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NASCAR:  Kissing Bricks and Bringing Home the Bacon     Share

25 July 2010

Jamie McMurray won the Brickyard 400 on Sunday, placing himself square in the history books.  He also won the Daytona 500 this year.  That feat has only been done twice before, and McMurray’s team’s owner, Chip Ganassi, has now been the owner of the winners of the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500, and the Brickyard 400 in the same year. Nobody has ever done that.  The owner/car/team relationship is a bit complicated and you can get the details in my NASCAR Basics Article.

Although you’ve probably heard of the Daytona and Indianapolis 500 races in NASCAR, what makes the Brickyard 400 matter is money and viewership.  This year, Jamie and his team raked in a cool $438,000 and some change, making it the second highest paying race in NASCAR.  Additionally, an obscene 250,000 people attended the race.  As a matter of comparison, that’s about 2 ½ times more fans than the largest college football stadium.

Last year’s winner of the race, Juan Pablo Montoya led the first 86 of the 160 laps.  He made the grave error of taking four tires during a pit stop.  McMurray only took two, and in his after race interview credited much of the win to the decision to take two tires instead of four.  I didn’t major in aerodynamics, but the time lost on four tires apparently wasn’t worth it and being able to drive in “clean air” played more of a role.  Who’d have guessed?  In reality, the tactical decisions on how many tires to take, whether to gas up, and what adjustments to make on a car during critical pits can mean the difference between winning and ending up in the middle of the pack.  Montoya also crashed with 16 laps to go, completely ending his run to two consecutive wins.

In addition, Jimmie Johnson, the winner of the past four Sprint Cups fell from 3rd to 4th in the overall point standings.  It's not that significant, as the top 12 advance to “The Chase,” but it signals a sign of weakness, something he hasn’t shown in awhile.  This could be the year somebody else finally gets to win the Cup.

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One more thing, the Brickyard 400 is called Brickyard because of its location.  It is actually held at the Indianapolis Super Speedway, but many don’t know that Indy’s nickname is Brickyard, so called because it started out as a brick racetrack.  In fact, it still has a strip of bricks at the finish line.  After the race, the winners typically kiss the layer of bricks at the finish line. 
You also get to see the ridiculous side of NASCAR as the racing team kisses the bricks multiple times wearing each of their sponsors’ hats.  Sponsorship in NASCAR is king and if you ever wondered about that, watch the end of a race.  Every racecar driver they interview is drinking something different – Coca Cola or Red Bull depending on whom their sponsor is.  The bottles are obviously thrust into the driver’s hand right before the camera is placed upon them.  Needless to say, nobody is sponsored by Ensure.

Now we all wait for “The Chase,” NASCAR’s play-offs.  It starts with the Sylvania 300 on 19 September.  If you’ll remember from my basics article, the top 12 drivers get to compete, with their points reset.  I’ll do my best to pause for a moment with my obsession with college football to update you on the Chase, but don’t hold me to it.  
One Liner:  “Maybe McMurray should be driving the best car instead of Montoya.” – referring to Juan Pablo Montoya, who is on the same team as Jamie McMurray.  Montoya drove the best car on the team, but still lost because he took 4 tires instead of 2.  Meanwhile McMurray won the two biggest $ races.  Montoya may be the better racer, but McMurray is coming through in the big ones.