Indianapolis: Round 20 preview

* Victory At Indy Bodes Well For Title Contenders * Gordon In Quest Of Indianapolis History * Former Open-Wheelers After Brickyard Win, In Stock Cars * On The Line: Indiana Native Stremme Teleconference Guest History Indicates Indy Win Could Be...

* Victory At Indy Bodes Well For Title Contenders
* Gordon In Quest Of Indianapolis History
* Former Open-Wheelers After Brickyard Win, In Stock Cars
* On The Line: Indiana Native Stremme Teleconference Guest

History Indicates Indy Win Could Be Springboard To Championship

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 24, 2007) -- How fitting, that one of NASCAR's premier events has developed into a preview of sorts, for the season-ending championship celebration at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Allstate 400 at the Brickyard has been held 13 times; six times, the race winner went on to win the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship.

And there's more to indicate that if you don't win at Indy, you want to at least be close -- if you're serious about winning the series crown. Only once has the eventual series champion finished outside the top 10 at Indy. That was Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet), who finished a still-respectable 12th in 2002 when he won the title for the first time. In 2005, he became the fifth Indy winner to win the series title.

Road To Title Paved With Bricks

The following drivers won the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, then went on to capture the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series championship.

2006: Jimmie Johnson
2005: Tony Stewart
2001: Jeff Gordon
2000: Bobby Labonte
1999: Dale Jarrett
1998: Jeff Gordon

Race To The Chase, Round 4: Watch Out For Kenseth

Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford) has never won at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but a look at the stat sheet makes that fact look somewhat puzzling.

Lack of victories aside, Kenseth, the super-consistent 2003 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion, has quickly become accustomed to the legendary oval in his relatively short career.

Kenseth has seven Indy starts, with four top-five results and an average finish of 13.7. He also has a series-high Driver Rating (derived from an amalgam of NASCAR's electronic Loop Data) of 114.0.

Loop Data gathering dates back to the start of 2005, so it's not surprising that 2005 Indy winner Tony Stewart would have the second-best Indy Driver Rating of 109.2.

As for series point leader and four-time series champion Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), the four-time winner of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard has a deceiving Driver Rating of 80.8, a figure that doesn't involve his four years (1994, '98, 2001, '04) of victory. A more-telling stat in Gordon's case would be his average Indy finish of 9.3, or perhaps his total of 10 top-10 finishes in the 13 years NASCAR has raced at IMS.

13 Drivers Have Potential Seeding Bonuses

After 19 races in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season, 13 different drivers have won races -- meaning, 13 different drivers have earned potential bonus points for "seedings" when the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup begins.

Starting this season, race victories are more important than ever. The 12 drivers qualifying for the Chase will have their point totals "reset" to 5,000. They then will have bonus points -- 10 for each victory during the 26 races preceding the Chase -- applied. Tony Stewart became the latest driver to earn potential victory bonus points via his win two weeks at Chicagoland Speedway.

Of the 13 race winners thus far this year, 10 are in the series standings' top 12, coming into Indianapolis. Atop the potential bonus point situation: Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet). They each have four wins and potentially 40 bonus points apiece, which would make them the top two seeds to start the Chase with 5,040 points apiece. Seeding ties are broken by the comparison of drivers' best finishes beyond victories.

Two drivers currently in the standings' top 12 are winless this year -- 10th-place Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniels Chevrolet) and 12th-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet).

Indy Presents Another Sort of 'Drive For 5' For Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon's quest for a fifth NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship would obviously be boosted considerably on Sunday, if he were to win the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard for a fifth time.

But Gordon's legacy would also receive an immediate upgrade.

Only one other driver has won five times at Indianapolis Motor Speedway: Formula One great Michael Schumacher, who won the U.S. Grand Prix in 2000 and again from '03-06.

Gordon's four victories ties him with three legendary four-time Indianapolis 500 champions: A.J. Foyt (1961, '64, '67, '77); Al Unser (1970-71, '78, '87); and Rick Mears (1979, '84, '88, '91).

