Brickyard 400 News and Notes

Brickyard 400 News and Notes


Jimmie Johnson     5-1

Jeff Gordon     5-1

Tony Stewart     6-1

Denny Hamlin     8-1

Matt Kenseth     10-1

Kevin Harvick     12-1

Kyle Busch     12-1

Carl Edwards     15-1

Jeff Burton     20-1

Dale Earnhardt Jr 20-1

Kurt Busch     20-1

Mark Martin     25-1

Martin Truex Jr 10-1

Ryan Newman 15-1

Clint Bowyer     20-1

Greg Biffle     60-1

Jamie McMurray     60-1

Kasey Kahne     100-1

Casey Mears     25-1

Juan Pablo Montoya 100-1

Sterling Marlin off

Elliott Sadler     100-1

Reed Sorenson     100-1

Bobby Labonte     100-1

David Stremme     100-1

Joe Nemechek     100-1

Dave Blaney     100-1

JJ Yeley     100-1

Jeff Green     100-1

Ricky Rudd     100-1

Tony Raines     100-1

David Gilliland 100-1

David Ragan     100-1

Field (Any Other Driver) 25-1

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Labonte to replace Waltrip at Brickyard
July 18th, 2007

Cornelius, NC (Sports Network) - Terry Labonte will replace Michael Waltrip in the No. 55 Toyota for next weekend's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.

This will be the second time that the two-time Nextel Cup Series champion Labonte is replacing Waltrip, who cited the opportunity to evaluate his racing team as the reason for replacing himself behind the wheel.

"While we've planned to bring Terry back for the Watkins Glen road course event, I felt having him in the car next weekend at Indianapolis would be a great opportunity for me to continue to evaluate my entire organization from an owner's perspective," Waltrip said. "The feedback related to road-course racing that Terry was able to provide my team after Infineon Raceway was very valuable. We look forward to more of the same input after Indy."

Waltrip, who is 52nd in the standings, is expected to return to his No. 55 for the Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway on August 5.

Last month, Labonte piloted the No. 55 car to a 35th place finish at Infineon Raceway after starting 25th.

"It felt good to get back in the car in Sonoma and while it wasn't the finish I had hoped to deliver to the guys at (Michael Wlatrip Racing) and NAPA, I believe we learned quite a few things in which we can build on," Labonte said.

Labonte has eleven starts at Indianapolis. His best finish came in 1996 when he drove the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to a third-place finish.

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After the Daytona 500, most drivers say that if they could only win one race, the Brickyard 400 would be it.

As a country, we all grew up watching the Indy 500—which ran for the 91st time this year—and drivers dreamed of racing on its hallowed ground when they were children. Open wheel racers traditionally had the only map to Indy, until NASCAR came to town in 1994.

Expect a large field for one of the most prestigious races of the season, but you can also expect the cream to rise to the top because there are very few dark horse winners on this track. Ever since Jeff Gordon took the inaugural race as his second NASCAR Nextel Cup trophy, the Brickyard 400 has been won by drivers at the top of their game.

This particular race can be hard to win, but fantasy owners with a long view will notice that another flat track event immediately follows at Pocono Raceway. NASCAR then makes a pilgrimage to New York to Watkins Glen International before heading to the two-mile tracks of Michigan International Speedway and California Speedway as well as a couple of short tracks at Bristol Motor Speedway and Richmond International Raceway before the playoffs begin. Fantasy owners who like to place and hold drivers for a few weeks want a well-rounded selection.

Clint Bowyer fits that criteria. In his last 10 attempts, the driver of the No. 07 has recorded seven top-10s and they have come on a variety of course types including the short track of Richmond, the flat track of Pocono and the similarly-configured, 1.5-mile track of Chicagoland Speedway. He even finished fourth on the road course of Infineon Raceway, which makes him worth a second look at the Glen in a couple of weeks. In his last 18 attempts, Bowyer has improved his average race result for 4.4 positions to run about 15th, which makes him a good value in almost every game.

The most obvious drivers to sell this week are the former veterans of Bobby Ginn Racing, since both Joe Nemechek and Sterling Marlin have been released from their rides for not being cute and cuddly enough to attract sponsors. In the last few years, driving talent has taken a back seat to dimples, and now it's being pushed out of a speeding car.

Of course, Fate turned her back on the veterans some time ago, so very few fantasy owners probably had them on the roster in any event, so a more conventional pick to sell this week would be Dale Earnhardt Jr. It appears that the "A" equipment is going to teammate Martin Truex Jr. since he is the future of Dale Earnhardt, Inc. (DEI), and the driver of the No. 8 has been struggling recently. When Truex took his first NASCAR Nextel Cup victory at Dover International Speedway seven race weekends ago, Earnhardt finished 22nd in that race and has managed to record only two top-10s since. In that span, his average finish is only 15.8, and we are betting that is a trend that continues downhill.

Tony Stewart thrives on controversy. After wrecking his teammate Denny Hamlin in the Pepsi 400 and then getting called to the woodshed by car owner Joe Gibbs during the first half of Happy Hour at Chicagoland, Stewart went out and ran a dominant race to score his first victory of the 2007 season. Last year, his victory at Kansas Speedway during the Chase for the Nextel Cup sparked a winning streak during which he took three of the final eight trophies, and he's hoping that his reversal of fortune will come earlier this year.

Stewart is traditionally a strong closer to the season. Since 1999, his average improvement in the second half of the season has been three positions greater than the first half. In 2003, he improved by more than five positions in the final races. In 2005, that improvement was 6.3 positions and last year he improved by four spots, which means that now is the time to climb onto his bandwagon.

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All State 400 preview
July 23, 2007
By Micah Roberts

NASCAR is just like every other sport in the sense that trends and cycles are so pivotal when handicapping. This week’s Cup race at the Brickyard in Indianapolis has one of the better examples of trends and angles that support a particular driver to win the race.

Let’s first establish a few things beginning with the similarities between the tracks of Pocono Raceway and the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The two tracks are tied together because of the tight flat turns and long super straightaways. It takes a unique set up to be equally good at both tracks, but when the crew chief gets it right at one track, it almost always carries over into the next Indy or Pocono race.

The results history supports the link like no other pair of tracks on tour, including the two road courses. Nine different drivers have won the 13 Brickyard races. Of the nine, eight of those drivers have won at Pocono. Only Kevin Harvick has failed to win at Pocono as a former Indy winner with 5th being his best Pocono finish.
The driver who is reeking with trends this week is Jeff Gordon, who not surprisingly is also the 6/1 favorite to win. The first trend is pretty simple and straight forward, Gordon has more Brickyard 400’s than anyone else. His win total of four is twice as many as the next in line, Dale Jarrett with two wins. No one else has multiple Indy wins.

Gordon won his first Brickyard 400 in the inaugural race during his 2nd Cup season. It took him four years to win his next Brickyard in 1998. Since then Gordon has been pretty consistent in winning the Brickyard every three seasons. He did it in 2001 and 2004, and if he’s to keep the trend going, he is due to produce another victory this week in Indy.

But wait, there’s more!

