an incredibly difficult season to this point. Ranked 13th in the standings, Busch is battling to keep his Chase hopes alive with only one victory to his credit thus far in 2012. The Brickyard has held a lot of success for him over the years. Five Top-10s in seven starts just speaks to his excellence at this historic track. However, we feel compelled to downgrade him this week. Busch has two DNFs and only one Top-10 finish in the last seven races entering this weekend. It's best to stay away from the No. 18 team and avoid the risk this weekend.
Martin Truex Jr. - The Michael Waltrip Racing driver has slipped into a bit of a mid-summer slump. After recording Top 10s in six of the first eight races of the season, Truex has fallen into a rut. He's recorded only three Top-10s in the last 11 races. In Truex's seven career starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway he has only one Top-15 finish and a lowly 23.4 average finish. Considering how much the No. 56 Toyota team struggled at Pocono in June, we have to be very pessimistic about the team's chances in this installment of the Crown Royal Brickyard 400.
Kurt Busch - At times it may seem as though we're picking on Busch. No offense to the Phoenix Racing veteran, but he's not having one of his typical seasons even on his best race tracks. Busch probably wouldn't think of Indianapolis Motor Speedway as one of his better ovals, so that's even more reason to bench the No. 51 Chevrolet this Sunday. In 11 career starts at the Brickyard Busch has only four Top-10 finishes. Only one of those has come in his last seven trips to the historic Indiana oval.
Juan Pablo Montoya - The 2012 season has been a real puzzle for the Columbian racing star. Montoya is 21st in the championship standings and is in serious jeopardy of missing the field for the Chase for the Cup. Considering the EGR star's background in open-wheel racing and experience at Indianapolis, it almost seems counterintuitive to downgrade Montoya this week. However, the driver of the No. 42 Chevy has some lopsided numbers at the famous speedway, at least racing in stock cars. Montoya sports only one Top-10 finish in five career starts at the Brickyard, netting a lowly 22.4 average finish. That's not the fantasy racing help you're looking for this weekend.
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