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Brickyard 400 Betting News and Notes

Brickyard 400 Betting News and Notes

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Data

Race #: 20 of 36 (07-29-12)
Track Size: 2.5-miles
Race Length: 160 laps / 400 miles
Banking/Turns: 9 degrees
Banking/Straights: 0 degree
Frontstretch: 3,330 feet
Backstretch: 3,300 feet

Top 12 Driver Rating at Indianapolis

Tony Stewart 105.8
Mark Martin 104.5
Juan Pablo Montoya 102.4
Jimmie Johnson 100.0
Jeff Gordon 99.4
Matt Kenseth 96.4
Greg Biffle 95.9
Kasey Kahne 94.3
Kevin Harvick 93.5
Kyle Busch 92.8
Jeff Burton 90.9
Clint Bowyer 89.4

Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005-2011 races (seven total) at Indianapolis.

Qualifying/Race Data

2011 pole winner: David Ragan, Ford (182.994 mph, 49.182 sec., 07-30-11)

2011 race winner: Paul Menard, Chevrolet (140.762 mph, 2:50:30, 07-31-11)

Track qualifying record: Casey Mears, Dodge (186.293 mph, 48.311 sec., 08-07-04)

Track race record: Bobby Labonte, Pontiac (155.912 mph, 2:33:56, 08-05-00)

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Driver's Tale of the Tape at The Brickyard

Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford)

· Two top fives, five top 10s
· Average finish of 13.1
· Average Running Position of 11.0, third-best
· Driver Rating of 95.9, seventh-best
· 52 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· 350 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 169.347 mph, ninth-fastest
· 867 Laps in the Top 15 (77.4%), second-most
· 174 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), seventh-most

Clint Bowyer (No. 15 5-hour Energy Toyota)

· Two top fives, two top 10s
· Average finish of 11.8
· Average Running Position of 12.9, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 89.4, 12th-best
· 665 Laps in the Top 15 (69.3%), 11th-most

Jeff Burton (No. 31 Rain-X Chevrolet)

· One top five, five top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 18.4
· Average Running Position of 13.0, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 90.9, 11th-best
· 37 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 169.393 mph, eighth-fastest
· 695 Laps in the Top 15 (62.1%), 10th-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota)

· One top five, five top 10s
· Average finish of 13.1
· Average Running Position of 14.2, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 92.8, 10th-best
· 352 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
· 750 Laps in the Top 15 (67.0%), eighth-most
· 181 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Fastenal Ford)

· One top five, three top 10s
· Average finish of 11.0
· Average Running Position of 15.7, 13th-best
· Driver Rating of 86.8, 13th-best
· 42 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· Series-high 435 Green Flag Passes
· 198 Quality Passes, third-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet)

· Four wins, 10 top fives, 14 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 9.1
· Average Running Position of 12.9, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 99.4, fifth-best
· 360 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
· 803 Laps in the Top 15 (71.7%), sixth-most
· 205 Quality Passes, second-most

Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet)

· One win, four top fives, seven top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 10.0
· Average Running Position of 13.8, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 93.5, ninth-best
· 781 Laps in the Top 15 (69.7%), seventh-most
· 176 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet)

· Three wins, three top fives, four top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 18.4
· Average Running Position of 13.2, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 100.0, fourth-best
· 96 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 169.879 mph, second-fastest
· 737 Laps in the Top 15 (65.8%), ninth-most
· 151 Quality Passes, 10th-most

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet)

· Two top fives, four top 10s
· Average finish of 15.9
· Average Running Position of 13.5, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 94.3, eighth-best
· 56 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 169.452 mph, seventh-fastest
· 822 Laps in the Top 15 (73.4%), fourth-most
· 171 Quality Passes, eighth-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 17 5th/3rd Bank Ford)

· Five top fives, seven top 10s
· Average finish of 14.3
· Average Running Position of 12.9, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 96.4, sixth-best
· 812 Laps in the Top 15 (72.5%), fifth-most
· 161 Quality Passes, ninth-most

Mark Martin (No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota)

· Six top fives, 11 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 12.9
· Series-best Average Running Position of 8.9
· Driver Rating of 104.5, second-best
· 38 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 169.648 mph, fourth-fastest
· Series-high 945 Laps in the Top 15 (84.4%)
· 187 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Target Chevrolet)

