With temperatures hovering in the mid-80s and occasional cloud cover giving fans a respite from the baking heat of the previous two afternoons, Sunday was a good day to attend the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Unfortunately for race officials, fan attendance continued to decline. The crowd was estimated at 140,000, which was down about 40,000 from the previous year, and well below the 250,000-plus Indianapolis sports fans the Indy 500 routinely draws.
Those who did attend were treated to some classic NASCAR rubbing and racing.Jamie McMurray captured his first Brickyard checkered flag, and while McMurray ran a very good race, it was his teammate who ran a great race. Like last year, Juan Pablo Montoya dominated for much the day, leading a race-high 86 laps. Unfortunately, also like last year, it ended in disappointment, as he lost ground during a late pit stop, and eventually crashed out with 14 laps remaining.
The race was essentially decided on lap 138 when a caution brought about final pit stops for the contending teams. Crew chiefs were forced to make a decision on whether to take two tires or four tires, with some, like Montoya and Greg Biffle going with four, and others, McMurray and Harvick for example, taking two. Two turned out to be the correct decision, as those who added four new tires not only lost ground during the pit stops, but when they got back on the track found that their fresh advantage was neutralized within in five laps.
Harvin briefly took the lead from McMurray, but McMurray, who had been stronger all afternoon, passed him with 11 to go and cruised to the victory. With the win, McMurray joined Jimmy Johnson and Dale Jarrett as the only other drivers to win the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 in the same year.
The victory was also a milestone achievement for team owner Chip Ganassi. Ganassi captured the Daytona 400 earlier in the season with McMurray, and then won the Indy 500 with Dario Franchitti in May, and Sunday’s win gave him a sweep of the three biggest events in U.S. motor sports.
Brickyard 400 Race Results (Top 10)
1. Jamie McMurray
2. Kevin Harvick
3. Greg Biffle
4. Clint Bowyer
5. Tony Stewart
6. Jeff Burton
7. Carl Edwards
8. Kyle Busch
9. Joey Logano
10. Kurt Busch
Among drivers with Indiana ties in the race:
-Stewart, a Columbus, Indiana native, struggled in practice and qualifying, and battled an ill-handling car all race long but still came home with a fifth place finish, a testament to Smoke’s determination.
-Jimmy Johnson, a winner of three consecutive Brickyard’s coming into Sunday, suffered a variety of maladies on the racetrack and finished a disappointing 22nd.
-Former Pittsboro, Indiana resident Jeff Gordon fared about as good as his teammate Johnson. Gordon started eight, but struggled running in clean air and broke a splitter on his suspension with 31 laps to go, finishing 23rd.
-2006 Indy 500 winner Sam Hornish’s disappointing NASCAR career added another chapter when he was clipped by Kyle Busch on the opening lap, causing him to spin out and make contact with the wall, significantly damaging his right rear. He finished 30th.
-Jacques Villeneuve, who won the final Indy 500 before the IRL/CART Split in 1995, started last and was a complete non-factor all day, but his 29th place finish was the highest among the former 500 winners in the field.
-Although a 17th place finish wouldn’t indicate it, Ryan Newman drove an excellent race on Sunday. Back-to-back flat tires put the Purdue University graduate down two laps early in the race, but through sheer will and persistence was able to get back on the lead lap with 15 laps remaining.
In Other Racing News
Scott Dixon won in a very bizarre ending at the Honda Indy Edmonton on Sunday. Helio Castroneves actually crossed the finish line first, but received a two-lap penalty by IZOD IndyCar officials for blocking Penske Racing teammate Will Power with three laps remaining. Dixon, who didn’t lead a lap the entire race, was awarded the victory by nature of his second place standing at the end of the race.
|Helio Castroneves interviews after frustrating ending to the Honda Indy Edmonton.|
The move in question came after Simona de Silvestro slid off the track brining out a full course yellow. On the restart, Castroneves, who had taken the lead from a dominating Power 15 laps earlier, appeared to move off his established racing line to block a fast-charging Power on the outside, bringing out a black flag. Castroneves was instructed by race officials to perform a pit road “drive through penalty” at 60 miles-per-hour his next time around, but Castroneves declined, and finished the race out.
Immediately after the race, the three-time Indy 500 champ stormed from his car and made a beeline for the flag stand where IndyCar officials were stationed. Animated yelling ensued, and when a security chief tried to calm Castroneves down, the lithe Brazilian grabbed the chief’s collar and proceeded to shake the much larger man. He was eventually subdued by his crew chief and led off the track without a further comment. All in all, a very strange scene, and one that marred what was otherwise a good, clean race. The series will be back in action on August 8 at Mid-Ohio.
Honda Indy Edmonton Results (Top 10)
1. Scott Dixon
2. Will Power
3. Dario Franchitti
4. Ryan Briscoe
5. Ryan Hunter-Reay
6. Paul Tracy
7. Mario Moraes
8. E.J. Viso
9. Takuma Sato
10. Helio Castroneves