We have established that Pocono and Indy require similar set-ups, so when we say that Jeff Gordon won at Pocono last month there should every reason to believe he will be just as good this week. Altogether, Gordon has four wins each on the tracks. In 1998 he won at both tracks in the same season on back to back weeks. Gordon also won the season Championship in 1998. In 2001, Gordon also won at Indy and took the season title. In both instances, Gordon was leading in points going into the Brickyard race. That scenario is set up once again for Gordon to accomplish this season. Currently, Gordon is up by 303 points over 2nd place Denny Hamlin.

It’s pretty hard to seriously look at anyone else than Gordon this week. He’s got all the stars and moons lined up perfectly for his Taro card reading. The only thing Gordon doesn’t have going for him is that the race isn’t taking place during his birthday week. The Indy date was moved up a week this year, so his birthday of August 4th will come the day before next week’s Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono. At least we have a head start on next weeks handicapping and know that Gordon has won four of 13 races on his birthday week.

We can’t just focus on Gordon this week, no matter how good he is. Because Gordon claims to be from Indiana sometimes, even though he grew up in California, and he does so well there, lets look for some other Indianan’s that may do well on their home state track. On a side note, how about combining all of Jeff Gordon career wins on the tracks he calls home. He’s got eight total triumphs on California’s two tracks and four in Indiana.

Anyway, back to ‘Identifying Hoosiers’ who may run well for whatever reason. The most prominent candidate is Tony Stewart from Rushville. Stewart has done the Pocono-Brickyard two-step himself. He climbed the Brickyard fence after winning in 2005 and remains his most cherished win of his career because of how much that track means to him.

Last month at Pocono Stewart finished a solid 5th while leading two laps during the race. Two weeks ago at Chicago Stewart took the checkers for the first time this season. Stewart treats NASCAR wins like potato chips, he can’t have just one. His wins will likely come in bunches and this week is an ideal spot because everything about the track fits his style.

Ryan Newman comes from South Bend and is a Purdue graduate. He’s always dreamed of winning at the Brickyard. When looking over his 6 career Indy races, his best finish is 4th with an average finish of 20.7. When throwing the Pocono factor in, Newman looks much more attractive this week. He has a Pocono win with five top 5 finishes there, including a very impressive 2nd place finish to Jeff Gordon last month. In that Pocono race last month, Pocono sat on the pole and led 18 laps late in the race before it became a race the rain drops race altering everyone’s pit strategies.

If it can’t be a driver from Indiana to win the race then the next group of drivers we have to look at are three who had fantastic days at Pocono last month. Denny Hamlin, Casey Mears, and Martin Truex Jr. all had cars that could win the race had it went the full 500 miles. I think the best story of the three would be Casey Mears, just because of his last name. His uncle, Rick, not only won the Indy 500, he was a four-time winner. Mears finished 4th at Pocono and led two laps.

After those you have to look at the Childress drivers. Harvick is a past winner at Indy and finished 3rd last season. He ran well at Pocono but was never in contention for a win. The driver that could present some great value is Clint Bowyer who should be in the 20 to 1 range or higher. We have seen three drivers in the last couple months become first time Cup winners and Bowyer is poised to be the next. Taking his first win ever at Indy would be a first, but would also be close to Mears as being a great story should they win.

You’d be a fool if you didn’t pay attention to two of the best drivers in NASCAR for this race. Well, I’m the fool who isn’t paying attention to them. I’m crossing them off like horses with no shot in a race program. Matt Kenseth only finished 2nd in last years Indy race and Jimmie Johnson won the race; that’s just not good enough for me. Kenseth also ran well at Pocono and finished 9th while Johnson led just about every practice speed chart there before having issues and finishing 42nd.

It’s too easy to just say Gordon wins, even though he probably will. There’s no fun at 6 to 1, it’s flat out boring. That’s why 22 to 1 with Casey Mears has such a nice ring to it, at least until he loses. I like the angle with his Uncle and I like the price, Sold!

That kind of logic and betting pattern is how the books make money. The objective for the bookmaker is to entice the bettor into taking someone other than the favorite and in the process, make them bet someone they might not have bet otherwise. It increases handle and offsets possible losses should the favorite win. Every once in a while, the long shot pays off. In the last few months of Cup racing, the long shot payout has been pretty good. Mears has great shot this week and will have a decent payout.

TOP 5 Finish Prediction

1) #25 Casey Mears (22/1)
2) #20 Tony Stewart (9/1)
3) #12 Ryan Newman (20/1)
4) #24 Jeff Gordon (6/1)
5) #1 Martin Truex Jr (15/1)

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Edwards released from hospital early Monday after crash
July 23, 2007

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -NASCAR driver Carl Edwards was released early Monday from an Omaha hospital after being injured Sunday night in a dirt track race in nearby Greenwood, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Details of the injury were not immediately available. Edwards' younger brother, Kenny Edwards, told the Omaha World-Herald it could be a dislocated thumb, caught in the steering wheel during a crash.

Edwards hit the back of another car that had spun out in the third lap, starting a 10-car pileup that battered his car. Edwards left the 25-lap race at I-80 Speedway in the back of an ambulance.

A prior rain delay of 45 minutes had left a slick surface on the track.

Lora Ullerich, a spokeswoman for Lakeside Hospital in Omaha, confirmed Monday that Edwards had been treated and released, but did not give further details, citing confidentiality rules.

Roush Racing spokeswoman LeAnne Howell said Roush officials had no comment.

Edwards, ranked fifth in the Nextel Cup standings and leading the Busch standings, was scheduled to be in Milwaukee on Monday for performance testing.

He raced in the late-model event with his brother and father, Carl Edwards Sr.

Edwards finished sixth at the Busch Gateway 250 on Saturday night, leading for seven laps but rubbing against the wall late.

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Number Crunchin' Indy
By Micah Roberts

Odds and Ends at INDY

• There have been 13 NASCAR Cup Series races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
since the first race there in 1994.
• Rick Mast won the first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Bud Pole.
• Jeff Gordon won the first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race.
• There have been 10 different Bud Pole winners – including nine straight. Only Jeff Gordon
(three) and Ernie Irvan (two) have repeated as pole winners there. All five of their Bud Poles
came between 1995 and 1999.
• Nine different drivers have won races at Indianapolis. Jeff Gordon (four) and Dale Jarrett
(two) – are the only repeat winners.
• Opened in 1909, Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the second-oldest, active track in the
world (after The Milwaukee Mile).
• Eight drivers have competed in all 13 races at Indianapolis: Bill Elliott, Jeff Burton, Jeff
Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, Sterling Marlin, Mark Martin, Joe Nemechek.
• Rick Hendrick has won five races at Indianapolis – more than any other car owner.
• Jeff Gordon has 10 top-10 finishes in 13 races at Indianapolis. Two of his remaining three
finishes have been 33rd or worse.
• Kevin Harvick has posted a top-10 finish in four of his six races at Indianapolis and has
never finished worse than 19th there.
• Tony Stewart has posted a top-10 finish in five of his eight Indianapolis races. His worst
finish there has been 17th.
• Eight of 13 races at Indianapolis have been won from a top-10 starting position.
• The race winner has started third three times, the only starting position to produce more than one victory.
• Only one Indianapolis race has been won from the Bud Pole: 2003 (Kevin Harvick).
• The deepest in the field that an Indianapolis race winner has started was 27th by Jeff
Gordon in 2001.

