Newman Wins Brickyard 400, Race Panned on Social Networks by Race Fans

Ryan Newman and his family eagerly kiss the bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after Newman won the Brickyard for the first time in his career.

For the longest time, lap after lap, many who watched or heard the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway steadfastly panned it.

Jimmie Johnson, the five-time Sprint Cup champion whose unbending control over his NASCAR competition has alienated many of the sport’s fans, dominated the 160-lap race around the 2.5-mile Indy layout – almost to the end.

There was practically no passing for the lead. Only the two-car restarts following caution periods offered any anticipation, drama or excitement. And in the end, there wasn’t much of anything.

Via the power and speed of the social networks, many fans expressed their disgust:

“This race would be a good cure for insomnia.”

“Well, guess what? Jimmie is in the lead. Have we seen this before (yawn)?”

“This proves again that Indy is more hype than substance.”

“Understand the history and hype at Indy. But is this race really a crown jewel? Should be Daytona, Bristol, Darlington and Talladega.”

That, again, a relatively small crowd by Indy standards attended the race simply fueled the negative reviews.

An individual who had years of experience at the track estimated the crowd for the Brickyard 400 to be around 70,000.

Jimmie Johnson was easily the race’s dominant driver as he lead 73 lap of 160 laps. But a slow late-race pit stop cost him the victory.

Not a bad number by any means, but when compared to the estimated attendance for many past NASCAR events to be in the 300,000 range, it is so low that it is virtually mind-boggling.

Again, the social networks buzzed. Comments ranging from Indy’s poor sight lines to the economics of the day – not helped by Indy’s jacked-up hotel rates – to the lame NASCAR competition were blamed for the loss of attendance.

To be fair, attendance at most NASCAR events has dwindled over the years. Indianapolis is simply a part of it.

Maybe there’s a reason for this – one, I might add, that has been expressed often and was repeated on the social networks:

“Why should I spend good money to go to a race when I can stay home and watch it on TV? No, TV is not perfect. But it is cheap.”

But also expressed was the notion that no matter how dull the race was, it might well become something much more substantial and entertaining in the closing laps.

After all, that has happened many times in NASCAR.

And, indeed, it happened at Indy.

No, the result was not a side-by-side dash for victory, or a late-race crash that set up a green-white-checkered finish.

It was a scenario in which the only competitor who could keep up with Johnson beat the race’s dominant driver.

And for that to happen a mistake made all the difference.

With 27 laps to go Johnson, who had led 73 laps, made his final pit stop. The decision was made to change four tires.

But what appeared to be a problem on the right-rear tire change extended his stop to 16 seconds – four more than was routine.

A lap later Newman pitted. His crew chief, Matt Borland, realized the difficulty experienced by Johnson’s No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team.

So he directed that Newman pit for two tires and fuel only. He knew Newman would have a distinct advantage.

Although Newman and Johnson emerged in 10th and 11th place, respectively, that would change as those ahead of them made their final pit stops.

By lap 149, Newman was in the lead and his margin was 3.3 seconds over Johnson.

Only a late-race caution offered any chance things could change. But it never happened.

Newman went on to victory over Johnson by 2.657 seconds. It wasn’t close.

“Matt and all these guys did a great job,” Newman said. “It was probably the best race car I have ever driven in my entire life.

“I watched Jimmie, kept quiet. I played the old (David) Pearson role. I knew I had a good car. I didn’t want to have a good car and not win the race.

“Matt’s call gave me the track position I needed, taking the two tires.  I was just counting down the laps from that point on.

“I didn’t know how far back Jimmie was.  I was told it was four seconds at that point.  I knew I had to manage my race car and my tires.

“I knew it was so difficult to pass.  His car was looking looser and looser as I ran behind him.  It was just an exciting day.”

It was Newman’s first victory since he won at Martinsville in the spring of 2012. It was the 17th of his career.

