Jimmie Johnson, aka 5-Time, earned his fourth Brickyard 400 win yesterday. It’s his first trip to Victory Lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 2009. Each of the last times Johnson won this race, he also won the Sprint Cup Championship.
The victory is Johnson’s 58th in his career and ties him with Jeff Gordon, Rick Mears, A.J. Foyt and Al Unser in total wins at the world’s most famous yard of bricks. For the season, Johnson now has three wins and sits fourth in the Sprint Cup points standings. The Emperor, as I like to call him, has proven that he can regain his throne in 2012.
The 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, led by Crew Chief Chad Knaus, was out front 125 of the 160 laps. Once the Green Flag flew on the final restart of the race at Lap 140, Johnson took the lead and built almost a five second cushion as he cruised to the win.
Kissing The Bricks
Following the race, Johnson and his crew rode around the track together in a convertible to wave to the few fans left at the track (More on that later). After the victory lap, the team stopped at the Start/Finish line to continue the tradition of kissing the bricks.
A row of purple pillows for kneeling upon awaited the 48 team. That was the first time I noticed pillows during the kissing ceremony. I’m assuming the purple pillows were provided by Crown Royal, as it was the main sponsor for the race.
The Best Of The Rest
Early in the Brickyard 400, Denny Hamlin, who was on the pole, maintained a lead an appeared to be a threat to win. Unfortunately, he spun his tires on the restart at Lap 46 and fell to 14th place. Hamlin spent the rest of the race fighting lapped traffic. He finished the race in 6th place.
Kyle Busch was the runner-up to Johnson, and that was a big boost for him. Busch has been struggling to finish races as various mechanical problems have dropped him out of the Top Ten in points. Busch is 11th in the Sprint Cup Standings and owns the second Wild Card spot for now.
Greg Biffle had another quiet, strong race with a 3rd place finish. He continues to solidify his spot in The Chase, as he remains in the 3rd in the overall standings.
A 4th place finish was good enough for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to take over 1st place in the Sprint Cup standings. The last time Earnhardt was the overall leader was 2004.
Jeff Gordon collected his third Top 5 of 2012, but that’s still not good enough for him. Gordon described the race as a “solid day.” Unfortunately, only victories matter for him right now. He will need to win twice in the next six races to have a chance at making The Chase. As I’ve said all along, three wins is necessary to guarantee a spot in NASCAR’s post season.
Gordon likely had the strongest car to challenge Johnson. However, his pit crew was two seconds too slow on the final pit stop of the day. That made Gordon fall from second to sixth place and mired him in traffic the rest of the race. At one point, Gordon fell to eighth as the laps wound down.
“Sit Anywhere You Want” Day
I Tweeted about the attendance during the race. The crowd was sparse, so there were plenty of good seats available. At least, as good as you can have at The Brickyard. Despite the greatness of the track, there aren’t may seats that provide perfect views.
- The debut for Carl Edwards’ new Crew Chief, Chad Norris, was a bust. Engine problems popped up on Lap 13 and relegated Edwards to a 29th place finish.
- Brad Keselowski finished in 9th place after his original plan to win on fuel mileage didn’t pan out.
- Tony Stewart, who finished 10th, was ESPN’s In-Race Reporter. That was entertaining, especially when he was interviewed following he and Matt Kenseth banging into each other on the track.
- Kenseth lost the points lead when he was caught up in Joey Logano’s wreck right after his Stewart incident. Kenseth finished 35th.
- The full name of the race was Crown Royal Presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard.
It’s back to Pocono Raceway next Sunday. Television coverage begins at 12:00 ET on ESPN.