There's something about an old speedway with a deep history that just brings out the race fan in everyone. For some, it's the high banks of Daytona, while for others it's earning the stripes at Darlington.
But, for a lot of drivers, whether in an open-wheel car or in a closed cockpit, one speedway just spells history. It's a track that has hosted one major event for 101 years, but since 1994 has welcomed another form of action to it's famed facility. It's a place where a new tradition was born in 1996, and continues both in May and in July to this day.
It's Gasoline Alley...It's Indy.
The 2.5-mile rectangle track originally was questioned as to whether NASCAR would be welcome, especially since it's always been a mecca of open-wheel history for the Indianapolis 500. However, when the green flag waved for the first time in 1994 to NASCAR, it was clear that names such as Gordon, Earnhardt and Labonte were made to race here.
Now it's names like Stewart, Busch, and Keselowski that reign supreme over the sport, but winning here means just as much to them as it did to their predacessors. Now, the newest chapter in NASCAR at Indy is about to be written.
However, who's taking the victory?
Our writers took two weeks to prepare for the other big race of the summer, and now the stretch run begins with no off-weeks, no breaks, and little time to rebound. Now, here's a look at who the writers chose for the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard:
Misan Akuya: Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart has had an interesting season. Three wins already. Right now he is poised to be the points leader when the chase starts.
But has had some poor finishes this year as well. He struggled at Loudon. Even though he was able to come home a solid 12th, he dropped from fifth to seventh in points.
Indianapolis is Smoke's home track. He already has two wins there. In three starts as a driver owner he has finished third, fifth, and sixth. Stewart looks to be poised for a fourth championship. Indianapolis does lead to championship. Lead him to his second one in 2005.
Could do it again.
James Broomhead: Juan Pablo Montoya
Rolling the dice.
Kelly Crandall: Jimmie Johnson
Billy Fellin: Tony Stewart
Tony is just plain money in the bank at the Brickyard. Gordon is historically better, but he's been so inconsistent this season, it's hard to take him because at this point everything has happened to the 24 short of a bolt of lightning striking the car during the race.
I'll take the safe bet.
Michael Hirshbein: Kyle Busch
Christopher Leone: Jeff Gordon
If Gordon is going to find a way to sneak into the Chase, he's going to need to score some wins, and quickly. He's won four Brickyard 400s in his career, including the very first one in 1994. Ideally, he could turn a fifth into enough momentum to make a late charge into one of the Chase wild card spots.
Kara Martin: Tony Stewart
No reason, although her funny line in the response gave me one of those "Big Bang Theory" chuckles.
Ryan O'Hara: Jeff Gordon
Let's win it boys. Yehaww.
Dustin Parks: Jeff Gordon
Yes, I am on pins and needles with this pick, but I don't want to go with Stewart right now, at least not till we get closer to the Chase. At the same time, Gordon has been hit or miss lately, but did get on a little roll before the break.
However, I'm going with my lead guy because of history. Four-time Brickyard winner, including the first race at the track in 1994, and also the first driver to win the old No Bull 5 bonus in 1998, becoming the first repeat winner at the track, and now the winningest.
If he is to make any run at the wild card spot, he needs at least one victory. This is the best place for him to start that run.
Patti Rodisch: Jeff Gordon
I usually have some long winded explanation for my pick. This week though it is Gordon and Indy...enough said.
Sal Sigala Jr: Jimmie Johnson
No reason for the pick, but did plug the final writer in his email, but for a different, yet very good, reason.
Here's his reply: Can't wait to get to Sonoma tomorrow. I will be covering the NHRA Sonoma Nationals this weekend, which will include having lunch with John Force Racing both days and also got Courtney Force to be a guest on The Podium Finish.
Rob Tiongson: Jeff Gordon
My season has gone the same way as JG's, but the difference has been I've got three wins while Gordon NEEDS a win. So Jeff, get it done, man. Oh yea, he's kind of won here four times, most recently back in 2004. Would be neat to see him get it done for a fifth Brickyard win.
Standings following New Hampshire:
Billy Fellin (696) Tony Stewart finished 12th (3)
Sal Sigala Jr. (667) Brad Keselowski finished 5th (1)
Misan Akuya (630) Ryan Newman finished 10th (1)
Christopher Leone (628) Joey Logano finished 14th (1)
James Broomhead (625) Tony Stewart finished 12th (2)
Kelly Crandall (621) Tony Stewart finished 12th (2)
Kara Martin (608) Tony Stewart finished 12th (1)
Patti Rodisch (607) Tony Stewart finished 12th (2)
Rob Tiongson (603) Tony Stewart finished 12th (3)
Dustin Parks (602) Ryan Newman finished 10th (1)
Ryan O'Hara (594) Jeff Gordon finished 6th (1)
Michael Hirshbein (553) Kyle Busch finished 16th (1)
Final Thoughts: Something about Indianapolis just brings out the passion of every driver in the sport. Just walking through Gasoline Alley, being surrounded on all corners by fans, and knowing you are on hallowed ground just means so much to so many.
But getting a victory here, and getting to kiss the bricks, could make someone's career, just ask Paul Menard.
Now, another chapter is being written into NASCAR's history at Indy.
The last change in networks welcomes fans this weekend as for the first time in 2012, ESPN gets to televise the race, with coverage kicking off at 12 noon ET with "NASCAR Countdown" hosted by Nicole Briscoe, Rusty Wallace and Brad Daugherty.
The green flag waves an hour later with Alan Bestwick, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree with the call.
Summary of Picks:
Juan Pablo Montoya-1