It can be debated where the Indianapolis Motor Speedway stands among NASCAR’s best tracks, though it has been open for more than 100 years and is full of IndyCar Series history. However, NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series didn’t come to Indianapolis until 1994 and while Sunday’s 400-mile, 160-lap race will be the 19th Sprint Cup race there, the track seems to have cemented its place as one of NASCAR’s major players. It’s hard to say if the speedway deserves to be held in the same esteem as say Daytona, Talladega, Darlington or Bristol, though.
But one thing that can’t be debated about Indianapolis is that if a driver finishes well there, it often bodes well for the rest of the season. Of the 18 races there, eight times the winner went on to win the Sprint Cup title. Jimmie Johnson accomplished the feat three times, Jeff Gordon twice, and Tony Stewart, Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte each did it once.
However, there is more. There are 11 different winners at the 2.5-mile oval that have combined for a grand total of 22 titles. The group is led by the late Dale Earnhardt’s seven, Johnson’s five, Gordon’s four and Stewart’s three. The only drivers to win at Indy who have not won a Sprint Cup title at some point in their careers are Ricky Rudd in 1997, Kevin Harvick in 2003, Jamie McMurray in 2010 and Paul Menard last year.
When it comes down to it, a driver and team at Indy have to be hitting on all cylinders (both figuratively and literally) to run well. And maybe that’s a big reason why teams that do well at Indy, also usually do well over the course of the season.
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Tony Stewart: He’s got two wins at Indy, with six top-5 finishes and nine top 10s. A pretty safe bet on his home track.
Jimmie Johnson: He has three wins at Indy and is a major threat to get his fourth.
Jeff Gordon: Going with another home stater here. He has four wins and even though he’s 17th in points, his car has been good all season. There’s no better place for him to breakthrough and get his first win of the year.
Kasey Kahne: No, he doesn’t have a win at Indy, but he’s been running well lately, picking up the win two weeks ago at New Hampshire. Also, he’s a Hendrick Motorsports driver and that team has had plenty of success there.
Kevin Harvick: He’s the only driver in the top 7 without a victory this year. He does have one win and seven top 10s in 11 races at Indy.
Shoulda, woulda, coulda: It would make a great story if Juan Pablo Montoya became the first driver to win the Indy 500 and Brickyard 400, but it’s not something that has a big chance of happening. Montoya has only one top-10 finish at Indy in NASCAR and has not been a regular contender at other places this season as he sits 21st in the points standings.
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