What other tracks in Indiana?

There have been 15 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races in Indiana:
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Indianapolis 13 1994 - Present
Funk’s Speedway Winchester 1 1950
Playland Park Speedway South Bend 1 1952
• Since NASCAR’s inaugural year of 1948, 73 NASCAR drivers have their home state
recorded as Indiana.
(Note: Over the years, many drivers have not provided or have changed their home of

Drivers from Indiana

• There have been 11 race winners from Indiana in NASCAR’s three national series:

Jeff Gordon
Tony Stewart
Ryan Newman
Darel Dieringer
Charlie Glotzbach
John Andretti
Earl Balmer
Larry Frank
Dick Passwater
Kenny Irwin, Jr.
Tony Raines

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Data

Race # 20 of 36 (7-29-07)
Track Size: 2.5 miles
Race Length: 400 miles (160 laps)
Banking/Corners: 9 degrees
Banking/Straights: 0 degrees
Frontstretch: 3,330 feet
Backstretch: 3,300 feet

Qualifying/Race Data

2006 pole winner: Jeff Burton (182.778 mph, 49.240 seconds)
2006 race winner: Jimmie Johnson, 137.182 mph, 8-6-06)
Track qualifying record: Casey Mears (186.293 mph, 48.311 secs., 8-7-04)
Track race record: Bobby Labonte (155.912 mph, 8-5-00)

Estimated Pit Window

Every 30-32 laps, based on fuel mileage

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RacingOne Power Rankings

The latest edition of the RacingOne NEXTEL Cup Series Power Rankings as the series heads to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Sunday's Allstate 400 at The Brickyard, which features NASCAR's comprehensive statistical ratings system using a detailed formula to calculate each driver's performance.

Editor's Note: Top 10 rankings are generated by a formula combining the following categories: Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps, Lead-Lap Finish. Maximum: 150 points per race. Must have raced in 75 percent of scheduled point-paying races.

1. Jeff Gordon: Gordon maintained his No. 1 position in the rankings even though he slipped .8 of a point after posting the ninth best average driver rating in the USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. With his teammate catching back up on him in the rankings, Gordon will need to continue his magic at The Brickyard, where he has posted four wins and seven top-five finishes, in order to continue his lead heading to Pocono.

Indianapolis Finishing Average: 9.3
Indianapolis Wins: 4

2. Jimmie Johnson: Although Johnson ended up with a 37th-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway, he was able to gain ground on Jeff Gordon after posting the fourth best average driver rating in the USG Sheetrock 400. Last year, Johnson ended a streak of two consecutive DNF's at Indianapolis with a win.

Indianapolis Finishing Average: 20.4
Indianapolis Wins: 1

3. Tony Stewart: Stewart heads back home to Indiana fresh off a win in the USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. He gained 2.2 points in the rankings after posting the best average driver rating at Chicago at 139.8. Based the last three races at Indianapolis, the chances are good Stewart could climb not only another fence, but even more in the rankings.

Indianapolis Finishing Average: 8.4
Indianapolis Wins: 1

4. Denny Hamlin: Hamlin lost a few points in the rankings after his 17th-place finish in the USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. This weekend he could redeem himself with another strong performance on a "flat track" in the Allstate 400 at The Brickyard.

Indianapolis Finishing Average: 10.0
Indianapolis Wins: 0

5. Kyle Busch: Busch's sixth-best average driver rating in the USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway was good enough to gain him a half of a point in the rankings. If he plans to gain ground on Denny Hamlin he will have to equal his Brickyard performances of the past where he holds the best average finish (8.5) among all drivers with two starts.

Indianapolis Finishing Average: 8.5
Indianapolis Wins: 0

6. Matt Kenseth: Kenseth jumped three positions in the rankings with his second-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway. This weekend he will look to push his current top-10 streak in 2007 to four races at Indianapolis where he has finished in the top 10 four times.

Indianapolis Finishing Average: 13.7
Indianapolis Wins: 0

7. Dale Earnhardt Jr: Earnhardt Jr. remained seventh in the rankings after posting the 11th-best average driver rating in the USG Sheetrock 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Last year he posted his best finish (sixth) in seven career starts at Indianapolis.

Indianapolis Finishing Average: 19.3
Indianapolis Wins: 0

8. Kurt Busch: Busch dropped two slots in the rankings after finishing 19th at Chicagoland Speedway. Busch, who trails Dale Earnhardt Jr. by a minimal margin in the rankings, finished 12th in his first Indy start with Penske Racing.

Indianapolis Finishing Average: 15.5
Indianapolis Wins: 0

9. Carl Edwards: Although he gained some points in the rankings with his third-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway, Edwards still sits ninth in the overall rankings. He used 42 laps in the USG Sheetrock 400 to improve a position in the race, which was tops among all drivers. Edwards has finished 12th and ninth, respectively, in his two starts at Indianapolis.

Indianapolis Finishing Average: 10.5
Indianapolis Wins: 0

10. Jeff Burton: Thanks to a 39th-place finish by Martin Truex Jr., Burton earned more breathing room in the 10th position in the rankings. Last year, Burton captured the third best driver rating in the Allstate 400 at The Brickyard after leading 87 laps from the pole in his second track start with Richard Childress Racing.

Indianapolis Finishing Average: 19.2
Indianapolis Wins: 0

Power Mover

Kevin Harvick: Kevin Harvick posted the second best average driver rating at Chicagoland Speedway and now heads to Indianapolis where he won the 2003 event.

Indianapolis Finishing Average: 7.8
Indianapolis Wins: 1

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Allstate 400 at The Brickyard PreQ    
It has been a proven fact that the winner of the Allstate 400 at The Brickyard usually goes on to win the series championship. Dale Jarrett won at The Brickyard in 1999 going on to win the championship, Bobby Labonte did it during the 2000 season, Tony Stewart did it in the 2005 season and Jimmie Johnson performed the feat last season. That bodes well for Jeff Gordon as he is the No. 1 driver on the PreQ forecast while he is also currently leading the point standings. Gordon is a three time champion of this race, and not coincidentally, he has gone on to win the championship in two of those seasons (1998 & 2001). Of the nine events held at The Brickyard the eventual series champion has won the race six times. With Gordon on a tear he should be in store for a big day at Indianapolis which could be a solid indicator of your 2007 series champion.

Things continue to get more and more interesting at Hendrick Motorsports as Kyle Busch continues to bash his teammates and his team. Busch has yet to sign with a new ride for the 2008 season although there are rumors that he will be joining RCR in a 4th car. There remains to be the fact, however, that Busch remains in the #5 Kellogg’s Chevrolet and in contention to be a participant in the Chase for the Championship. Like all Hendrick drivers Busch has performed well at The Brickyard. In two career starts he has finished in the top 10 with an average finish of 8th place. He sits just behind his teammate on the PreQ forecast in the second position and will surely make his presence felt if the pair or running up front at the end of the day. Look for Busch to have a good day on the track but expect controversy after if his running his “teammates” hard.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway is considered to be Tony Stewart’s home track as he resides in Indiana. Stewart has run well in his career at The Brickyard finishing all eight of his starts in the top 20 with a win and five top 10s for an average finish of 8th place. Stewart finally broke through for his first win of the 2007 season last time out at Chicagoland and he is prone to go on streaks of winning. He could very easily make it two in a row at The Brickyard and move further up the point standings. Look for the #20 Home Depot Chevrolet to be a contender for the checkers on Sunday.