· One top five, one top 10; one pole
· Average finish of 22.4
· Average Running Position of 11.5, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 102.4, third-best
· Series-high 105 Fastest Laps Run
· 610 Laps in the Top 15 (76.3%), 12th-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet)

· Two wins, six top fives, nine top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 8.1
· Average Running Position of 10.7, second-best
· Series-best Driver Rating of 105.8
· 407 Green Flag Passes, second-most
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 169.959 mph
· 823 Laps in the Top 15 (73.5%), third-most
· Series-high 220 Quality Passes

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Brickyard 400 Storylines

Sunday marks the 19th time the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has appeared at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway but this year’s race has a unique twist. The Crown Royal Curtiss Shaver 400 (ESPN, 1 p.m. ET) headlines the track’s inaugural Kroger Super Weekend melding NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Series competition on its 2.5-mile oval and GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge action on the 2.534-mile road course.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series formerly raced across town at Lucas Oil Raceway beginning in 1982 and steps up to IMS for Saturday’s event (ESPN, 4:30 p. ET). GRAND-AM also will make its first appearance with the three-hour Brickyard Grand Prix for Daytona Prototype and GT cars taking place Friday (SPEED, 4 p.m.) following Continental Tire Grand Sport and Street Tuner competition. One of the track’s major challenges is track changeover – from oval to road course then back again – on Thursday and Friday nights.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the home of race and championship winning drivers. Seven previous IMS winners with 14 victories at the track among them were either NASCAR Sprint Cup champions or champions to be. The Brickyard 400 winner has gone on to win the title in eight different seasons.

Last year Paul Menard became the first driver to earn his first win in the series at Indy and the fourth different driver to record his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory in 2011. There have been none this year.

Jeff Gordon has won the Brickyard 400 four times – most by any driver. He needs a fifth win in the worst way if he’s going to wrestle his way into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™.

The heat is on Dodge, Ford and Toyota to reach Indy’s Victory Lane. A Chevrolet driver has won nine consecutive Brickyard 400s and 13 times overall.

Danica Patrick is no stranger to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway having competed seven times in the Indianapolis 500. Saturday’s race will be her first on-track as a NASCAR Nationwide Series competitor. She’s ninth in series standings.

Indianapolis is race No. 3 in the Nationwide "Dash 4 Cash" with series points leader Elliott Sadler the $100,000 winner along with Sunday’s Chicagoland victory. Sadler heads the standings by 11 points over Austin Dillon and 19 ahead of reigning series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitors won’t race again until Aug. 4 at Pocono Raceway, but James Buescher, who became the series’ first three-time winner of 2012 at Chicagoland Speedway, will suit up for Indy’s NASCAR Nationwide event. Timothy Peters remains the NCWTS standings leader by 23 points over Ty Dillon.


Indianapolis, Sprint Cup Titles Often Go Together

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway truly is a special place as judged by previous winners of the Crown Royal Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard. Seven winners of 14 of the 18 races run have been NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions or champions to be. Eight times the winner of the Brickyard 400 has gone on to win that season’s title. The most recent Brickyard/NASCAR Sprint Cup champion was Jimmie Johnson in 2009. Johnson also won both race and championship in 2006 and 2008. Other race/championship winners in the same season are Jeff Gordon (1998, 2001), Dale Jarrett (1999), Bobby Labonte (2000) and Tony Stewart (2005).

Brickyard 400 Seems Likely To Revert To Veteran Form

Until a year ago, the Brickyard 400 had yet to produce a first-time NASCAR Sprint Cup winner. Paul Menard changed all that by taking his Richard Childress Racing No. 27 Chevrolet to Victory Lane. Menard was the third driver last year to break through in one of NASCAR’s classic events joining Trevor Bayne (Daytona 500) and Regan Smith (Bojangles Southern 500). Menard’s Brickyard victory, however, was his last top-five finish. There have been no first-time winners through the 2012 season’s first 19 races. The highest-ranked driver without a career victory is Aric Almirola (22nd).The list of series veterans who have not won at the Speedway, however, is lengthy and includes all but Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick among the current top 10 in the points standings.