He started from the pole position after he was the last driver to qualify, and ironically, knocked Johnson off the No. 1 spot.

It was Newman’s first win since it was announced earlier this year that he would no longer be part of Stewart Haas Racing next season.

But it’s likely Newman won’t have difficulty getting a good ride. After all, the Brickyard 400 is his second victory among the crown jewel events. He won the 2008 Daytona 500 when he finished ahead of Tony Stewart, presently his team owner.

He is the third Indiana native to win the Brickyard 400. The others are Jeff Gordon, who has won four times and hails from Pittsboro, Ind., and Stewart, a two-time winner from Columbus, Ind.

Newman is an engineer, a Purdue University graduate from South Bend, Ind.

“To me, it’s awesome to be here at Indy,” he said. “It’s awesome because it’s my home state.  I grew up racing around here.  That makes it special.

“Most people don’t know, I lived out in a shop in Jeff Gordon’s old shop before I ever made it in NASCAR.  I slept with the race cars.  That was my summer job, working race cars, sleeping in the shop with them.”

As for Johnson, his ninth finish among the top five not only secured his No. 1 standing in points, it enhanced it. He’s now 75 points ahead of Clint Bowyer with six races remaining before the Chase.

As for Indianapolis, there is no doubt this year’s Brickyard 400 did nothing when it comes to enhancement.

But that can – and might – change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Ricky Whittenburg says:

    NASCAR absolutely has to do something about the racing at the bigger tracks. I don’t think there’s a lot of hope at Indy due to the track itself but I’ve seen races there where passing occurred much more than this past race. Now we go to Pocono where we just had a gem of the race in June. 12 lead changes among 4 drivers however the only green flag pass for the lead on track occurred on lap 10 when Johnson first moved to the lead around Carl Edwards. Turd followed by another turd.

    NASCAR has to evaluate the Gen6 car and figure out how to add more mechanical grip and take away aero grip however possible. Slow the cars down too. Who cares if they are breaking track records if the racing is no good? Give Goodyear the green light to make a softer tire that falls off producing more passing. There has to be ways to take away aero grip from the cars to take that bad word mostly out of the vocabulary. We didn’t hear one mention of aero grip at the Camping World Truck race at Eldora and the cars were slower than they are at any other track and guess what? The racing was so much better.

    Attendance dipping below 80,000 at the Brickyard has to be a wake up call for NASCAR. This isn’t the golden age of the sport anymore. People have hundreds of ways to stay entertained on weekends without NASCAR. This summer stretch is when they should gain momentum without having to compete with the giants – NFL and NCAA College football. But this summer stretch has produced a bunch of forgetful racing, little excitement, and more empty seats in the grandstands than ever before. Not surprisingly, the best races of the summer stretch were at Sonoma and Daytona. Two vastly different tracks but two tracks where aero grip and clean air don’t mean all that much. Coincidence?

    NASCAR better remember and learn from CART. At one time I’m sure they thought that they would never have problems either and we all know what happened to them. I want to see NASCAR succeed and thrive but the powers that be need to do everything they can to improve the quality of racing on the field. And I usually agree with Tony Stewart but Tony fans do care about passing. If I want to see strategy and just overall hard racing I’ll just watch F1 and forget about Cup.

  2. DLJ says:

    The Cups cars have too much horsepower and rely too much on aerodynamic down- and side-force. I believe stock cars can put on a reasonably good race at Indy (…yesterday was not a good race. It wasn’t even a legit race …I’d say 3 or the 4 cautions were bogus, bunch-the-field types.)

    No more splitters, no more side skirts, and a small spoiler. Skin the cars in factory-made, STOCK sheet metal.

    …but no one in power is listening. I think a few more people showed up this year to see if the new car had anything to offer and they saw ONE green flag pass for the lead. The attendance next year will fall again. Sad. I like Indy. I respect Indy. And I’d like to see NASCAR be successful there but the current racing is just pathetic.

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