Evernham Motorsports is having a horrendous season with all three drivers currently sitting outside the top 20 in the point standings. The “top” driver on the team, Elliott Sadler, is just 23rd in the point standings. Sadler has been struggling in recent weeks, however, posting three consecutive 33rd place finishes while recording just one top 20 finish (14th at Infineon) in the last 10 races. Sadler is not very excited to see Indianapolis either as he has struggled in his career at the track posting a lowly 29th place average finish in eight starts. He does have a 3rd place finish at the track but it is his only top 20 while recording five finishes outside the top 30, including a 43rd place finish last season. Don’t expect much out of the Evernham crew, especially Sadler.

There is talk that the #78 Furniture Row Racing team may be putting together a deal to purchase the points from Ginn Racing’s #13 team which does not have a driver. Ginn released Joe Nemechek earlier last week, along with Sterling Marlin, in a shakeup of the operations. The #13 current is 34th in the point standings while the #78 is 43rd. The purchase of the #13 team points would assure driver Kenny Wallace of making the lineup for the Allstate 400 at The Brickyard. Wallace, however, may not be in the best position to keep the #78 in the top 35 in the point standings as he has had a porous record at Indianapolis. In seven career starts at the track he has never finished in the top 20 with five finishes coming outside the top 30 for an average finish of 33rd place. Wallace may be running in on of the most prestigious races of the year but it is doubtful he will be a contender for a top 20 finish.

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"Old" Stewart Back at Indy

Bad news for the entire NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series field heading into this weekend’s Allstate 400 at the Brickyard; "Old" Tony Stewart has returned.

After what has been a frustrating season full of near-misses, one which also included a highly publicized accident with teammate Denny Hamlin at Daytona earlier this month, Stewart has found his championship form once again after claiming victory at Chicagoland Speedway two weekends ago.

While that fact alone would make many competitors shudder, there is even worse news on the horizon as the NEXTEL Cup Series visits Stewart’s home track this weekend – the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"Growing up in Indiana and every year watching the Indy 500 and the whole month of May leading up to it, a race at the Brickyard is more than just a regular points race," said Stewart, a native of nearby Rushville, Indiana. "It’s always been a big race to all of the Cup drivers, but then when you grow up in Indiana, it just makes it that much more important."

While the passion for the historic track has always lived inside Stewart, the race itself hasn’t always been the most memorable. From 1999 until 2004, the driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet scored two top-fives and three top-10s in six career starts. However, since his memorable victory in 2005, things have changed for Stewart and he comes into the weekend with a renewed passion to kiss the yard of bricks on Sunday afternoon.

"It’s a lot more enjoyable," Stewart said of visiting Indianapolis Motor Speedway since his triumph. "Especially all the years before we won, that was the most frustrating part of going to Indy. It was increasingly more frustrating each year that went by before we won. Having to answer the question, ‘What would it be like to win?’ Since 2005, we’ve only been back once, but going back you don’t have that big weight on your shoulders and that question of, ‘What is it going to feel like?’ You know what it’s going to feel like if you win it. You know how much you appreciated it and in all reality it makes it easier to focus on what you’re trying to do instead of having to deal with the circus that’s going on around it."

Along with the importance of winning in front of his hometown fans, this weekend’s event has become a barometer of who will win the NEXTEL Cup Series championship at year’s end. Six times since the Allstate 400 was put on the NEXTEL Cup calendar in 1994, and twice in a row coming into this year’s event, the Indianapolis race winner also celebrated with a series championship at year’s end.

"It just seems to be if you have the package that’s right to win there, it’s a package that pretty much keeps you ahead of the game at a bunch of the tracks that we run in the Chase (for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup) too," said Stewart. "It’s just one of those places where if you can run well, it seems like your program is where it needs to be for the Chase."

If Stewart can keep his Chicagoland momentum and return to his old form this weekend, all the "disappointing season" talk will officially come to an end – only to be replaced with discussions of a third championship for the driver of the Home Depot machine.

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The Brickyard

Indianapolis Motor Speedway is legendary. Around the world, it is the most famous racetrack on any circuit and it is home to the most famous race in the world, the Indy 500. Some of the NASCAR faithful will make arguments for the Daytona 500, but there is little comparison. Just about everyone has heard of the track—nicknamed the Brickyard for its original all-brick design—but it is particularly important for some of NASCAR Nextel Cup Series drivers.

In Indiana, the two most popular sports are basketball and racing. For someone like Tony Stewart or Ryan Newman, who grew up near the legendary track, winning a race at the Brickyard is a dream. Likewise, Jeff Gordon, who moved to Indiana as a child to pursue his racing career, understands Stewart and Newman's feelings about Indy and has won there four times. To fantasy owners, this means that these three will step up their games to get into victory lane.

Forgetting about the fanfare of the Brickyard, this simply is a big, flat track. It is more than two miles long, rectangular in shape and has low banking through the turns. Its consistent banking makes it similar to the short, flat tracks of Phoenix International Raceway, New Hampshire International Speedway and Martinsville Speedway, but its size puts it in a class more with the larger Pocono Raceway than the other three tracks.

The first rule to being a favorite at Indy is to be good on the flat tracks. When fantasy owners find someone who is a proven winner on those types of tracks and plants a sentimental eye on the Brickyard, he is a good choice for the Allstate 400.

Stewart may only have one win at Indy, but he has a better Brickyard resume than anyone else at the fabled track. His last two trips to the Indy 500 ended with top-10s. During those weekends, he did double duty and flew over to Lowe's Motor Speedway in time to run the Coca-Cola 600. He has been great in the Allstate 400, where he has been a contender in virtually every start since 1999. He got into victory lane there in 2005 and enters this year's race with three consecutive top-10s at Indy.

Stewart may be envious of his younger teammate this weekend. In only Denny Hamlin's second career start at the Brickyard, he has a shot to win, because "Mr. Flat Track" has owned the low-banked speedways. Halfway through his second year on the tour, he already owns three flat track wins, two of which were at the larger Pocono. He won the last time out on a flat track at New Hampshire, giving him 11 consecutive top-10s on that type of track. Hamlin has lost the momentum he had from May to the first of July, but he is always capable of a win when the banking is low.

Dark Horses
When the season began, Jeff Burton rolled off a win, five top-fives and six top-10s in the first seven races. Then he hit a drought of eight races with only a single top-10 finish. He has gotten back on his horse at just the right time. Burton has a third, two seventh-place efforts and four consecutive top-20s heading into Indy. He has been consistent on the flat tracks lately, notching two top-10s this year and nothing lower than 13th. The No. 31 Chevrolet driver was solid at the Brickyard last year. On that August day, he led a race high 87 laps and was a contender until equipment troubles dropped him to 15th.

