Raceday: Your guide to Sunday's Brickyard 400

jutter@charlotteobserver.comJuly 27, 2013 

Three things to watch

1 . Jimmie Johnson has already won five Sprint Cup Series championships but is one short in Brickyard 400 wins. That could easily change on Sunday.

2. Matt Kenseth, who has finished second twice at the Brickyard, is in good position to give Toyota its NASCAR victory at the iconic track.

3 . A Ford hasn't won at the track since 1999, with now Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett behind the wheel of a Robert Yates-owned entry.

Observations

• Here is the difference between real life and fantasyland in NASCAR. Following NASCAR's first dirt race in more than four decades Wednesday night at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, fans and media were clamoring for more dirt races and even some in the Nationwide and Cup series. But let's take a closer look. The purse for Wednesday night's race was $367,276 – the smallest of the year in the Truck series. It was 16 percent lower than Rockingham and 25 percent lower than the Truck race at Charlotte ($487,749). Wednesday night's winner at Eldorra, Austin Dillon, won $28,000 – an amount that doesn't even come close to covering the costs of a team to field an entry for the race. And remember Eldora was sold out with a standing room only crowd. The financial reality is hard to ignore.

• There's been a lot of speculation Indianapolis Motor Speedway may add lights by this time next year and future Brickyard 400s could be run at night. How might that change the racing, if at all? Driver Kevin Harvick suggests Sunday's race could provide a glimpse. Temperatures during the race are expected to be in the low 70s – at least 20 degrees cooler than it is when this race usually runs and far more similar to conditions of typical hot summer nights in the Midwest.

• Eight times the winner of the Brickyard 400 has gone on to win the Cup championship. Johnson, the current points leader, has accomplished the feat three times. The first time was in 2006 when he won the Daytona 500 in February and the Brickyard in August. Johnson already has a 500 victory in hand this season. Déjà vu all over again?

Best bets

Three picks for your fantasy team:

Juan Pablo Montoya, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne

Notes

Newman starts from the pole: Ryan Newman was last and best on Saturday. Newman won the pole for Sunday's Brickyard 400 after posting a track record lap at 187.531 mph as the last of 45 cars to qualify.

The previous record of 186.293 mph was set by Casey Mears in 2004. Sprint Cup Series points leader Jimmie Johnson was second fastest, Carl Edwards was third, Denny Hamlin was fourth and Tony Stewart was fifth.

"I guess I did my homework but the guys on this team did their homework, too. It's a good day for Stewart-Haas Racing," said Newman, who earned his first pole since September 2011 but the 50th of his career.

"It was special because it was the Brickyard and I've won a lot of poles but never won one, here."

Newman is in the final year of his contract with SHR and does not have a fulltime ride lined up yet for next season.

Patrick to make Sprint Cup debut at Indy: Outside of her victory in Japan, Danica Patrick found most of her success in the IndyCar Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Sunday, she will make her first start at the track in NASCAR's biggest series.

Patrick drove in last season's inaugural Nationwide Series race at Indy but wrecked after 38 laps.

"I always like coming here. As I've said before, many times, it's a special place. It makes me happy to be here," Patrick said. "I feel very comfortable, but at the same time I'm working on a new car and working on making it handle well and like I want it to and also building up the confidence to do what you can do in a Cup car here."

Bodine heads to Pocono: Two-time Truck series champion Todd Bodine will run in next weekend's Pocono Mountains 125 at Pocono Raceway for Turner Scott Motorsports. Bodine, who has not had a full-time ride this season, is expected to drive the No. 30 Chevrolet for TSM.

Race facts

Where: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indianapolis.

Track type: 2.5-mile, mostly flat, paved oval

Race distance: 160 laps, 400 miles

Weather: Mostly sunny with a high in the mid 70s.

TV: Coverage begins at noon on ESPN. Green flag is 1:19 p.m. ET

Radio: IMS Radio Network



Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter

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