It's not every year that somebody wins their fourth career race at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but at this year's Brickyard 400, that's exactly what happened. Jimmie Johnson tied Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon for most career NASCAR wins on the historic circuit with four, capping the track's inaugural Super Weekend with a bang.
In the week leading up to the race, rumors of changes in the sport's structure swirled, suggesting a potential return to the racing of years past. NASCAR's Robin Pemberton suggested that some independent testing, beyond Goodyear's tire testing requests, may return to the sport in 2013.
Meanwhile, the top 35 rule may also fall by the wayside, to be replaced by the return of the older system that ranks the top 38 cars by speed and features five provisionals set by owners' points to fill the field. Neither is a certainty, but Pemberton has admitted to discussions with teams about adopting both policies.
The Nationwide Series competed at the Brickyard for the first time after years of running at O'Reilly Raceway Park. Kyle Busch led much of the race and appeared to be on the way towards winning for the first time in his own Nationwide car, but some contact late in the race prevented that from happening.
The finish of the race came under question when Elliott Sadler was black flagged for beating leader Brad Keselowski on a late-race restart after Keselowski spun his tires; the ruling came in contradiction of the start of the race, when the outside driver again beat the leader to the line and was not penalized. Keselowski went on to take the victory, Penske Racing's first stock car win at a track where they have scored 15 IndyCar victories. Meanwhile, a distraught Sadler complained after the race that "(NASCAR is) trying to take the championship away from me." Sadler's points lead is now down to a single point over Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon.
After a week off, the Sprint Cup Series began a 17-week stretch of races to finish off the season when Denny Hamlin led the field to the green flag on Sunday. But he wouldn't lead past lap 42, as Johnson and Keselowski alternated in the lead in the race's middle stretches. Johnson would take the lead for good on lap 132, braving a restart for a late-race incident involving Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano to take home the victory by nearly five seconds.
As for Kenseth, his 35th place finish was only his second result outside of the top 20 all season, but it was still enough to give up the points lead to Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 14 heading into Pocono. Earnhardt Jr. hasn't led the points since the first race of the inaugural Chase for the Sprint Cup, in New Hampshire in 2004. Kenseth, meanwhile, still cannot disclose his 2013 plans, but sources say that a deal with Joe Gibbs Racing to replace Logano has already been signed.