NASCAR heads off to the Brickyard in Indianapolis

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With no action this weekend, NASCAR heads off to the Brickyard in Indianapolis for 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. 1994 was NASCAR’s first venture into the mid-west at a time when NASCAR was primarily considered a southern man’s sport.

Over 250,000 fans had been cramming into thelegendary facility to watch open wheel racing, but 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 by reviewing 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-away 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 won by Joey Logano. The dimensions are still the same and above and beyond all else, speed is everything here, which there was a lot of at Pocono.

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 years Brickyard winner Paul Menard and A.J. Allmendinger in the No. 22 Penske ride.

Allmendinger will find out about the results of his second drug test sample this week, after failing the first one two weeks ago. Even if his test comes back negative there is a chance that Allmendinger will still miss this week’s race with Sam Hornish driving the car for the third consecutive week.

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 unsuccessful runs in NASCAR, but he’s never had a car as good as the one he might get to 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 keep it translating 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 if he drives this week, but because of the car, 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. Jeff Gordon is tied for the track lead with three career wins, including the inaugural race in 1994. Jimmie Johnson also has three wins, the last coming in 2009.

Johnson was the driver I had rated the highest going into Pocono after all the testing and practices and he ended up finishing fourth. Stewart finished third.

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 what will be a four 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. All the drivers should be well rested for the Brickyard after a rare off week.

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