Another driver with momentum on his side is Carl Edwards. Ever since he notched a fifth at Darlington Speedway, he has been contending for wins. Once he got into victory lane at Michigan International Speedway, he has been hot. Edwards enters the weekend with two consecutive top-fives and has only one finish outside the top-20 in 17 consecutive races this year. Last season, when he was struggling, he managed to lead nine laps at Indy and walked away with a ninth-place finish. While he does not have a top-10 on a flat track this year, he has not finished lower than 18th on a low-banked track in 12 months. An injured hand suffered in a dirt car race earlier this week might slow him down slightly and that drops from being a favorite to being a dark horse.

Juan Montoya deserves a quick mention in this week's preview. Experience seems to carry over from one series to another at Indy and the Colombian has something no one else has in NASCAR—an Indy 500 trophy. In his first career start at the Brickyard, Montoya won the 2000 Indy 500. His road racing skills will help him get through the corners at the big flat track. It has done wonders so far; in his four flat track starts this year, he already has three top-20s.

Avoidance Principal
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a solid flat track driver, but now is not the best time to put him on the fantasy roster. He ran in the top-five all day at New Hampshire, but at Pocono, which is better for comparison with Indy, he had faded out of the top 10 when the rain started. He has been struggling to find the right step-up in the last two weeks as he has been no better than 19th in those starts.

To top it off, Martin Truex Jr. appears to be getting the better equipment at Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI) since Earnhardt announced he is heading to Hendrick Motorsports and with the newly announced merger between Bobby Ginn Racing and DEI, resources may be a little thin this week.

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Driver Handicaps: Indianapolis

This weekend the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series heads to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Allstate 400 at The Brickyard. To help you make your Dale Jr. Reality Cup Racing fantasy picks, RacingOne brings you our weekly detailed look at some of the field for the 160-lap event.

Who's HOT at Indianapolis
* Jimmie Johnson is the defending race winner.
* Kevin Harvick has the best average finish (7.8) among all drivers with two or more starts.
* Jeff Gordon leads all drivers with four wins.
* Tony Stewart has finished eighth or better, including a win, in his last three starts.
* Matt Kenseth has the best average driver rating at 114.0.

Keep an Eye on at Indianapolis
* Clint Bowyer finished fourth in his first start at The Brickyard in 2006.
* All of Denny Hamlin's wins have come on flat tracks.
* Drivers tend to carry over their performances at Pocono to Indy. Among the drivers not already mentioned - Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr, Casey Mears, Mark Martin and Kyle Busch all finished in the top 10 at Pocono in June.

Indianapolis Rookie Report
Although it wasn't in a NEXTEL Cup car, Juan Pablo Montoya is the only Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate that has competed in a race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. On Sunday, Montoya will become the first driver that has raced in NASCAR, Formula One and the Indy Racing League at the famed speedway. Paul Menard attempted to make the Allstate 400 field last year, but posted the 41st fastest lap in qualifying at 178.221 mph. Rookie Standings

Qualifying Tidbits
There have been 10 different pole winners in the 13 NEXTEL Cup races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Jeff Gordon is the only active driver with multiple poles (1995, 1996 and 1999) in that span. Each manufacturer has won a pole in the last three races with drivers Jeff Burton (Chevrolet), Elliott Sadler (Ford) and Casey Mears (Dodge). This weekend will mark Toyota's first qualifying laps at Indy. Mears is the current qualifying record holder with his 2004 lap of 186.293 mph. Eight of the races have been won from a top-10 starting position, most recently when Jimmie Johnson won from the fifth slot. With qualifying starting at 10:10 a.m. on Saturday the draw usually plays a part on who will win the pole

*RacingOne Staff Picks
Jeff Wackerlin: Kevin Harvick
Pete Pistone: Mark Martin
Jorge Mondaca: Jeff Gordon
Rachael West: Kasey Kahne

*Note: Drivers can be selected only one time per season. Race points will be added up each week. This is the 17th race of the season for this section of the handicaps. Standings

Top 20 Driver Notes - Based on Current Standings

1. Jeff Gordon (Points: 2911): Gordon will be looking to tie Formula One driver Michael Schumacher as the only five-time winners in the 97-year history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Gordon leads just about every NEXTEL Cup statistical category at IMS with four wins, three poles, seven top fives and 433 laps led. Last year, Gordon started 16th and finished 16th in his 13th start at the speedway, ending a streak of five consecutive top-10 finishes.

2. Denny Hamlin (Points Behind: -303): Last year Hamlin finished 10th in his first start at The Brickyard even after his No. 11 Chevrolet experience intermittent engine trouble. This weekend he will race the same car (chassis No. 137) that finished 11th and 19th, respectively, at California and Atlanta.

3. Matt Kenseth (Points Behind: -346): Last year, Kenseth captured his fourth top-five finish, and second consecutive, in his seven starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His second-place finish in this event last year equaled his 2003 finish, which is his best at the 2.5-mile track. Kenseth has led nine laps in each of the last two events, adding to his track total of 28. This weekend he will be driving the same car (chassis No. RK-385) that he raced at Indy in 2006 and last finished 23rd with at Kansas.

4. Jeff Burton (Points Behind: -420): Burton's two and only top-10 finishes at Indianapolis came in 1999 and 2000 when he finished fifth and sixth, respectively, with Roush Fenway Racing. Burton has led four times at IMS for 113 laps, most recently in 2006 when he led for 87 circuits from the pole. Last year's 15th-place finish was his best in two track starts with Richard Childress Racing. Burton owns an average starting spot of 25.5 and a finishing average of 19.2 at Indianapolis. This weekend Burton will race the same car (chassis No. 155) that most recently finished 24th at Michigan.

5. Carl Edwards (Points Behind: -438): Edwards, who has yet to finish worse than 12th in two starts at The Brickyard, will be racing a new car (chassis RK-358) when he searches for his second consecutive top 10 at the track.

6. Tony Stewart (Points Behind: -482): Indiana native, Stewart captured his childhood dream in 2005 by winning the Brickyard 400 after leading 44 laps from the 22nd starting position. The win came in the 15th race he had competed in at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with his most starts (eight) coming in a NEXTEL Cup Car. He has also raced five times in the IRL IndyCar Series and three times in the IROC Series. Stewart became the first driver to start from the pole and lead the first lap in both the Indianapolis 500 (1996) and the Brickyard 400, after he won the pole in 2002. He owns an average starting spot of 16.5 and finishing average of 8.4, and is fourth on the all-time list with 150 laps led at Indianapolis.

7. Jimmie Johnson (Points Behind: -488): Johnson scored his first win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year after leading 33 laps from the fifth starting position. It marked the second time in five starts that Johnson has finished inside the top 10 at Indy. In 2004 and 2005 Johnson recorded consecutive DNFs after an engine and an accident, respectively, took him out of contention. This weekend he will be racing the same car that finished 42nd at Pocono in June.

8. Kevin Harvick (Points Behind: -574): Harvick led 33 laps from the pole en route to his 2003 Brickyard 400 victory. Last year Harvick led 18 laps and finished third to mark his third top-five finish in six career starts. In 2004, Harvick scored an eighth-place finish after taking two tires late in the race, and then the next season he scored his worst finish at IMS, finishing 19th. This weekend Harvick will be back behind the wheel of the same chassis (No. 120) that won at Loudon and Phoenix last year.

9. Kyle Busch (Points Behind: -597): Busch has finished 10th and seventh, respectively, in his two starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His finishing average is tops among all drivers that have just made two starts at Indy. The CARQUEST/Kellogg's Team will be unloading the same car (chassis No. 426) that finished eighth at Pocono in June.

