In the beginning, it was questioned whether stock cars belonged at such a speedway.  A track that is more noted for open-wheel racing, big wreaths and drinking milk, rather than heavier cars and burnouts.

But, two decades later, that tradition has stood.

Indianapolis will always be most famous for their Memorial Day weekend tradition, but since 1994 it's also made a summer one to look forward to.  From the first green flag to the last checkered flag, Indianapolis has become a race that many want to win, and those that have want to win it again.

It started a tradition that even Indy Car now does after it's race, and has become one of the biggest race of the season, to the level of being equal to the opening race of the season.

There is no other track like Indy, and it starts the final stretch to the Chase and the championship.

It now means that the writers have no off-time, and with just over a month till the title run, points and wins are critical.

Here's who they each decided would win this weekend, and kiss the bricks, after the Crown Royal Presents the Samuel Deeds 400:

 

Misan Akuya:  Tony Stewart

Nevermind that Smoke has the best average finish at Indianapolis.  Nevermind that he also has two wins here.  Nevermind that Smoke had a shot at the win two weeks ago.

This is Stewart's home track.  We see the best out of him here.

Rob Blount:  Jimmie Johnson

No reason.

James Broomhead:  Juan Montoya

Rolling the dice...

Kelly Crandall:  Jimmie Johnson

This is his race track until proven otherwise:  four wins and the defending winner of the event.  He's using the same chassis that won at Pocono last month, and he's driving a Chevy.

That's a winning combination for Indianapolis.

Billy Fellin:  Jimmie Johnson

Just so strong this whole season.  Don't see that changing at Indy.

Michael Hirshbein:  Kyle Busch

No reason.

Christopher Leone:  NO PICK

No pick sent by deadline.

Kara Martin:  Tony Stewart

No reason.

Ryan O'Hara:  Jeff Gordon

I need wins, going out on a limb.  He needs to come out strong.

Dustin Parks:  Jeff Gordon

Normally this could be considered out on the limb, but not at Indy.  He's a four-time winner at this track, but his last one came back in 2004.  However, he loves coming to this place.

One thing that does concern me is he's running a special look this week, and that's not always done well here.  In 2000 the Peanuts were on the car, he finished 34th.  In 2007, Chip Foose's "Heat Waves" look was tough to handle, finishing outside the top-15.

This weekend, Pepsi Max will adorn the sides of the car.  Hopefully he's drinking one in victory lane afterward.

Patti Rodisch:  Jimmie Johnson

No reason.

Sal Sigala Jr:  Jimmie Johnson

No reason.

Rob Tiongson:  Jeff Gordon

Four-time Cup champion, four-time Brickyard 400 winner.  Gotta bet that if he wants a fifth championship, he'll like it if he can become a five-time winner at Indianapolis.

Watch for it, kids!

 

Standings following New Hampshire:

Rob Tiongson (665) Jeff Gordon finished 10th (1)

Patti Rodisch (646) Jimmie Johnson finished 6th (0)

Kelly Crandall (619) Kasey Kahne finished 11th (1)

Sal Sigala Jr(612) Jimmie Johnson finished 6th (1)

Michael Hirshbein (603) Kyle Busch finished 2nd (2)

Billy Fellin (600) Kasey Kahne finished 11th (1)

Rob Blount (577) Kasey Kahne finished 11th (1)

Dustin Parks (563) Tony Stewart finished 26th (0)

Kara Martin (527) Clint Bowyer finished 13th (0)

Ryan O'Hara (527) Clint Bowyer finished 13th (0)

James Broomhead (520) NO PICK SENT (1)

Misan Akuya (490) Tony Stewart finished 26th (1)

Christopher Leone (420) NO PICK SENT (0)

 

Final Thoughts:  Historically, despite only being on the schedule since 1994, this race has seen famous drivers take wins, and also seen some surprises.  Guys like Gordon, Earnhardt, Jarrett, and Elliott have all done their celebrating.  Others, like McMurray and Menard, upset the field.

Will it be a recognized name, a first-time winner, or a lesser-known name celebrating?

At 12 noon ET, we will all find out.  ESPN is back for their run to the championship, with coverage beginning with "NASCAR Countdown" with Nicole Briscoe, Rusty Wallace, Brad Daugherty and Ray Evernham giving analysis.  At the top of the hour, Alan Bestwick, Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree will have the call.

 

Summary of Picks:

Jimmie Johnson-5

Jeff Gordon-3

Tony Stewart-2

Kyle Busch-1

Juan Montoya-1