Indianapolis: Round 21 preview

Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup - Countdown: 6 Races To Go It's history and hype, preparation and perspiration. Early August at Indianapolis Motor Speedway means the Brickyard 400, and for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, one of the season's most...

Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup - Countdown: 6 Races To Go

It's history and hype, preparation and perspiration. Early August at Indianapolis Motor Speedway means the Brickyard 400, and for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, one of the season's most star-filled -- and sometimes star-crossed -- events.

Toss in a title race, a new way to crown a champion. Add uncertainty, high expectations and higher stakes, and forget any hint of late-summer doldrums.

"From the first time I went to Indianapolis and not really expecting the size of Indianapolis -- I don't think that I was prepared for how massive that place really is," said Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford), a two-time Brickyard 400 winner. "And then when the people filled that place up, it is just incredible."

So are the point standings, where the race to compete in the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup" is on. A quick primer: After Race No. 26 at Richmond on Sept. 11, drivers in the Top 10 and any within 400 points of the leader will compete in the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup" over the season's final 10 races.

And expect this year's 11th annual Brickyard 400 to be a factor. Past Indianapolis events have affected the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup title hunt, and the 2004 version looms large considering only Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet), the current NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 leader, remained in position following his win last week at Pocono. The rest of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10 seesawed -- gaining or losing ground according to their Pocono results -- though no driver slipped out of the Top 10.

"I was happy with how fast our Pocono car was last week and I think the guys are just going to clean up the sheet metal and load the car back on the truck," said Elliott Sadler (No. 38 M&M's Ford), who finished 10th and jumped two spots to sixth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10. "I'm looking forward to it."

So are Johnson and Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports teammates who finished first and fifth, respectively, at Pocono, and now sit first and second, respectively, in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10.

"He knows that and understands what it's like to be in those situations and needing to do things," said Johnson of Gordon, the four-time premier-series champion who trails him by 232 points. "So he respects that and everything's great. And I respect him in the same situation."

"We've got some homework to do for sure to catch them Hendrick boys," said Indiana-native Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge), the eighth-place driver in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Elliott Sadler
Teams Hendrick Motorsports