Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sure bet at the Brickyard

This weekend’s Brickyard 400 may not be the most exciting race on the circuit, but it certainly will go a long way in predicting who will win this year’s championship. Since 1998, six of the 10 race winners have gone on to win the championship. Toss in Jeff Gordon’s 2004 victory there as another indicator because only NASCAR’s convoluted Chase stood in the way of another championship for Wonder Boy.

Brickyard 400 Winners
2007 – Tony Stewart
2006 – Jimmie Johnson*
2005 – Tony Stewart*
2004 – Jeff Gordon^
2003 – Kevin Harvick
2002 – Bill Elliot
2001 – Jeff Gordon*
2000 – Bobby Labonte*
1999 – Dale Jarrett*
1998 – Jeff Gordon*
1997 – Ricky Rudd
1996 – Dale Jarrett
1995 – Dale Earnhardt
1994 – Jeff Gordon

*Won season title
^Scored most points

Why does this seem to keep happening when NASCAR is built on parity? Simply put, the season’s best driver with the best handling race car will always rise to the top at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And if this trend continues, Kyle Busch surely will win Sunday by at least 3 laps. He has outclassed the competition with his talent and Toyota’s upgraded engines. That extra horsepower will help down the long straightaways and Busch’s wild and crazy driving style will get him through those flat corners with "wreckless" abandon. If Busch doesn’t win, I’ll bet that a few of those old cats on the list above will have a say in the matter.


Roger said...

Mike, I agree that the Brickyard race is typically not very exciting. It is so different than other tracks, especially the short-tracks designs. But, I guess the ambiance of Indy brings so much to the show.

You are probably right about Kyle Busch being a dominant figure in the outcome. He has demonstrated high level skills and outstanding competitive spirit everywhere the circuit has gone this season. And, he has a team providing him with good equipment. Conventional wisdom says other will be important, such as Stewart, Gordon, Ernhardt, and others. But, despite what others have done on other courses, Kyle Busch seems to have it when it counts.

How can somebody who was a pretty good driver last year, not good enough to retain his ride, be such an outstanding driver this season? He was released last season because he was just "one of many." Now, he is in a class by himself. What could have changed? The chemistry of the team? Those providing the equipment are probably not much different than last year for this car (can't even recall the previous driver for this team). It is kind of a "no-name" team, but has demonstrated themselves to be very successful.

The other part of the story is that Kyle Busch has not only been successful in Sprint Cup cars, but in the Nationwide series, AND in the Crafstman truck series. This makes his feats this season even more pronounced. His success in Sprint Cup car is not just a fluke.

Mike Jones said...

Kyle Busch just didn't fit in with Hendrick. Look at the pretty-boy stable they currently have with Johnson, Gordon, Earnhardt and Mears. Not too many of those characters will rock the boat. Actually, I thought it was inexcusable for Hendrick to release Busch instead of Mears. Look at the work they had done during their careers. It should have been a clear choice to replace Mears with lil E if performance was the only factor.

In NASCAR, personalities do matter. Busch could drive the wheels off a race car, but he just didn't fit in. No better example than when he crashed his car in Texas last year and left for the motorhome. It apparently didn't matter to him that his team fixed his car and they had to ask Earnhardt to drive the remaining laps.

But the key to Busch's success this year is that Joe Gibbs lets him be himself (you think all those years as an NFL coach may have helped?). That team has plenty of experience dealing with the sometimes combustible personality of Tony Stewart. It should be no surprise Busch is succeeding, but I'm shocked at how dominant he has been.

Roger said...

What a fiasco! How did the tire issue become the primary factor in such a big event? I would think that these problems would have been uncovered in tire testing. Apparently, only after practice and qualifying did officials from NASCAR and GoodYear realize they might have a problem, hence bringing in Pocono tires for extras.

The tire problem made for a really dull and boring race (what race, really?). Accidents from tire wear and competition yellow flags made for an embarrassing NASCAR event. The image of NASCAR took a big hit yesterday.

Mike Jones said...

What a joke... I plan to blog later today about this pathetic excuse for a race.