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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2010 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis

Who… gets my shoutout of the race?

It’s not easy to pass at Indianapolis, and starting in the back of the pack is generally not a good omen for a top finish. An engine change dropped Joey Logano to the rear of the field, but Logano muscled his way onto the top 10 by the end, grabbing a ninth-place finish and showing that passing at Indy isn’t impossible.

What… was THAT?

That was the sound of a car owner going where no car owner has gone before. Chip Ganassi became the first car owner to win three of the most prestigious auto races in the United States in the same year; the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400. It started in February when Jamie McMurray returned to Ganassi’s fold to a skeptical sponsor and badly needing to prove himself after a lackluster stint at Roush Fenway Racing. McMurray rewarded the sponsor with a trip to Victory Lane. In May, Dario Franchitti brought Ganassi to the winner’s circle at Indianapolis (and McMurray very nearly handed him a double dip that day, finishing second in the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte). Sunday, McMurray became only the third driver to win the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 in the same season, and handed Ganassi the owner’s trifecta.

Where… did the polesitter wind up?

Until a later debris caution forced his hand, it looked like Juan Pablo Montoya would become the first driver to win both the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400 in his career, in the process handing Chip Ganassi a car owner record. While Ganassi got his trifecta, Montoya recorded a 32nd-place finish and his seventh DNF of the season after tangling with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the late going.

When… will I be loved?

The drivers were on their best behavior at Indy. Even the crash caused by Kyle Busch wasn’t caused by any misbehavior, but by Indy herself. Indy was rather tough on drivers like Montoya, who led the most laps before a late tangle and a missed pit call took him out, the second year in a row in which Montoya dominated on the track where he already has an Indianapolis 500 victory but failed to win at 400 miles. It also appears to be feast or famine for Jimmie Johnson at Indianapolis. Johnson, winner of the last two races at the famed Brickyard, struggled mightily this year. Crew chief Chad Knaus threw everything but the kitchen sink at the No. 48, but nothing seemed to make a difference; the car was so ill-handling that Johnson could barely hang onto it at times. Indy hasn’t always been kind to Johnson; he has three wins overall, but has also suffered two of the worst crashes of his career there, and this year was that type of race for the defending series champion.

Why… is this race such a big deal?

Sure, Indianapolis Motor Speedway is probably the most storied racetrack in America, but most of the stories aren’t NASCAR’s to tell. The track wasn’t built for stock car racing and doesn’t produce a great race most years. It’s history is awesome, but it’s not NASCAR history. It’s a unique track and NASCAR belongs there, but it’s a shame that this race has taken away the prestige of races that were once NASCAR’s crown jewels, the Coca-Cola 600 and the Southern 500, once two of the races a driver wanted most on his resume. As I said, it’s great for Chip Ganassi to get the three most prestigious wins of the year, but how come this one isn’t on one of NASCAR’s most storied tracks?

How… come Brian France just doesn’t get it?

OK, I don’t know, either. But with all the talk of changing the Chase why not simply do what most fans of drivers not named Johnson seem to want: don’t tweak it, scrap it. The points reset takes away too much hard work, and too often takes away a hard-earned points lead altogether. Sure, winning is important, so give more bonus points at the time of the win, not weeks later, and the championship will sort itself out over 26 races. The champion should be determined by a whole season, not just ten races, and an elimination format makes it come down to perhaps just one. The only time NASCAR is about one race is the Daytona 500, and that rarely makes a whole season.

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