10. Clint Bowyer (Points Behind: -630): Bowyer will be returning in the same car (chassis No. 170) that he finished fourth with last year in his first start at The Brickyard. This car has entered multiple races since then, most recently at Chicago where it finished 10th.

11. Martin Truex Jr. (Points Behind: -703): Truex Jr. will be looking to lower his average finish of 30.5 in two starts at Indy driving the same car (chassis No. 053) that finished third at Pocono.

12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Points Behind: -760): Earnhardt Jr. earned his best finish in the Allstate 400 at The Brickyard last year, when he finished sixth. His last start inside the top 25 came in 2004 when he started fifth for one of his three top-10 starts.

13. Ryan Newman (Points Behind: -790): Newman has competed in six races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and has finished inside the top-10 once, a fourth, in 2003. In 2004, he posted his first DNF at IMS, finishing 31st. Newman leads all drivers with more than one start with a 5.5 starting average. He has yet to win a pole for the Brickyard 400, but has never started worse than eighth. The Alltel team's primary chassis (No. PRS-069) for Indy is the same car that finished 14th at Martinsville in April.

14. Kurt Busch (Points Behind: -837): Busch has three top-10 finishes in five career starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway - all coming with Roush Racing. His best finish (fifth) came in his first start at the 2.5-mile speedway in 2001. After finishing 18th in 2005, Busch's only other finish outside the top 15 resulted in a DNF and Busch calling Jimmy Spencer a "decrepit old has-been" after Spencer sent Busch into the Turn 3 wall on lap 36 in the 2002 race.

15. Jamie McMurray (Points Behind: -871): Indianapolis Motor Speedway is McMurray's third best track based on finishing average at 13.2. This weekend will mark his second track start with Roush Fenway Racing where he will race a car (RK-393) that was recently taken to the wind tunnel.

16. Greg Biffle (Points Behind: -945): Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the only active track that Biffle has yet to lead a lap. In four career starts he has only posted one top 20 finish - sixth in 2004. This weekend Biffle will be racing a bran new car (chassis RK-315) that is similar to a car he liked at a test at Kentucky.

17. Casey Mears (Points Behind: -990): In 2004, Mears won his second-career NEXTEL Cup pole at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after setting the qualifying record with a speed 186.293 mph. In 2005, Mears posted personal bests at IMS by leading 10 laps and finishing sixth - his first top 10 in four starts. This weekend in his track debut with Hendrick Motorsports, Mears will drive the same car (chassis No. 334) that started 12th and finished fourth at Pocono.

18. Mark Martin (Points Behind: -1016): Martin will make his first start since the DEI/Ginn Merger and first in a Chevrolet at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday. He has started every race since 1994, posting an average finish of 15.0 with Roush Racing.

19. J.J. Yeley (Points Behind: -1049): Last year, Yeley started sixth and finished 34th in his first start at The Brickyard.

20. Juan Montoya (Points Behind: -1064): 2000 Indy 500 winner Montoya will race a rebuilt car (chassis No. 707) when he makes his first NASCAR start at Indy on Sunday. This is the same car that was involved in a multi-car crash at Michigan in June.

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Edwards' hand won't slow him down
July 26, 2007

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Carl Edwards' handwriting may not look pretty this weekend. Just don't expect his injured right hand to slow him down in the No. 99 car at Indianapolis.

Edwards arrived in town Thursday wearing a protective brace around his dislocated right thumb, and he plans to wear something similar Sunday to avoid re-injury during the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.

As an indication that he's feeling good, Edwards kept his scheduled signing session at an Office Depot store on the south side of Indy. Office Depot is the car's primary sponsor.

``It will probably be the ugliest Carl Edwards autograph ever,'' he said before the session began. ``The hand is good, and it shouldn't really be a problem. But when I did it and I looked down at it, it didn't look right.''

Edwards, fifth in Nextel Cup points and leading the Busch series, was injured Sunday at a dirt-track race when he hit the back of a car that spun out in front of him. The collision caused a 10-car pileup, and Edwards' right thumb wound up stuck in the steering wheel spokes.

When Edwards glanced down, he feared his hand was broken. He was taken to a hospital in Omaha, Neb., and doctors kept him overnight before releasing him Monday.

Among the other drivers competing in the late-model event last weekend were Edwards' brother and his father, Carl Edwards Sr. Edwards didn't appear to regret racing in a non-points event.

``Usually, I'm pretty good about keeping my hand out of the steering wheel, but somehow I got it caught in there,'' he said. ``You know, you can hurt yourself anywhere - riding a bicycle, walking down the stairs or whatever. The biggest thing is to take all the precautions in the world.''

While Edwards insists neither the injured hand nor the brace, which goes from his thumb to midway up his forearm, will affect his driving this weekend, they did alter his schedule.

He expected to be in the car for 10 consecutive days of testing and racing, and had planned to run in three races at Indianapolis this week. Instead, he took a few days off and now intends to run only the Cup and Busch races in Indy.

The injury also forced him to make an unexpected trip to his hometown, Columbia, Mo.

``There's a gentleman in my hometown who made some different braces for me, so we took the steering wheel in and he worked on it,'' Edwards said.

Edwards emerged as a rising star on the Cup circuit in 2005 by winning four races, including consecutive victories at Atlanta and Texas.

His only victory since then came last month at Michigan, ending a 52-race winless streak. But his consistency - five finishes in the top five and seven in the top 10 - has kept him among the points leaders.

And he's not about to let a sore thumb ruin this weekend.

``I feel great right now,'' he said. ``If I dislocate it again, I'll be in excruciating pain, but right now, it feels fine.''

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Allstate 400 at The Brickyard HOT! Sheet    
When it comes to racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the last name Mears has a lot of history. The Indy 500 was won by Rick Mears a record four times. Now, his nephew, Casey Mears, is trying to add a little more history at the track this weekend. He comes in to the Brickyard with a lot of momentum as he was the pole-sitter at Chicago and then went on to finish 5th. He needs to keep things going in order to make up a little ground and get in to the Chase, so look for a strong outing on Sunday.

His Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Kyle Busch, is also one to watch out for. As you can see from our chart below, over the course of the last six races he is averaging right at an 8th place finish. The yard of bricks has been really kind to him. In his first visit to the historic landmark, he went home with a solid 10th place showing. Then last year, after a poor qualifying effort forced him to start 37th, he fought his way to the front and led 8 laps before settling for 7th place. He may be a lame duck in the #5 car, but he’s still a good fantasy racing option.

His brother, Kurt Busch, has seen an impressive turnaround the last couple of events. After finishing outside the top 20 in three straight races, he went to Daytona and led 45 laps and ended up watching the exciting finish in 3rd. Two weeks ago at Chicagoland Speedway, he worked his way from a 35th place starting spot to lead a couple of laps and wound up 6th. He’s got 3 top 10s in 6 trips to Indy, so like his brother he’s a nice choice.

At the very bottom of our sheet this week is Brian Vickers. The bye week was extra long for his team because they failed to make the Chicago race. He has only had the opportunity to race 10 times so far this season, but even when he has it hasn’t gone very well. His average finish his last four attempts is 31st. He has led 2 of the 3 races he’s been in at the Brickyard, but it’s still not enough for us to recommend him.