Gordon Desperately Needs Another Indy Victory

Jeff Gordon knows how to win at Indianapolis beginning with his victory in the inaugural race in 1994. Gordon’s four wins are the most of any driver at the Speedway, one more than Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson. With seven races remaining before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ lineup is determined on Sept. 8, this Indianapolis race may be the most crucial for Gordon. The four-time champion desperately needs a win to place his helmet in the Chase "wild card" ring. Gordon ranks 17th in points and trails Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano among "wild card"-eligible drivers with race victories.

Montoya, McMurray Doing IMS Oval, Road Course Double

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates teammates Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray will also compete in Friday’s Brickyard Grand Prix, the inaugural visit to the Speedway by the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series. The pair finished fourth in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona at the wheel of their BMW Riley Daytona Prototype and join Ganassi’s fulltime GRAND-AM team of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas in pursuit of the North American Endurance Championship. The three-hour race can be seen at 4 p.m. ET on SPEED. McMurray won the Brickyard 400 in 2010. Montoya finished second in his first NASCAR Sprint Cup trip to the Speedway in 2007. He will become the first driver to compete in each of the track’s three major four-wheeled events: Indianapolis 500, U.S. Grand Prix and Rolex Sports Car Grand Prix.

Chevrolet Goes For 10th Consecutive Speedway Victory

Chevrolet has been rock-steady at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway riding a nine-race win streak that began in 2003. That’s the longest current streak at any track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule. The brand has won 13 of Indy’s 18 races beginning with Jeff Gordon’s inaugural victory in 1994. Hendrick Motorsports counts the most Chevrolet wins (six) followed by Richard Childress Racing (three) and Joe Gibbs Racing (two). Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates has a single win. Kasey Kahne’s New Hampshire victory was the brand’s series-leading 696th triumph.

Hoosiers Stewart, Newman, Stremme Covet Indy Laurels

For Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman and David Stremme, this week amounts to "back home again in Indiana." The three are natives of the Hoosier state. While Stewart has won twice at the speedway, where he also competed in the Indianapolis 500, Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Newman and Stremme – both natives of South Bend, Ind. – have yet to savor a home state victory. Stremme finished 16th in his most recent trip to the Brickyard in 2009 while Newman has a best finish of fourth – his only top five – in 2002. Newman continues to chase his elusive 50th Coors Light Pole at a track where he’s qualified among the top five on six occasions.

ESPN/ABC Televise Remaining 17 Sprint Cup Events

Sunday’s Indianapolis race marks the beginning of ESPN/ABC’s 17-race run as television partners for the remainder of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule. The networks again broadcast the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ beginning Sept. 16 at Chicagoland Speedway and continuing through the Nov. 18 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

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Driver Notes & Quotes for 2012 Brickyard 400

JIMMIE JOHNSON TALKS ABOUT HIS BUSY WEEKEND OFF: “My family has been in Europe for July. I took them over after the Kentucky race and came home to race two more times and get some work done. I left immediately following the race at New Hampshire and flew back over and spent our off weekend over there. It was exciting to see and explore. At the same time, my mother-in-law, my wife, my daughter and then some other families, friends that we know in North Carolina, they took their families over, so kids and wives have been all over Europe having a great time. I’m very happy that my wife and daughter have been able to explore and experience that. I was just eager to see them since it had been two weeks, and I couldn’t wait to get over there and see them both.”

JOHNSON ON HAVING SUCCESS AT INDY: “Track position is everything. The track position challenge starts in qualifying. Clearly, a fast racecar is important, but maintaining track position and, especially, having track position at the end of the race is everything.”

JOHNSON ON HIS FAVORITE INDY TRADITION: “Well, there are two things. Kissing the bricks is a big one, which is so cool. When I was up at Indy the other day, the first thing I did was run out on the frontstretch and take a look at the bricks and hopefully picked my spot where I will be after the race. Another neat thing that takes place when you win is they put the driver in a Corvette and take you around the speedway, waving to the fans. And they have a microphone there so you can talk to everyone, which is cool. I’ve over the years had my crew guys pile on the car. We have a really neat photo of me, (wife) Chani, Mr. Hendrick and I think 10 or 11 other crew members just laying on top of this Corvette taking the victory lap around the track, which is really cool.”

