Brickyard long on history, short on excitement
During Brickyard week, all you hear is the NASCAR drivers fawning over the track and saying how it’s right up there with the Daytona 500 on the list of races they want to win each year. The Indiana-born drivers like Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman are even more excited than the others, having grown up in the shadow of the track where so many of the greats have won. I can respect their desire to join the elite group to have crossed the bricks in first place.
But for the fans, watching a Cup race at Indy is far from a fantastic experience. With rare flashes of excitement, and usually long stretches of single-file racing with passing at a minimum, it can be a long day for Brickyard viewers. I remember making the trek to Indy to see the race 10 years ago. Indianapolis is a great town and I had a wonderful time, particularly at the “Turn One Bar“ across the street from the track. The speedway is a site to see, and all race fans should make at least one trip there in their lifetime -- whether it be to see the Brickyard 400, the Indy 500, or the U.S. Grand Prix (when it eventually returns).
But the racing -- not so hot. The IROC race was pretty memorable that weekend, as Arie Luyendyk had a terrible crash that tore his car to pieces and had everyone scared, but he ended up being OK. As far as the Cup race, the most exciting thing that happened all day was Dale Jarrett running out of gas. To top things off, the place is so big, fans really can only see a corner (two at most) of the racing action, of which there is little to begin with.
I’m glad I went, as just being in that historic place surround by 250,000 people is an amazing experience. But I wish the product on the track could live up to the atmosphere. The place was built for open wheel cars, and that’s painfully obvious every time Cup cars take to the track. Watching this parade on television is hazardous to fans’ ability to stay awake, so I recommend keeping a pillow nearby.
If you want to catch some excitement, watch the short-track Truck and Busch races at nearby short track ORP (formerly IRP). They are quite exciting every single year, and also a blast to attend.
The obvious choice this week is Tony Stewart, who has won two of the last three Brickyard races. Kyle Busch, as always, is a threat, but this may be one of the few tracks where Tony’s experience will put him ahead of his teammate. The big 3 Hendrick drivers are also among the list of contenders. Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya did very well here last year, finishing second, and is due for a good finish. But stay away from Sam Hornish Jr., who has also won the Indy 500 but done very little in his Penske Racing Cup ride this year.
Who you end up ultimately choosing will depend a lot on qualifying. With passing at a premium, if a contender starts too far back, it’s going to be hard for them to get up front.
I’m going to pick Tony to win. He’s overdue for a win and this is his favorite track. It’s hard to bet against him.
Stremme up for some rides
David Stremme, currently driving for Rusty Wallace in the Nationwide series, is being considered for several Cup rides next season -- including the one being vacated by Ryan Newman. Another option is Rusty bringing his team up to Cup with Stremme, which the TV bigwigs say is OK now that fellow cars owners Ray Evernham and Brad Daugherty are part of the ESPN crew covering NASCAR races.
Stremme was spotty when he drove for Chip Ganassi last year, but he has showed flashes of greatness. I suppose in the right equipment, he could become a contender in Cup. But he has to be careful. He’s having some good runs in the Nationwide series, and if he goes to a Cup car and fails again, it could be a potential career killer as far as his Cup aspirations. Word is he’s already turned down some Cup rides for this very reason. Penske has been underachieving for a while, so maybe a hungry driver like Stremme is what they need to get some better results.