Right above him on the list this week is Elliott Sadler. He has been consistent recently, but not the way that you want to be. At New Hampshire he finished 33rd. At Daytona he finished 33rd. Then at Chicago, guess where he finished? That’s right: 33rd. Until he shows signs of consistency the other way, we’d stay away from him.

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Top 5 and 5 to watch: Indianapolis
Sporting News

Here's a look at the top five in points and five drivers to watch in Sunday's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Ind. All statistical references are for Cup races at Indianapolis unless otherwise indicated.

1. Jeff Gordon. Because of finishes of 16th and eighth the past two years, Gordon's driver rating is a mediocre 18th, 80.8. But don't let that fool you. His four wins are tops, and his average finish for 13 races is 9.3.

2. Denny Hamlin. The No. 11 team experimented with setups two weeks ago at Chicagoland, and Hamlin finished 17th. No experimenting this week. Hamlin is going for the win. He finished 10th last year in his first Brickyard start and excels at flat superspeedways such as Indy.

3. Matt Kenseth. Kenseth and Kurt Busch are the only active Nextel Cup champions without a win at the Brickyard. Kenseth has four top-five finishes in his past five races, and his driver rating of 114.0 is tops based on his finishes of second and fifth the past two years. He has spent all but four laps in the top 15 the past two years.

4. Jeff Burton. By far, last year's race was Burton's best at Indy -- but it wasn't his best finish. He won the pole and led 87 laps, the first laps he has led since 2001, before finishing 15th. In 13 races, Burton has but two top 10s, and they came in 1999 and 2000.

5. Carl Edwards. This is Edwards' third Brickyard. He finished ninth last year and 12th the year before. He has finishes of third and fourth the past two Cup races, and based on his performance last week in the Busch race, the week off from Cup racing should not affect his momentum.

Five to watch:

Tony Stewart, 6th. Stewart finally broke through with his first victory of 2007 at Chicagoland, so at least he no longer has to answer questions about when he is going to win a race. Indianapolis is special to Stewart, who is from nearby Columbus, Ind. He won the race in 2005, and his 109.2 driver rating is second best.

Jimmie Johnson, 7th. Johnson won last year's race, and although he is not in peril of falling out of the top 12, he dropped three spots in the points standings after crashing at Chicagoland. This might sound odd, but the No. 48 team needs a confidence boost. Since getting four wins and eight top fives in the first 11 races this season, Johnson has one top five in the past eight with an average finish of 19.4.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., 12th. Junior is the first of this week's Bubble Boys. He has a 30-point lead over Ryan Newman for the last spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup, and Junior absolutely, positively must avoid a DNF, which he had in the 2005 Brickyard (crash). He finished sixth last year, his best finish in seven Brickyards. He is coming off finishes of 19th at Chicagoland and 36th at Daytona. It's time to reverse the slide.

Ryan Newman, 13th. The formula for Newman to be successful Sunday is pretty simple: Race as strongly as you qualify. The Rocketman's average start in six Brickyards is 5.5. His average finish, though, is 20.7. His lone top 10 was a fourth-place finish in 2002. As much as Newman would love a win in his home state, finishing ahead of Junior is actually more important.

Kurt Busch, 14th. Busch is 77 points behind Earnhardt and closing fast. After Loudon, three races ago, Busch trailed Earnhardt by 236 points. But while Earnhardt was struggling at Chicagoland and Daytona, Busch finished third and sixth, respectively. His driver rating at the Brickyard, although ho-hum at 77.1, is miles ahead of Earnhardt's 50.8.

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First Nextel Cup practice rained out

INDIANAPOLIS - Rain cancelled the opening practice session for the NASCAR Nextel Cup teams at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The rain, which is predicted to continue intermittently through the weekend, started shortly before the 1:30 p.m. EDT session was scheduled to begin.

A second practice session is scheduled for 3:30 p.m., but rain was still falling on the track just an hour before that session was set to begin.

The teams are scheduled to practice today and then qualify tomorrow for Sunday's Allstate 400.

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Pit Box: Who will win at Indianapolis?
Sporting News

Fantasy experts Roger Kuznia and Vinnie Iyer pick Nextel Cup race winners each week. This week brings the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Roger: Given the Denny Hamlin-Tony Stewart brouhaha at Daytona, and then Stewart's win at Chicagoland, it will be perfect theater when Hamlin one-ups the No. 20 and 41 other competitors at Indy. Flat tracks have been a strength for Hamlin, and Indianapolis qualifies as such. Hamlin finished sixth at Pocono and won at New Hampshire (the other flat tracks), so prepare to watch the No. 11 team kiss some bricks.
Sleeper: Casey Mears.
Not so fast: Kasey Kahne.

Vinnie: This year's news at Hendrick Motorsports has been all about the resurgence of Jeff Gordon and the addition of Dale Earnhardt Jr., but it's time for Hendrick's defending Nextel Cup champ to make some headlines. Jimmie Johnson hasn't had the same magic this season, but after breaking through at the Brickyard last year, he has a good chance to repeat. No. 48 can't afford another lapse in the standings.
Sleeper: Clint Bowyer.
Not so fast: Greg Biffle.

Last week: Roger and Vinnie and the rest of the Nextel Cup Series took the week off. Word out of Charlotte is the two are well-rested and well-prepared to battle for Pit box supremacy over the final 17 races.

Standings after 19 races: Roger, 2,633; Vinnie, 2,515.

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Re: Brickyard 400 News and Notes

mvbski wrote:

Not so fast: Kasey Kahne.

All of the Everham cars look fast with the old nose back on his cars for this race.  wink

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Good Day for Ganassi

INDIANAPOLIS - Chip Ganassi Racing enjoyed a solid practice session Saturday in preparation for Allstate 400 at the Brickyard 400 qualifying with all three drivers find a spot in the top six on the speedchart.

Reed Sorenson topped the 49 cars that took part in the session with a lap of 184.098 mph.

His teammate David Stremme was next followed by Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Elliott Sadler.

Juan Pablo Montoya gave Ganassi the sixth spot with Kurt Busch, Scott Riggs, Mark Martin and Scott Wimmer, in a fourth Richard Childress Racing entry, rounding out the top ten.

The 2-1/2 hour session was the only one of the weekend, as rain kncoked out Friday's scheduled sessions.

A couple drivers had disappointing outings including Robby Gordon, who tagged the wall, and J.J. Yeley, who spun and crashed, forcing him to a back-up car.

"The car got going the wrong direction," Yeley said. "We went out made three or four runs and the car was really good. We were going to make an eight lap run to see how our tire wear was and for whatever reason it got loose on the exit of turn four."

Qualifying for the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard is now set for 5:30 p.m. (ET).

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Green Flag: Allstate 400

There is little argument that the Indy 500 is still the biggest event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard certainly ranks high on the prestigious races list.

Any race at Indy is special. The drivers could use bicycles there and it would draw unparalleled attention. With all the hype that surrounds a race as popular as the Allstate 400, much of the focus this week has been on all the changes in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series ranks.