JOHNSON CHASSIS CHOICE: "No. 728 serves as the primary for Johnson at New Hampshire (EDIT: Should read Indianapolis. Johnson drove chassis No. 715 at New Hampshire). Chassis No. 669 serves as the backup." According to their release, this is the car that Johnson won with at Dover.

RYAN NEWMAN CHASSIS CHOICE: Chassis No. 39-733 is a brand new chassis for the No. 39 Quicken Loans team. The chassis has been wind-tunnel tested twice in preparation for Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

KURT BUSCH CHASSIS CHOICE: Sunday’s Brickyard 400 will be the first race of the 2012 season for Chassis No. 676. This car is a new chassis for Phoenix Racing. Prior to becoming part of the Phoenix Racing fleet of cars, this chassis was used by the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team.

JAMIE McMURRAY CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Kevin “Bono” Manion and the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats team will bring chassis #1112 back to Indianapolis. Chassis #1112 raced at Indianapolis last year earning a fourth- place finish, and at Darlington earlier this year, finishing 34th after sustaining damage from an on-track incident.

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA CHASSIS CHOICE: Crew Chief Chris “Shine” Heroy and the No. 42 Target team will return to Indianapolis with chassis #1107. This chassis has two races of experience, the October, 2011 Kansas race and last year at Indianapolis, finishing 23rd and 28th,respectively.

GREG BIFFLE ON INDY: “Indy is a fast, flat racetrack and it’s very important to be able to get into the corners well there. Having the Ford power under the hoodwill help us get down the straightaways which is also crucial for a fast lap at Indy. We’ve run well there in the past and I have high expectations for this weekend.”

BIFFLE CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-817 Brand New Chassis; Backup: RK-786 Last ran Homestead – finished 35th.

CARL EDWARDS ON INDY: “A win at Indianapolis would be huge. All you have to do is go back and watch the victory lane celebrations of the guys who have won there and it’s obvious how important this win is to everyone. Our team is working very hard to put our best effort into this race. We’ve got a brand new car, and Chad and the guys have been working very hard to make sure we run well, qualify well and have a good strategy. These last seven races are as important as any seven races we’ve ever run so we’re giving it our best and hopefully we’ll kiss those bricks.”

EDWARDS CHASSIS CHOICE: The No. 99 Fastenal team will be bringing chassis RK-820 to Indy. This is a new FordFusion.

MATT KENSETH ON INDY: “I really feel like Indy is the second biggest race of the year and everyone wants to have the chance to be able to win that race, win the trophy, and kiss the bricks there. Indy is one of the most unique tracks that we visit on the circuit. With our time on track there being so limited without any testing and just a few practices, you really just unload and try to get up to speed on things as soon as you can to tune in your car.”

KENSETH CHASSIS CHOICE: Primary: RK-808 (last raced at Michigan)

MARK MARTIN CHASSIS CHOICE: CHASSIS NO. 726 – finished 12th at Fontana and 20th at Darlington with Martin behind the wheel. Backup – 732 finished 34th at Charlotte.

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Brickyard 400 Preview
By Micah Roberts

This week it's off to the Brickyard in Indianapolis for NASCAR racing on the most storied track in motor sports history. Since the first time man first figured out how to power a machine and decided his machine was faster -- wanting to prove it against all others, The Brickyard has been there as the main stage.

It all began in 1909, but wasn't until 85 later that NASCAR made its debut on the bricks and in many ways, was the cause for turning stock car racing into America's favorite motor sport. NASCAR's first venture into the Midwest came in 1994, when NASCAR was primarily considered a southern thing.

Over 250,000 fans had been cramming into the legendary facility to watch open wheel racing, but they hadn't been exposed too much to stock car racing. Once Indiana and the surrounding states got excited about NASCAR racing, a tidal wave of enthusiasm spread across the western states that got us to where we are now with tracks in Chicago, Kentucky, Texas, Kansas, Las Vegas and Fontana.

Would NASCAR have blossomed as much without Indianapolis? It's probable that eventually it might have because of television coverage expanding, but it's debatable that it would have happened so soon without racing on the famed bricks.

