Outside looking in

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 18, 2004

After taking a weekend off, the Nextel guys are headed to the Brickyard.

This is one of the most storied tracks in all of racing.

Although most of the chapters have been written by Indy Car drivers, most cup drivers and fans have fully embraced it. Sunday’s Allstate 400 at the Brickyard will be the 13th race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

With 16 races left in the season, and only six left until the cut for The Chase, there are a handful of Nextel All-Stars on the outside looking in.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, and Ryan Newman are among those who desperately need a win.

Points leader Jimmie Johnson, clinging to a 97-point lead, surely didn’t want to see this race pop up on the schedule. His average finish at the track is 25th and has historically been the turning point where his team begins to plummet in the points.

Johnson finished 38th at Indy a year ago and went from a 66-point lead over Tony Stewart to falling 75-points behind. By the time Johnson left Richmond six weeks later, he was fourth going into the Chase.

Two years ago, Johnson finished 36th at Indy and followed that with consecutive finishes of 40th place.

Johnson's teammate Jeff Gordon has 10 career top 10 finishes in 12 races at the Brickyard including five consecutively. Gordon and Dale Jarrett are the only two drivers who have repeat wins at this track.

Sunday’s race at the Brickyard will be Jarrett's 400th consecutive start and he’ll be the hands down sentimental favorite.

I think Jarrett, who is sitting in the 25th position in the points race, has his mind already on driving a Toyota and wondering what number the 2007 brown car’s going to be.

Jeff Burton, who is having a phenomenal year, historically performs well at this track, logging almost 1500 points in 10 races. A good showing by Burton at Indy, and a poor showing by Johnson could put him within striking distance of the points lead.

It would be hard to bet against Jeff Gordon in this race, and I fully expect he’ll be the one stooping over Sunday to give the bricks a sloppy, wet kiss.


action starts on NBC at 2 p.m.