Stewart, Gordon lead way to Indy

Published 9:34 pm Thursday, July 23, 2009

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon both own multiple NASCAR Sprint Cup Series titles, multiple wins at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the top two spots in the current series standings.

Both drivers also appear primed for another championship run. And as NASCAR Sprint Cup teams prepare for Sunday’s Allstate 400 at The Brickyard, both return to a special place.

An Indiana native, Stewart resides in Columbus and considers Indianapolis his home track. Gordon spent his formative racing years in Indiana.

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For Gordon, a win would mean history.

The four-time series champion leads all NASCAR drivers with four wins at Indianapolis (1994, 1998, 2001, 2004). A fifth win would tie him with Formula 1 great Michael Schumacher for most wins at the historic track. He’s tied for second with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears – Indianapolis 500 champions, all.

“As a kid growing up, I always dreamed about racing at Indy and thought those dreams had gone away when I was moving down south and starting my NASCAR career,” Gordon said. “I love the fact that the Brickyard 400 happens every August or July. And it’s just a spectacular event.”

Stewart, a two-time series champion, has two Indianapolis victories (2005 and 2007). A third would mean another personal milestone in his first year of team ownership; even if Stewart-Haas Racing teammate and fellow Hoosier Ryan Newman (No. 39 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet) wins, Stewart would score his first victory as an owner at his favorite track.

Brick In The Road: Indianapolis An Important Stop For Title Contenders

Sunday’s 16th annual Allstate 400 at The Brickyard could portend the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.

The eventual series champion has won the race seven times in its 15-year history – no crystal balls required. That suggests Indianapolis as a serious signpost en route to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Two drivers have won it twice –Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. Gordon won at Indianapolis in his title years of 1998 and 2001 while Johnson did so in 2006 and 2008.

“I think the momentum is really going to be key just prior to the Chase,” Gordon said during Tuesday’s NASCAR Teleconference, “who can get that momentum and go into the Chase and even start the Chase with that strong momentum and continue it on.

Johnson said mastering the environment is the first step toward succeeding at Indianapolis.

“The track is a tricky track,” he said. “Clouds blow over, it changes the track dramatically, and speed, and how the car handles. All four corners are different and technical. The true character of that track shows up and the challenge of that track presents to everybody that shows up. And for a lot of years, it’s haunted me.

“But, here, the last couple times, it’s been good to me.”

Race To the Chase Update

Sunday’s Allstate 400 at The Brickyard is the fourth event in the Race to the Chase, the 10-race stretch that ends with the cutoff for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup – race No.26 of the season, Sept. 12 at Richmond International Raceway.

Following that event, the top 12 drivers will compete for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title during the season’s final 10 races.

This Sunday at Indianapolis represents a call to action for some drivers.

Stewart and Gordon, one-two, respectively, in the standings, need wins to improve their Chase seeding.

If the Chase began now, Mark Martin, currently 11th, would be the top seed thanks to his series-high four wins. Chase drivers’ point totals are reset to 5,000 with 10 points added for each win during the season’s first 26 events.

Martin would be followed by three-time 2009 winner Kyle Busch, currently 10th in the standings.

Stewart, a two-time winner in ‘09, would be third, followed by Johnson in fourth and Matt Kenseth in fifth, both also two-time winners in ‘09. Johnson is third in the current standings; Kenseth is 12th. Gordon, with one ‘09 win, would be sixth.

Sliding down, 13th-place Greg Biffle, trails Kenseth, his Roush Fenway Racing teammate, by 10 points. Fourteenth-place David Reutimann trails Biffle by 66 points and 12th place by 76.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series – Top 12 Drivers

Driver Points

1. Tony Stewart 2,884

2. Jeff Gordon 2,709

3. Jimmie Johnson 2,672

4. Kurt Busch 2,526

5. Denny Hamlin 2,457

6. Carl Edwards 2,438

7. Ryan Newman 2,385

8. Kasey Kahne 2,336

9. Juan Pablo Montoya 2,321

10. Kyle Busch 2,298

11. Mark Martin 2,296

12. Matt Kenseth 2,295