Whenever NASCAR races at Indy, the first thing I like to do to get myself prepared on deciding who might be the driver to beat is review the most recent Pocono race. Although the two 2.5-mile tracks have vastly different layouts, the flat banking of Indy mirrors Pocono's final of three turns and the long straight-aways at each are very similar.

If a driver did well at Pocono, he is likely to have the right set-up figured out and horsepower required to be one of the top contenders at Indianapolis. The one variable to change from past years of cross referencing both tracks is that Pocono resurfaced their track prior to June's race, which was won by Joey Logano.

Between testing and practices to Pocono, Logano stood out as a driver that should do well. Others that aren't the everyday household names who found lots of speed were last year's Brickyard winner Paul Menard and A.J. Allmendinger in the No. 22 Penske ride.

Allmendinger was suspended Tuesday for failing the second of two drug tests which means that Sam Hornish will be driving the No. 22 again.

Sam Hornish has never fared better than 21st at the Brickyard in his three attempts in the top NASCAR series, but he did win the 2006 Indy 500 driving a much faster Penske car with no fenders.

It may be easy to dismiss Hornish because of his unsuccessful runs in NASCAR, but he's never had a car as good as the one he'll drive this week. Kurt Busch won with this car last season and Allmendinger has been fast in practice all season, but hasn't been able to translate it over to race day leading to speculation that perhaps it's the driver that is keeping the No. 22 car from reaching its potential.

I'm not going to go as far as say Hornish will win this week, but because of the car and the great Pocono test sessions it had, his Indy Car history and large odds, he makes it worthwhile to throw a few dollars on him.

Indiana native Tony Stewart is the track's all-time leader with an 8.1 average finish that includes two wins. He's never won the Daytona 500, but still maintains that winning in his home state can't be topped. Stewart finished third in last year's race.

Jeff Gordon has a track record four wins, including the inaugural race in 1994. Gordon's rise in NASCAR coincides with the sport's rise and the Brickyard debut. Gordon became the face of NASCAR to all the new fans across the nation. In last year's race, Gordon had perhaps the best car, but settled for runner-up.

Jimmie Johnson has three career Brickyard wins, the last coming in 2009. He's the driver I had rated the highest going into Pocono after all the testing and practices and he ended up finishing fourth. This week Johnson will be using the car that he won with at Dover.

The Michael Waltrip cars all fared well at Pocono with Mark Martin leading the charge with a runner-up finish. He should be poised once again -- after a three-race layoff -- to get his first Brickyard win. Only Martin, Gordon, Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte have driven in all 18 NASCAR events on the Brickyard.

Chevrolet is currently on a nine-race win streak at Indy. The last non-Chevy to win was Bill Elliott in 2002, a year he also won at Pocono.

The last two seasons of Brickyard races have produced unusual winners. Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray aren't your everyday household names, but it's been the household names who have dominated there. Fourteen of the 18 race winners have been Sprint Cup Champions and on eight occasions, the Brickyard 400 winner has won the title during the same season.

There will be no practices on Friday this week for some strange reason. Both practice sessions and qualifying will all be crammed into Saturday.

Top-5 Finish Prediction:

1) #55 Mark Martin (18/1)
2) #48 Jimmie Johnson (7/1)
3) #11 Denny Hamlin (10/1)
4) #20 Joey Logano (30/1)
5) #22 Sam Hornish (100/1)

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Crown Royal 400 at the Brickyard Preview
By Greg Engle

It’s back to business for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunday. After the last off-weekend of the season, the series heads to one of the premier tracks on the circuit, the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the Crown Royal Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard. While every race pays the same amount of points, winning at Indy carries a little more special meaning than other stops.

As for narrowing down a favorite this week, you need to start with Chevy drivers. Chevrolet has a nine-race win streak that began in 2003. That’s the longest current streak at any track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule.

The last two visits to Indy have produced surprise winners. It could again be anyone’s race to win, but there have been multiple winners and the favorites this week are among those starting with Jeff Gordon.

Gordon isn’t having the best year, but he has a ton of motivation to win; Gordon ranks 17th in points and trails Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano among "wild card"-eligible drivers with race victories with only seven races remaining until the field for the Chase is set. Gordon needs a win; he leads all active drivers with four victories at the Brickyard and while he’s struggling elsewhere, he was second here last season and could easily be the class of the field Sunday.

