Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Rating the Brickyard 400: 3 Stars ***

With the mid-summer break behind it, the Sprint Cup Series got back on track at the most famous and historic track in the world. As with any special track, she giveth and she taketh away, and Juan Pablo Montoya has been well-versed in that lesson. The Brickyard 400 gets a 3 Star Rating.

Things got wild early as seven cars couldn’t make it through the first two corners without sustaining damage. Kyle Busch and Sam Hornish Jr. got together and clogged the entire track for everyone behind them. Then, on the next run it seemed like nearly half the field had to come down pit road under green to wipe grass off the grill because Busch and a few other cars slid through the grass during the wreck and cars were clipping the loose, wet grass.

After the big lap 1 wreck, things settled down and Montoya took his rightful place at the front of the field at Indy. But, his day was not an easy one. He needed a debris caution early in the race to remain up front because he had a tire start to come apart. Then, once he was back in pit sequence with the leaders, he and Greg Biffle drove away from the field. Had the race stayed green, Montoya or Biffle probably would have kissed the bricks Sunday.

The worst was still to come for Montoya, however. Surprisingly, on the final debris caution of the day, six drivers took only two tires on what would be the final pit stop. Montoya was not one of them. With 22 laps to go, Montoya restarted seventh and four laps after the restart, he was in the fence. He finished 32nd.

Sometimes a track is just mean to a particular driver, and the Brickyard is certainly been that way to Montoya, which is ironic given the previous success he has at the track. His crew chief, Brian Pattie, felt like he had made the wrong call to take four tires on the final stop. But, he would not have had much to gain if he’d taken two tires. The way the tires were falling off this weekend, 22 laps was going to be a long time to try and hold off anyone who took four tires. I still think Pattie made the smart call with so many laps left and his driver in the lead. Unfortunately, things beyond his control ruined the team’s day.

For the other half of the Chip Ganassi team, Jamie McMurray had his second-greatest day of 2010. He sure has come up big in the big races this year. He won the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400, and he came in a close second in the Coca-Cola 600. For the first time in his career, McMurray is truly a factor this season. Yes, he nearly made the Chase in 2004 and 2005, but he didn’t win races those years. Whether he makes the Chase or not, McMurray has had a very good season. Plus, the fact that he changed teams in the offseason makes it all the more remarkable, considering how dismal he performed at Roush-Fenway Racing.

Finally, congratulations to Ganassi. To win Daytona and both races at the Brickyard is pretty amazing. And, he didn’t back into any of them. He actually had a better chance of winning with Montoya this week, but when he crashed there was another driver ready to take the point. That is a unique feat that has made Ganassi’s year a big success no matter what happens the rest of the way.

So, the final race of July is in the books and now it’s time to visit tracks for a second time. The series will head back to Pocono and Michigan with Watkins Glen in the middle. This usually isn’t a great stretch of races, and Denny Hamlin will probably win again next week at Pocono, but at least its Cup racing. That off week seemed to take forever. Glad there is only one more of those left this season. Have a great week everybody.


  1. jmayer,

    Montoya appears snakebit with NASCAR...

    I guess the old Brickyard just isn't condusive to side by side racing. Thought the race was another snoozer (I guess it helps when a driver you care about is in the lead and Montoya doesn't fit the bill with me...)

    Thanks alot!

  2. 3 stars because of the unusual circumstances at Indy this year - the overheating issue early on, the first lap wreck (that was ALL Kyles fault!LOL) and the call for some teams to take 2 tires - unheard of at Indy at least as far as I can recall. Made for better strategy. Gotta feel for JPM over driving it to get up front - agree that Patty was in a tough spot with that tire call and played it safe like 99% of the CC's in the garage would have if leading.

    Thank GOD I'll be missing Pocono...

  3. Three stars... at best. Even though this was one of the better 400s at Indy.

    I agree the first wreck was all Kyle's fault.

    And, as is most often the case, Patty was damned if he did, damned if he didn't. If he taken 2, everyone else would have taken four. Happens every other week..lol

  4. Dwindy1 - He does, but that first debris caution kept him from falling out of contention early since he was off on pit sequence.
    The track hasn't had great sde-by-side racing in eithe NASCAR of Indycars for a while. But, Sunday seemed better than the winged days.

    klvalus - Yeah, we had tire strategy at Indy and Darlington this year. Tell somebody that 10 years ago and they would think we were crazy.

    Gene - Jeff Burton's team decided to stay out at New Hamphire and got smoked, now this week Montoya comes in for tires late and gets wrecked. Being a crwe chief is definitely a tough job.