Indianapolis: Round 21 preview

Historic Track Has Present-Day Prominence, With The "Chase" On The Horizon DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 1, 2006) -- Rich in history, Indianapolis Motor Speedway now is rampant with ramifications, as far as its relationship with NASCAR...

Historic Track Has Present-Day Prominence, With The "Chase" On The Horizon

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 1, 2006) -- Rich in history, Indianapolis Motor Speedway now is rampant with ramifications, as far as its relationship with NASCAR goes.

Twelve years ago when NASCAR came to Indy for the first time, it was clear something special was about to begin, a new tradition for both the track and the sanctioning body, certain to line up alongside traditions already in place.

Two years ago, a good thing got even better.

The creation of the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup" spun-off the "Race to the Chase", the 10 races preceding the Chase; Indianapolis found itself in the middle.

Coming into Sunday's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, just who will be part of Chase, which starts Sept. 17 at New Hampshire, is anyone's guess.

And we do mean guess.

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) and Matt Kenseth (No. 17 DEWALT Ford), the top two in points, have distanced themselves somewhat from the field.

But after that ...
• Positions third through sixth are separated by only 64 points.
• Positions seventh through ninth are separated by only three.
• Positions 10th through 12th are separated by only 46.

Consider also that three of NASCAR's most visible drivers -- Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet), Tony Stewart (No. 20 The Home Depot Chevrolet) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet) are in the thick of this stat-sheet traffic jam. They're ninth, 10th and 11th in the points, their positions spread across 50 precious points.

• Gordon is a four-time series champion -- and a four-time Allstate 400 at the Brickyard winner. A win Sunday would tie him with Formula One great Michael Schumacher for most wins at Indy; Schumacher has won the U.S. Grand Prix five times. Gordon is tied on Indy's all-time victory list with four-time Indianapolis 500 winners A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

• Stewart is the 400's defending champion. The Indiana native last year fulfilled a lifelong dream of winning at Indy, and went on to his second series championship.

• Earnhardt, like Gordon, is trying to rebound this season after failing to qualify for last season's Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Unlike Gordon, he has yet to win at Indianapolis. And he of course is still seeking his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup championship.

Two races ago, Earnhardt was third in the series standings. Then came consecutive last-place efforts at New Hampshire and Pocono -- and a plunge to 11th.

"We've had two terrible results, but you can't dwell on it," Earnhardt said. "What can you do? You have to put it behind you and look forward. We can't afford any more mistakes or finishes like that, but I have a team that's capable of coming back.

"We had the quickest car on our test day at Indy, so we feel pretty confident we're going in there with a set-up that can run up front."

-nascar-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Michael Schumacher , Jimmie Johnson , Al Unser Sr. , Rick Mears , A.J. Foyt