"Growing up here and going to the track numerous times as a kid, there is just something special about each trip here,” Gordon said. “But that special feeling changes quickly when I get out on the track because this place is so challenging. The four corners look the same, but each is unique with different transitions and bumps. As a driver, factoring that in with the few little dips, the way the wind is blowing, the radius and everything else can give you an advantage. But the car has to be good, as well. We've had the best car or one of the best cars in each of the races we've won here.”

Don’t count out Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson. Johnson has won three of the last six races here. Unlike Gordon, Johnson is solidly in the Chase with two wins and sits fourth in the standings. His 19th place finish here last year keeps Johnson out of the top of the favorites this week, but he will no doubt be a threat Sunday as he tries to tie Gordon’s win record.

“I’m so happy to have had three very special moments there,” Johnson said. “I hope to have a fourth and join some elite company that have won four times there.”

Tony Stewart is the hometown hero having grown up just outside the famous walls of Indy. When it comes to Indy, Stewart always seems more motivated than most. Stewart is also one of the few drivers to have raced both stockcars and open-wheel Indy cars here. He was sixth here last year and with his experience could easily add a third win to his Indy resume Sunday.

“It’s a place that is a momentum-driven track,” Stewart said. “You don’t just have two ends to the race track and two big 180-degree corners. You’ve got four 90-degree corners to negotiate. If you have one bad corner at Indy and if your car’s not right, you’re going to be bad in four corners versus two corners a lap. And with it being two-and-a-half miles, you carry so much speed, if you lose momentum at that track, it just seems like it’s really a big penalty.”

Party Crasher: Kasey Khane has never raced here as a Hendrick Motorsports driver. In his first trip here, Kahne will race with the same team that finished eighth here last year with Mark Martin behind the wheel. Kahne could be a surprise Sunday and go all the way.

Bottom line: The furthest back a race winner has started at Indianapolis was 27th, by Jeff Gordon in 2001. Two drivers have won from the pole: Kevin Harvick in 2003 and Jimmie Johnson in 2008.

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NASCAR hits the Brick!

Crown Royal presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard

After a week off, the NASCAR circuit gets back to action at famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Crown Royal presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard. This 2.5-mile track is oval-shaped with 9° turns and perfectly flat straightaways that each measure 3,330 feet (0.63 miles). Paul Menard won last year's Brickyard race, but Jimmie Johnson is Sunday's favorite having won three of the previous five starts at Indy.

Drivers to Watch

Jeff Gordon (10/1) -
It may be a bit chalky, but Gordon is the choice if you're only betting one driver. Not only has he won four times at the Brickyard, but he has six other top-5 finishes at this track, including last year's runner-up. With an average finish of 9.1, he's the best bet to wind up at the front of the pack. And placing in the top-6 in four of his past five races this season, he's entering this race on a hot streak.

Kevin Harvick (15/1) - Although he hasn't won yet this season, Harvick has raced well enough to sit in sixth place in the points standings for each of the past six weeks. And considering his success at both the Brickyard (10.0 average finish) and superspeedways in general (4 wins, 15 top-5's in career), the odds are quite favorable for the No. 29 car.

Paul Menard (60/1) - He improved greatly in each of his Brickyard races, placing 41st in 2008, 29th in 2009, 14th in 2010 and winning the race last year despite starting in the No. 15 position. Menard continues to hover near the top 12 in the points standings, placing no worse than 15th all year. He has finished outside the top-20 just once in his past 16 starts.

Jimmie Johnson (6/1) - If he wasn't on such a roll this season (top-7 finishes in 10 of the past 13 races), he may not be the favorite in this race. Although Johnson has won three times in his past six starts at Indy, he's finished better than 18th only one other time at this track (9th in 2002), posting finishes of 18th, 19th, 22nd, 36th, 38th and 39th in his other Brickyard races.

Jamie McMurray (60/1) - Another strong longshot opportunity presents itself with McMurray, who has top-7 finishes in five of his nine career starts at this track. This includes a victory in 2010 and a strong fourth-place showing last year.

