*What driver outside of the top 10 in points has the most pressure this weekend?*
Without a doubt that award has to go to Juan Pablo Montoya. Montoya has dropped to a season-low points position of 17th following a 30th-place showing at New Hampshire two weeks ago, but has a pair of tracks coming where he can turn his season – and Chase hopes – around. There’s no doubt that Montoya has excelled at Indianapolis in the past. He finished second there in his first start in 2007, had a win taken away by a pit road speeding penalty in 2009 and another solid finish in 2010 taken away by an accident.
Any chance Montoya has of breaking into the top 10 in points is shot at this point in the season, but in the new “wildcard era,” this week at Indy, and a stop at Watkins Glen in a few weeks gives Montoya a chance at new life. You can bet that the team knows it’s make or break time, and right on a cue a decision was made to replace crew chief Brian Pattie. It’s undoubtedly tense times in the No. 42 camp, but if Montoya can manage to win just one of either Indianapolis or Watkins Glen, a Chase appearance would suddenly appear to be possible.
*Will the Brickyard 400 winner win the Sprint Cup title again this season?*
What could be one of the more interesting stats thrown out this weekend, eight Brickyard winners have gone on to win the series championship – including four of the last six seasons. Now a lot of the reason why it’s happened so frequently can be attributed to one Jimmie Johnson, who has won three of his last five starts at the famed speedway.
So the question is, will it happen again?
Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. For the sake of picking a driver, I have a gut feeling Kevin Harvick will win on Sunday, and Jimmie Johnson will win the championship, so no. Indianapolis is a track that does show what teams are on the right track with the Chase closely approaching. It’s a track that requires handling, and some horses under the hood. There may not be a direct correlation between Brickyard winners and Sprint Cup championships, but Sunday will be a good indication of who’s where with the Chase on the horizon.
*Is this last time we’ll see the Nationwide Series at Little Indy?*
It’s been talked about at great length over the last few months: when NASCAR announced the Nationwide Series would run at the Brickyard in 2012, the date would come at the expense of Lucas Oil Raceway. Saturday night will most likely be the final event at LOR for the Nationwide Series and it’s a shame. Short tracks are a dying breed in NASCAR these days, as are standalone Nationwide races – even if they’re in the same town as the Cup Series. You’ll most likely see a great show Saturday night, and we should celebrate that. LOR puts on one hell of a show year in, and year out. At some point, NASCAR will learn that the product on the track is more important than the size of the venue.
*How will Travis Pastrana fare in his Nationwide debut?*
Lost in the hoopla surrounding the final race at ORP is the Nationwide debut of X Games star Travis Pastrana. Pastrana has competed in a handful of K&N Pro Series East Series races this season with a season-best finish of sixth in the All-Star Showdown at Irwindale. In a Pastrana-Waltrip Racing car this weekend, a realistic goal would be a top 20 finish for a guy who has limited stock car experience. The equipment will be good enough; if he can keep his nose clean it’s certainly a possibility.
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