The Brickyard. Just saying those two words puts a cold feeling down every driver’s spine because they don’t just represent a track. It’s more like representing an institution.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway celebrated 100 years of action this year. That’s older than any track in the United States that has hosted auto racing. It’s a speedway that has seen change, after change, and new initiatives over the course of time. It’s a place where just walking into the speedway makes everyone stand back, and feel the appreciation and history of what the speedway represents.
In today’s NASCAR, it’s on a level that is equal to the Daytona 500. This race means that much to every driver that has won it. Greats like Earnhardt, Gordon, Jarrett, and Elliott have tasted victory here. In the modern era, it’s names like Stewart, Harvick, Johnson and McMurray who’ve had the honor of capturing the checkered flag.
Heading into this year’s event, I expected nothing less. After 160 laps and 400 miles, the winner of the Brickyard 400 was…Paul Menard?
It just goes to show that this year has been unlike any year previous in NASCAR.
Let’s look at the facts, heading into Indianapolis, there were three drivers getting their first career victory this season. There was Trevor Bayne in the Daytona 500, then Regan Smith at Darlington, and finally David Ragan at Daytona earlier this month. Two of these races were the biggest races of the year, and all three came at prestigious tracks.
So why would we expect anything less at Indianapolis, it is a marque event on the schedule.
It can be possibly because of statistics, because everyone was looking at guys like Gordon, Stewart and Johnson to be the ones contending for the win. As the laps wound down, Gordon was the closest to get that win, driving from 16th to second after his final pit stop.
At the same time, this track was special to Menard as his dad and his family grew up in the area, and it just became part of his life. The speedway, and the action, just became part of him, so it was almost a perfect storm of special moments.
So, why not get his first win at the speedway he called home?
I do know that after that victory lap in the convertible, kneeling down at the start/finish line and kissing those bricks, representing how the original Indianapolis Motor Speedway was built, had to be an incredible feeling. It was probably the nastiest, smelliest, and grittiest kiss he’s ever had. But when it comes after a win, it probably felt as great as when Menard first kissed his girlfriend.
The Brickyard…it’s historical, it’s a landmark, it’s an institution. It’s…it’s Indy. Nothing more needs to be said.
RESULTS: 1-Menard 2-Gordon 3-Smith 4-McMurray 5-Kenseth 6-Stewart 7-Biffle 8-Martin 9-Keselowski 10-Kyle Busch
NOTABLE FINISHES: 11-Harvick 14-Edwards 16-Earnhardt Jr. 19-Johnson 27-Hamlin
CAUTIONS: 5 for 28 laps. 35-38 (Debris), 51-54 (#00 accident-T3), 95-98 (Debris), 115-117 (Debris), 121-126 (#6, 51 accident-T3).
LEAD CHANGES: 22 among 13 drivers. Ragan POLE, Kahne 1-24, Gordon 25-26, Kenseth 27, Cassill 28, Kahne 29-51, Blaney 52, Earnhardt Jr. 53-59, Gordon 60-80, Johnson 81, Menard 82, Gordon 83-94, Kahne 95, Menard 96-104, Kenseth 105-113, Keselowski 114-130, Bowyer 131-132, Gordon 133, Ragan 134, Stewart 135-144, Menrd 145-151, McMurray 152-156, Menard 157-160.
TIME OF RACE: 2 Hrs, 50 Mins, 30 Secs.
AVERAGE SPEED: 140.762 MPH
MARGIN OF VICTORY: 0.725 Seconds
POINT STANDINGS (Top-10, Wild Cards): 1. Edwards, 682 points; 2. Johnson, -11; 3. Harvick, -12; 4. Kyle Busch, -16; 5. Kenseth, -16; 6. Kurt Busch, -18; 7. Gordon, -52; 8. Newman, -64; 9. Stewart, -73; 10. Earnhardt Jr, -76. WILD CARDS: Menard (14th, 1 win), Ragan (16th, 1 win).