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Brickyard 400 Driver Ratings Following All Practice Sessions
By Micah Roberts

Top 10 Driver Ratings

Rating    Driver     Odds         Practice 1    Practice 2   Qualified    Pocono*
1. Jimmie Johnson 6/1              4th               6th             6th              4th
Three-time winner, the last coming in 2009; using winning Dover chassis this week.

2. Denny Hamlin 10/1              20th             10th            1st              5th
Career best of third in 2008; excels at Pocono (4 wins) making him a top candidate to win.

3. Kyle Busch 12/1                  21st              13th            7th             30th
Career best of fourth in 2007; outstanding practices, including best 10-consecutive lap average.

4. Joey Logano 30/1                35th               3rd            3rd              1st
Winning at Pocono last month, coupled with a great final practice makes him a serious contender.

5. Greg Biffle 10/1                   16th               1st             5th             24th 
Finished eighth or better in last four Indy starts; using brand new chassis this week.

6. Kasey Kahne 12/1                1st                4th           15th             29th
2005 runner-up; top practices among all Chevrolet’s, the manufacturer to win last 9 Indy races.

7. Mark Martin 15/1                  2nd              15th           19th             2nd
Two-time runner-up; excellent Pocono run translated well to Saturday practices.

8. Jeff Gordon 10/1                  3rd                8th             9th             19th
Four-time winner, runner-up last season. In desperation mode like never before in career.

9. Brad Keselowski 15/1           5th              11th           22nd            18th
Career best ninth last season; solid practices using a brand new car; won at Pocono last fall.

10. Matt Kenseth 10/1               8th                5th           10th              7th
Two-time runner up, finished fifth last season. Using third-place Michigan chassis this week.

* Results from the Pocono 400 held June 10, 2012. Pocono Raceway’s 2.5 mile layout with long straight-aways and flat turns requires a similar set-up for Indianapolis.

Betting Notes

Mark Martin should do well Sunday, maybe even get his first win (Getty)

You’re probably looking at the top-10 list and asking how in the world I could leave off Tony Stewart when he’s got the best average finish (8.1) that includes two wins. The Indiana native wants to win more at the Brickyard than he does the Daytona 500, but I just didn’t feel it.

When I watch practices, and then review the speeds and averages, there is always something that pops out on a handful of drivers that I feel make them contenders. In Stewart’s case, nothing popped out other than his great past and finishing third at Pocono in June.

Despite not being in my own personal final list of contenders, Stewart won’t be a driver I bet against in match-ups. I would expect Stewart to run well -- at least better than his 26th fastest happy hour lap -- and maybe even get close to a top-5, but winning is another story.

The drivers I had keyed on before Saturday’s practices was Mark Martin and Joey Logano due to their great Pocono runs and they did nothing to disappoint. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Logano and his crew kissing the Bricks and give Toyota their first win on the storied track.

Mark Martin winning would be a very emotional story. He is one of four drivers to have raced in all 18 Brickyard 400’s, but doesn't have a win. Like Logano, Martin was outstanding throughout testing and practices at Pocono and the information gained there translated well this week at Indy.

Jack Roush has never won at the Brickyard, but he’s got three drivers that look capable with Greg Biffle being the top choice. Carl Edwards had a great final practice, but it doesn’t seem logical that after not winning since Las Vegas last season that he and new crew chief Chad Norris would get a win in their first race.

Jimmie Johnson looks to have the total package this week with everything pointing in his direction, such as past Brickyard history, recent Pocono history and outstanding practices.

We were kind of in this situation two weeks ago with Kasey Kahne at New Hampshire where Kahne’s car looked the best, but Johnson got rated higher simply because of all of Johnson’s intangibles -- mainly consistency. Kahne was the top performing Chevy in both practices and might be in for another win this week.

If I had to pick one group of drivers to do well collectively, it would probably start with the Joe Gibbs Racing drivers. Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch were very impressive in practice. Being greedy like I am, I will be rooting for my wager on Logano to come home first.

A driver that has flown under the radar in practices that should have a decent run is Kevin Harvick. Because he finished 20th during happy hour, he’s likely to be getting plus-money in a few match-ups.

I'm also optimistic that Sam Hornish will have a good race.

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