NASCAR Race Weekend Central

5 Points to Ponder: 2009 Brickyard 400 Edition

Each week, Frontstretch hosts a live blog during the Sprint Cup race. It’s a great way for readers to interact alongside their favorite Frontstretch writers with videos, live commentary, and live polls. Each of this week’s “Five Points” were polls taken during the Brickyard 400 live blog.

ONE: Should the Nationwide and Truck series run more standalone short-track races?
Fan Vote – YES: 83%; NO: 17%

On the weekend of one of Sprint Cup’s biggest races, the sport’s other national series’ were at Indianapolis’s other track – the .686-mile short track, O’Reilly Raceway Park. But while the Brickyard 400 is one of NASCAR’s crown jewels, strangely enough I found myself more excited for the other two “companion” races in town. Call me crazy, but we all knew the single-file parade that would take place on Sunday. You know what else I knew? That the races at ORP would be some of the most exciting short-track races we’ve seen this season… regardless of series. With only a handful of Cup regulars in the Nationwide field and Kyle Busch not dominating the Truck race, fans got to watch the wily truck veterans duke it out on Friday, with the likes of Trevor Bayne, Steve Wallace and Brad Coleman try and prove themselves Saturday.

Now, while I understand the financial benefits of running Nationwide and Truck races as campaign events to the Cup Series, wouldn’t it be great to see more short tracks on the schedule like this weekend? The racing was good and fans realized it… novel concept, huh? How about running at the nearest capable short track from where the Cup guys are? If fans know they’ll get good racing when they go to the track or turn on the TV, they might just do it more often.

TWO: What was the most exciting race of the weekend?
Fan Vote – Friday’s Truck Race: 25%; Saturday’s Nationwide Race: 75%; Sunday’s Cup Race: 0%

Proving my point above, a unanimous vote had this week’s companion races at ORP as more exciting than the 400-miler at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (who didn’t see that coming). Sure, a single-groove 2.5-mile track is at a disadvantage to a multi-groove short track, but isn’t that the point? I understand the prestige and history behind IMS – and I do think the series belongs there – but other tracks on the schedule offer up the same boring racing year in and year out. Let’s get those tracks off the schedule and run where we know we’re actually going to see good racing.

THREE: Do you consider Juan Pablo Montoya a championship threat?
Fan Vote – YES: 33%; NO: 67%

At the peak of Montoya’s dominance Sunday, fans were polled on if they considered the No. 42 team as a championship contender. Surprisingly, despite just one finish outside the top 12 in his last nine races, fans don’t see Montoya as a threat to Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and other perennial championship favorites. But while Montoya has been consistently hot over the past two months, I actually don’t quite see him as championship-ready either. He’s quickly learned the art of NASCAR – points racing instead of racing for wins – but I just don’t see an Earnhardt Ganassi team holding the Sprint Cup in Miami. I have the utmost respect for Montoya and consider him one of the greatest drivers in the world, but he’s still one step below championship-caliber in a stock car. Making the Chase is still Priority No. 1 for the No. 42 team, who look to be in good shape with only six races left to go.

FOUR: Did the Brickyard 400 live up to the hype?
Fan Vote – YES: 0%; NO: 100%

This is a no-brainer and the poll shows it. The majority of the hype was produced by ESPN, who was taking over the Cup Series broadcasts this weekend, but even so, every year the Brickyard is listed as one of the marquee events in the sport. Sure, Indianapolis is one of, if not the most historic race tracks in the world… but how many times have we seen a REALLY good race there? They’re few and far between, and this year was not one of those years. Quite a few viewers in the live blog even went as far as to say as the race was a bad as last year’s tire fiasco, if not worse. That’s not saying a lot.

FIVE: What grade would you give today’s race?
Fan Vote – A: 0%; B: 0%; C: 40%; D: 20%; F: 40%

And playing off the point above, what can be done to make better racing at IMS? Not one viewer rated the race “above-average” and an estimated 60,000 less people were at the track this year than last year. Truth is, the prestige outweighs the action seen at Indianapolis not only in NASCAR, but in open-wheel racing as well almost every year. The flat corners do not produce side-by-side racing and aerodynamics prevent bumper-to-bumper competition. The combination of the two makes it nothing but a parade.

Five Notes to Ponder

  • How fast was Juan? Was Montoya THAT strong all day or was clean air THAT important? After his pit-road miscue, he struggled to move through the field.
  • An unpopular win: I got a sense from fans in the live blog that although racing on the track was sparse, a win by Mark Martin or Montoya would have at least softened the blow of another boring race.
  • Johnson dominant: Sure, he wasn’t dominant with his win on Sunday, but since his rookie season in 2002, Jimmie Johnson has 19 more wins than his closest competitor (Jeff Gordon).
  • Bayne impresses: One of the sport’s rising stars shined Saturday night in the Nationwide race at ORP. Bayne started on the pole and fought back from a controversial spin under caution to finish seventh.
  • Get well soon, Massa: Felipe Massa suffered a fractured skull in a Formula 1 qualifying crash this weekend. He is now listed in stable condition.

Follow Mike Lovecchio on Twitter HERE

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