Brickyard info to save

Jul 25, 2006 6:08 AM

With NASCAR taking the week off, we’ll provide some info to carry onward as Indianapolis approaches.

Next week we’ll have an in depth preview of one of my favorite races of the season. Remember what happened at Pocono last week, and not necessarily, who won. The driver we think will win in two weeks ran extremely well last Sunday.

Starting up front is not that important at Indy. Three of the last five races at the Brickyard have been won from outside the top-10 starting positions. Only two of the 12 previous races at Indy have been won from the front row.

Jeff Gordon leads all drivers with three Bud Poles at Indy. Gordon has not had a top-five start in his last six races at Indy. His last Bud Pole came there in August 1999. Gordon has posted five straight top-10 finishes at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and has finished in the top 10 in 10 of the 12 Brickyard 400’s. Gordon has led 433 laps, most of all drivers.

Jeff Burton has competed in all 12 races at Indy and has never started a race there from the top-15. That will likely change next week as he comes in with some serious horses under the hood. He’s a good candidate to win, so find odds early.

Kasey Kahne has posted two top-five finishes in two races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After what was witnessed in the two Pocono races, it’s hard to support him at Indy this year.

Eleven drivers have competed in all 12 races at Indy. Those 11 won nine of the 12 races. Dale Earnhardt, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick are the other race winners.

Rusty Wallace finished second at Indy three times in his 12 races there, but never visited victory lane in the Brickyard. Kurt Busch just might take that Miller Lite ride for a victory lap based on what we saw at Pocono.

The season’s best

”¡ Current point leader Jimmie Johnson was the point leader at the midpoint. He was also the point leader at this time during 2004 and 2005 and also maintained that stature after race No. 20 in both seasons. You all know what happened in the end, right?

”¡ All 20 victories in 2006 have been scored by drivers ranked in the top-14 in the point standings. This further lends to the point that there aren’t any dogs barking in NASCAR.

”¡ Greg Biffle is the only driver who has led at least one lap in 15 of the 20 races in 2006. Biffle has earned 95 lap leader bonus points, 60 more than Johnson who has 35. It’s just too bad for Biffle’s sake that he finishes races like the Marlboro man in a marathon.

”¡ Jeff Burton, currently third in the point standings, has earned 1,464 points in the last 10 races, more than any other driver. For value in odds to win the Cup series, Burton can be found in the 20-1 range at books around town.

”¡ Two drivers that ranked in the top-10 after race 20 in 2005 failed to make the Chase. Elliott Sadler was ninth and finished 13th. Dale Jarrett was tenth and finished 15th. They were overtaken by Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards. Kenseth finished seventh while Edwards finished third. Since then Sadler and Jarrett have stopped sinking.

”¡ After 20 races in 2006, six drivers are within the 400-point window. One year ago there were seven drivers within 400.

”¡ After 20 races in 2006, five of the top-11 drivers are separated by 19 points or less. Nine of the top-12 are separated by 42 or less. It’s going to be a real shootout down the stretch and could make for some great value on some of the longer shots. Once you’re in the chase, anyone can win. As Johnson will attest to, the favorite doesn’t win.

”¡ Tony Stewart, currently 10th in the point standings, is 15 points ahead of 11th-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. and just 44 ahead of No. 12 Greg Biffle. Stewart and Kenseth are still my top choices to win it all. Just 105 points separate 10th-place Stewart and fourth-place Kyle Busch. That’s the difference between a first to a 30th-place finish (lap leader points not considered).

Dodge powers up

After winning only three races in all of 2005, Dodge has won five of the 20 races this season. Chevrolet has 12 victories, while Ford has just three. One year ago at this point, Ford had nine.

A Ford has failed to qualify among the top-10 in the last two races. Fords also failed to finish among the top 10 in two of the last three races. Four of the top-six drivers have been running at the finish in every race — Johnson, Burton, Kevin Harvick and Mark Martin. Martin would have to be the biggest surprise of the 4.

Gordon leads all drivers in the top 10 with four DNFs, the most of any driver ranked among the top 23. I wouldn’t bet on it happening again at Indy. Can you picture Brickyard win number five?

At least one rookie has scored a top-15 finish in every race this season. Nine of the top-14 drivers changed point positions at Pocono.

Who’s hot

Johnson has scored a top-15 finish in 18 of the 20 races in 2006. His other two finishes were 30th or worse. Johnson has scored nine top-10 finishes in the last 10 races. and the only driver to score 16 top-10 finishes in the first 20 races of 2006. That’s three more than the closest driver.

Burton has posted 14 straight top-15 finishes, a streak that began at Texas in April. He also scored top-10 finishes in his last three races. Burton has scored more points (1,464) in the last 10 races than any other driver.

Kenseth is the only driver to score 10 top-five finishes in the 20 races this season. At this time last season, Kenseth ranked 17th in the points. Right now he sits comfortably in second.

Harvick has scored four straight top-10 finishes. Look for him to compete hard for his second Brickyard win.

Denny Hamlin has scored top-15 finishes in 10 of the last 11 races. The chassis that dominated at Pocono in both races this season will be able to perform similar at Indy. That is scary for the rest of the field. Joe Gibbs has scored wins with Bobby Labonte and Stewart at Indy already.

Las Vegan Kyle Busch has scored six straight top-15 finishes. A top 5 at the Brickyard wouldn’t be a stretch, even if it isn’t exactly the gift his brother Kurt wants for his birthday on that weekend. Like Gordon, Kurt Busch has his birthday on the same weekend of the Brickyard every year. With four Brickyard wins, Gordon really knows how to get what he wants for his birthday.

Kurt Busch will be 11-1 to win the Brickyard, while Gordon comes as second choice at 9-1. Stewart is the odds on favorite at 9-1, despite going back to back at Indy being nearly impossible.

Thanks to NASCAR Statistical Services for assisting on the data.