The Road to Miami Heads to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indiana native Tony Stewart currently sits 11th in the Championship standings but would love to become the first driver/owner to win at the Brickyard since Ricky Rudd accomplished the feat in 1997 (photo courtesy: Jeff Zelevansky, GETTY IMAGES SPORT)
After a week off, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series “Road to Miami” will resume this weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After Sunday’s Brickyard 400 only six races will be left to determine those drivers eligible for the Chase For The Sprint Cup which will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20. The Chase will consist of the Top 10 drivers in points plus the two drivers from 11th to 20th with the most wins.
Over the years, the Brickyard 400 has provided a good indication of who will win the series championship. NASCAR’s top series has raced at Indy 17 times with 14 races being won by past, reigning or future champions. In eight of those seasons the winner at the Brickyard has gone on to win the Sprint Cup Series title, including in four of the last six years. Five-time NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson won the series title after Brickyard 400 wins in 2006, 2008 and 2009, while Tony Stewart went on to win the Cup title following his victory at Indy in 2005.
This weekend could play an integral role in the fight for a Wild Card slot. Three drivers in particular are looking for their first win of the season, which could help them claim a Wild Card berth when the Chase field is set following the race at Richmond September 10. Miami resident Juan Pablo Montoya, Stewart and Montoya’s teammate Jamie McMurray, last year’s Brickyard winner, are all good bets to take the checkered flag this weekend.
Wild cards currently are held by Stewart and Coke Zero 400 winner David Ragan. Two of the season’s other winners, Brad Keselowski and Regan Smith are outside the Top 20 in points and aren’t in wild card contention. A native of Indiana, Stewart is always a threat at the Brickyard. Currently 11th in the Championship standings, the two-time Sprint Cup Series champion looks to become just the second driver-owner to win at Indy. The first was Ricky Rudd in 1997. With a series-best driver rating of 109.3 at Indianapolis, Stewart is the favorite for this weekend.
Montoya, currently 17th in points, finished second in the 2007 Brickyard 400 and might have won in 2009 if not for a late-race pit road speeding penalty while leading. He won the Indianapolis 500 in 2000 and needs a win to be in contention for a Wild Card slot by the time the checkered flag waves at Richmond September 10.
McMurray, while 29th in points, won last year’s Brickyard 400 and, while it is a stretch, he is looking for a way to move up in the points for a chance at a Wild Card position. A win this weekend will help with that goal.
Next up for the Sprint Cup drivers is Race 20 at Indianapolis on Sunday, July 31 (1 p.m. ET, ESPN)