Open-Wheel Exodus Accented By 400

Jeff Gordon is the most visible member of an increasingly large group of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers who formerly raced in the open-wheel ranks. That group also includes former IndyCar Series champion Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman (No. 12 Alltel Dodge), Robby Gordon (No. 7 Jim Beam Ford), Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge), AJ Allmendinger (No. 84 Red Bull Toyota) and former Indianapolis 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge).

"Jeff Gordon was probably the biggest influence [in this trend]" said Stewart. "He had a lot of success in USAC -- won a lot of races. He wasn't just handed an opportunity in NASCAR. He earned his way. When he got the opportunity to go to NASCAR, he opened up a lot of opportunities for drivers like myself. ... When Jeff had his success [in NASCAR], it boosted everybody's spirits and helped show everyone in USAC that it was a reality: If they had the same kind of results that Jeff had, then it could happen to them too."

On The Line: David Stremme

South Bend, Ind. native David Stremme (No. 40 Target Dodge) was the guest on Tuesday's NASCAR Teleconference. And of course, he eagerly looks forward to racing at Indy.

"Probably the neatest thing for me was last year during the driver introductions and we were riding around in the vehicles, I got to see a lot of people that I raced with growing up or people that watched me growing up; it was pretty emotional," Stremme said. "It is definitely a place that I look forward to every year. I even make sure my team knows I put a lot of emphasis on this race because it is close to home and again because of the history that is at Indianapolis.

Locked In: Sauter Continues Strong-Hold On Final Starting Spot

Joe Custer's No. 70 Radioactive Energy Chevrolet, driven by Johnny Sauter, comes into Indianapolis occupying the 35th and final guaranteed starting spot via the car owner point standings -- a spot that looks fairly secure for at least a couple of week. That's because the No. 70 team has a hefty 225-point lead on the 36th-place team -- the No. 21 Little Debbie Ford owned by Glen Wood and driven by former Allstate 400 at the Brickyard champion (2002) Bill Elliott.

Teams outside the top 35 in owner points must rely on qualifying times to make the race.

In The Loop: Roush Fenway Looks For Indianapolis Breakthrough

Roush Fenway Racing has failed to visit Victory Lane at only two current tracks on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series calendar: Chicagoland Speedway and this weekend's track, Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The drought may come to an end Sunday afternoon. A number of Roush Fenway drivers have performed well in recent years at IMS.

Matt Kenseth has finished in the top five in four of his last five races at Indy, and has two runner-up finishes in that span. Over the past two years, Kenseth has been the most consistent but has yet to grab the elusive win.

At IMS, Kenseth has a pre-race Driver Rating of 114.0 (best of any driver), an Average Running Position of 5.8 (best of any driver) and 316 Laps in the Top 15 (best of any driver). Kenseth, coming off a second-place finish at Chicagoland where he also had the top pre-race Driver Rating, is third in the series standings.

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Office Depot Ford), another Roush Fenway Racing driver, jumped to fifth in the standings with a third-place finish at Chicagoland. He's another driver to watch at Indy. In two races at the Brickyard, he has an Average Finish of 10.5, a Driver Rating of 88.8, an Average Running Position of 15.7 and 25 Fastest Laps Run -- which is fourth-best. Edwards improved on his first Indy experience, finishing ninth last year -- he finished 12th in his first trip to IMS in 2005. Last year, Edwards scored an impressive Driver Rating of 107.9.

Greg Biffle (No. 16 Dish Network Ford) could also surprise with a strong performance. Though still looking for his first win of 2007, Biffle has strong numbers at Indy. He has a Driver Rating of 88.4 (13th-best among those competing Sunday), an Average Running Position of 11.5 (ninth-best), 109 Green Flag Passes (fourth-most) and 246 Laps in the Top 15 (sixth-most).

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Roush Fenway Racing