Brickyard 400 Preview
July 22, 2014
By Micah Roberts
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After a week off, the 20th race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup season takes us to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Brickyard 400. There have been 20 races on the famed bricks and a Chevrolet has won 15 times, including the past 11. Yes, that isn't a typo -- 11 straight Chevy wins.
Even though drivers like Ryan Newman and Paul Menard have won there in two of the past three seasons, the norm for Indy has been that only elite drivers win. Eight Brickyard 400 winners have gone on to win a season championship the same year and 15 of the winners have won a championship in their careers. There isn't any type of track that has that kind of select group.
Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski come in as the LVH Superbook's 5/1 co-favorites (Bet $100 to win $500) to win on Sunday and it's quite understandable since they both lead the season with three wins each. Johnson has won four times on the storied track and has a series leading 109.8 driver rating, which is over five points better than the second best (Tony Stewart 104.1). He was runner-up last season and his four wins there have come in the past eight seasons.
For Keselowski, he gets high marks because of the roll he's on which has seen him win two of the past three races on the season -- contributing to a current Ford streak of four straight wins. Prior to that Ford streak, a Hendrick Chevy had won five straight.
Keselowski is also co-favored because of how well he ran at Pocono Raceway last month where he led the most laps (95) before settling for second-place. I always equate Indy and Pocono together because of the long straightaways and the tight flat turns, or at least the tight flat turn three at Pocono. All four turns at Indy are flat and we've seen a big correlation there from who was strong at the previous Pocono race.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his first career race at Pocono in June and at 10/1 odds. He should be highly considered to get his first career win at the Brickyard and join his daddy in elite status who won there in 1995. Junior is tied with Keselowski with nine top-5 finishes on the season and has a series leading 13 top-10 finishes. He is having a championship-type of season and winning the Brickyard would be a great sign that he is championship-bound.
At Pocono, eight Chevy's finished in the top-10 and it's likely we'll see Chevy win for the 12th straight time at the Brickyard on Sunday. Until Menard and Newman, we rarely saw drivers at odds higher than 12/1 on the bricks, but a few candidates out there make a strong case just because of Pocono and having great Hendrick horsepower. Indian native Tony Stewart (15/1), Kyle Larson (25/1) and Las Vegan Kurt Busch (30/1) all have a great shot at winning.
Busch finished sixth in his first Indy 500 run in May and has all the built in criteria to be a winner at Indy based on the history. He's won a season championship (2004), he drives a Chevy and he ran well at Pocono (3rd)in June. Plus, he's 30/1, which is always enough of a price to try and sell myself on betting someone.
I'm going to roll with four-time Brickyard winner Jeff Gordon to win this week at 8/1. He won the first race for NASCAR on the fabled track (1994), he drives a Chevy, he's a past champion and he's been running great all season. Everything fits!
Top-5 Finish Prediction:
1) #24 Jeff Gordon (8/1)
2) #88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (10/1)
3) #48 Jimmie Johnson (5/1)
4) #41 Kurt Busch (30/1)
5) #2 Brad Keselowski (5/1)