Sunday, July 29, 2012

Rating the Brickyard 400: 2 Stars **

The Jimmie Johnson domination tour stopped in one of his favorite field-stomping grounds Sunday as he drove away from everybody to win his fourth Brickyard 400. Unfortunately, dominating performances rarely make for an exciting race, and that was the case again this week. This year’s Brickyard 400 gets a 2 Star Rating.
Look out, folks. Johnson and the #48 team are back on top of the NASCAR world. The numbers about Brickyard winners becoming Sprint Cup Series champions have been well-documented. The Brickyard winner has gone on to win the championship eight times in the first 18 years of the race. Johnson went on to win the championship each of his previous three victories at Indy.
Johnson will surely face strong competition from a number of drivers, but all of the signs are there for the #48 team to make another successful championship run this year.
Aside from marveling at Johnson’s greatness, there wasn’t a whole heck of a lot to get excited about Sunday afternoon. The only stretch of the race that had tense racing quickly ended once Joey Logano spun out and hit Matt Kenseth, causing the #17 car to burst into flames.
More than anything, the race at Indy looked like an extended, faster version of the race at New Hampshire. If there wasn’t any interesting strategy developing in the pits, there just wasn’t much to talk about.
This shouldn’t be surprising, however. The Brickyard is typically a race of prestige more than a race of excitement. That’s what makes Daytona so great. It hosts the most important race of the year and often the most exciting.
In any case, big congratulations are in order for Johnson. He is reaching the point in his career where he is approaching, or in this case reaching important milestones.
His four Brickyard wins tie him with Jeff Gordon for the most by a NASCAR driver at that track. This was also win #58 of his career, his third of the season and he is charging toward his sixth Cup championship.
It stinks for many fans of other drivers to see Johnson win seemingly every week and win the championship every season, but trust me, what Johnson is doing is special. Today’s fans will tell their children about Johnson’s accomplishments, even if it’s by saying, “I hated his guts because he won every week for almost an entire decade.”
The one other note that we can’t forget is that Dale Earnhardt Jr. took over the lead in the points standings. Kenseth finished 35th after his wreck, and Earnhardt Jr. finished fourth to take a 14-point lead over Kenseth.
While it’s nice for Junior Nation to see their driver on top of the standings, the Chase has made this point somewhat meaningless. When Kenseth was told he lost the points lead, he just shrugged because he knows the Chase is the only time it matters where a driver sits in the standings. As long as a driver is currently in the top 10 in points, he doesn’t have to worry about whether he is first or 10th because they get reshuffled for the Chase anyway.
Just imagine what today would’ve been like if the Chase didn’t exist. People would be falling over themselves with excitement that Earnhardt Jr. leads the points. At this time in the season, Earnhardt Jr. would be considered the championship favorite under the old format. Now he is still considered a darkhorse because he has just one win while Johnson, Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski each have three wins.
Oh well. The Chase has its good points and bad points, and both have been discussed more than enough in the last seven years. But wait and listen to the reaction if it turns out Earnhardt Jr. would’ve won the championship under the old points system this year but loses the Chase.
Next up is Pocono Raceway, another 2.5-mile track that generally lacks exciting racing. Maybe we’ll be surprised and something interesting happens, but we probably shouldn’t cross our fingers.
Have a great week, everybody.


  1. Fans have generally hated the 'chase' since it was instituted, and it won't take Jr. not winning the diluted championship for it to be vocal.

  2. Indy is BORING not magical, not nostalgic. Repeat:BORING. Return to Wilkesboro, Rockingham, & add IRP to Cup.

  3. Around lap 80, I took a nap while the 48 was leading. Woke up around lap 140, and guess what? The 48 was still leading.

    Thanks to my nap, however, I did miss the Kenseth/Logano wreck.

    I agree with the 2-star rating.

  4. go to the zmax dragstrip, you will forget about turning left, I have.