The biggest news involved all the changes associated with Ginn Racing. First, they released two veteran drivers and closed down the shop for the No. 13 Chevrolet camp. Then Bobby Ginn merged with Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI) and the No. 14 Chevrolet team members found themselves looking for work as well.

It is hard to say how all these changes will affect the DEI squad and the No. 01 Chevrolet team. Those who are hot will likely stay hot, but for the others, a merger is not going to immediately impact them. When it comes to picking fantasy drivers, stick with the drivers who were doing well before the merger and be cautious with the rest.

Tier One
Fantasy owners know that Tony Stewart will leave it all on the track this week. He is at his best when it comes to Indianapolis, despite having just one victory on the famed track. No matter if he is driving a stockcar or an open-wheel racecar, he is a contender on the rectangular flat track. For his NASCAR career, Stewart has five top-10s and a 17th in 2001 was his worst finish there. He is coming off his first win of the season at Chicagoland Speedway and is using that same car, which gives him momentum at the perfect time.

Denny Hamlin will get the ball rolling with a good starting spot on Sunday. The best flat track driver in the Nextel Cup Series, he qualified 10th on Saturday despite a bad draw. He has not finished outside the top 10 in more than a year on those tracks. In that time, he has collected three wins, two of which were on the larger Pocono Raceway that is very similar to Indy. Hamlin drove the Car of Tomorrow to victory at New Hampshire International Speedway in his last time out on a low-banked speedway.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a new teammate this week after the DEI-Ginn merger, but this is not going to help his chances. Earnhardt is good on the flat tracks, but Indy has never been very kind to him. Since his rookie year of 2000, he has just two top-10 finishes there, with his best being a sixth last year. With his impending departure from DEI, the company has been focusing its attention on the No. 1 Chevrolet team, so things are not looking good for an Earnhardt victory at the Brickyard.

Tier Two
Martin Truex Jr. gets the nod this week in the DEI camp. His recent run of success—two consecutive third-place results in the last two flat track races—moves him up the ladder. What truly makes him worthy of a roster allocation are his runs on the longer flat tracks. As a struggling rookie, he picked up a 10th in the June race at Pocono, and then grabbed a respectable 19th at the Brickyard. He kept that momentum going with a third at Pocono this year, so things are looking good for Truex.

Clint Bowyer is looking for his first career win this week, even though he has a little work ahead of him. He qualified 26th on Saturday, but it will simply be a matter of time before he gets to the front. Last year as a rookie, he ran with the leaders and had one of the fastest cars in the late stages, helping him finish fourth. His flat track success has been limited since, but he did earn a nice 10th at Pocono this summer.

Fantasy owners will not want to sleep on Juan Montoya before starting him immediately. Although a rookie by NASCAR standards, Indy is nothing new to him. He was a freshman when he took to the Brickyard in 2000 and walked away with the Indy 500 trophy. He has not had a top-10 on a flat track so far in the stockcar ranks, but he has three top-20 finishes on such speedways. Most importantly to his dark horse status is that he was 20th at the sister track of Pocono. Things are going well for the Chip Ganassi Racing Dodges so far this weekend; Montoya will start a career-high second while his teammate Reed Sorenson took the pole and last year an all-Childress front row also benefited them.

Hendrick Motorsports runs well on the flat tracks and they almost always field strong entries in the biggest races of the year. However, there are better options than Casey Mears in this tier. For his Indy career, three of the four races ended with him 23rd or lower. He was a solid fourth in the rain-shortened event at Pocono in June, but four of his last five flat track starts have ended with him outside the top 20. With other, better options on Tier Two, it is best to find someone else to put on the fantasy roster this week.

Tier Three
Some of Bobby Labonte's better finishes during the last year and a half have come on the flat tracks. He has four top-10 results on the low-banked speedways, including an eighth at Phoenix International Raceway earlier this year. That started the ball rolling as he enters Indy with three consecutive top-20s on the flat tracks. Do not forget that he won at the Brickyard in 2000 and that has given him a ton of media attention and a boost of confidence. Despite that being his last top-10 at Indy, he still has three top-20s and just two finishes lower than 22nd in his last six starts there.

J.J. Yeley has shown a lot of promise on the flat tracks in his young career. He was eighth at New Hampshire last fall. Since then, he has just one finish lower than 23rd on the low-banked tracks. What makes him look appealing at Indy are his finishes on the other large flat track of Pocono. So far, he has yet to finish lower than 17th there. He did not fare well in his first time out at Indy in 2006, going home 34th, but he will have the added experience and the advice of proven teammates to help this time around. After crumpling up his primary car, the team rebounded to field a strong backup.

Tier Four
Brian Vickers has not set the flat tracks on fire since joining the Toyota camp. Sunday's race at the Brickyard will be just his second start on the low-banked speedways for that manufacturer. This weekend will be different. At times, Vickers has been able to run with the leaders in the No. 83 Camry. During his brief career, he has shown a flare for the larger flat track of Pocono, which is comparable to Indy. He was third at the Brickyard in 2005 and a respectable 17th last year, so there is hope that he will run well this weekend.

As usual, Tony Raines is not the first choice for fantasy owners, but he should not be the last. Nearly every week, he keeps the nose of his No. 96 Chevrolet clean and makes respectable runs. Since last year, he has only two flat track finishes lower than 22nd. This season, he has three top-20s on the low-banked speedways. Hall of Fame Racing knows how important it is to run well in one of the biggest races of the year, so fantasy owners can be sure that Raines will be on top of his game on Sunday.

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Re: Brickyard 400 News and Notes

Brickyard Driver Updates

The practice and qualifying sessions became all about nothing and its hard to get a real read on how the times will equate to Sunday's race. We know the weather will be completely different from Saturday meaning that whoever was fast Saturday won't necessarily be fast Sunday. I still believe the best thing to do is utilize what happened in all practice and race situations at Pocono last month.

Having said that and looking at the Saturday practice and qualifying times, there are going to be some nice prices on matchups and overadjustments on odds to win prices. There will also be quite a few drivers that can be picked on and also a few surprises to take shots with this week like Kasey Kahne.

The practice and qualifying sessions became all about nothing and its hard to get a real read on how the times will equate to Sunday's race. We know the weather will be completely different from Saturday meaning that whoever was fast Saturday won't necessarily be fast Sunday. I still believe the best thing to do is utilize what happened in all practice and race situations at Pocono last month.

Having said that and looking at the Saturday practice and qualifying times, there are going to be some nice prices on matchups and overadjustments on odds to win prices. There will also be quite a few drivers that can be picked on and also a few surprises to take shots with this week like Kasey Kahne.

Top-5 cars after all practice and qualifying sessions:
1) Jeff Gordon        
2) Tony Stewart        
3) Jimmie Johnson        
4) Ryan Newman        
5) Denny Hamlin        

Best long shot odds to win opportunities:
1) Casey Mears        
2) Martin Truex Jr.        
3) Carl Edwards        
4) Clint Bowyer        
5) Greg Biffle        

Best drivers to bet against in matchups:
1) Reed Sorenson        
2) Juan Pablo Montoya        
3) Dale Earnhardt Jr.        
Best drivers to bet on in matchups:
1) Kasey Kahne        
2) Casey Mears        
3) Carl Edwards         
4) David Stremme        
5) Martin Truex Jr.        
6) Ryan Newman

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