Sigh.Â My boys have come home to play in my backyard (or should I say Brickyard haha!) this weekend and I couldn’t be more excited.Â I have mixed emotions about the Brickyard 400 believe it or not.Â Yes, even as the most loyal IMS attendee on the planet this place forces me to down a few Tylenol from time to time.
I’ve seen my favorite driver Tony Stewart win here twice, the first time being my very first Brickyard 400 and I was also in attendance for the Great Tire Debacle of 2008 whichÂ gave Jimmie JohnsonÂ his second Brickyard 400 title in three years.Â So it’s been a roller coaster ride for sure.
However, this weekend is not about reflection.Â It’s about looking forward to this weekend’s race because after the checkers drop on Sunday, IMS is in for some major changes for 2012.Â Who am I putting my money on this weekend?Â Who wouldn’t I touch with a ten-foot pole at IMS?
IMS Fun Fact:Â Churchill Downs, Yankee Stadium, the Rose Bowl, the Roman Colosseum and Vatican City all can fit inside the IMS oval, which covers 253 acres. (IMS Official Site)
The Track:Â Ummm…Indianapolis Motor Speedway.Â Need I elaborate a little bit more?Â This is the most historical race track in all of sports in the entire world.Â It’s fancy terminology for the largest brick square in all of sports.Â The track was first paved in 1909 and the one-yard strip of bricks at the start/finish line isÂ what remains of theÂ brick track.Â There is little passing at the 2 1/2-mile track and the last time itÂ was touched was back in 2004 when they removed 2.5 inches from the track surface.Â Will there be a repeat of 2008?Â No.Â Will we see tons of passing?Â No.Â What the hell will I see?Â You’ll see cars hauling mail at nearly 200Â miles per hour. So if you can’t appreciate this, then take up watching grass grow or corn grow as we are assumed to do here in the Hoosier State.
The Weather:Â Unless you live in Alaska, the entire country is burning up right now and IMS has not been excluded from the blistering heat of summer.Â Thursday looks good for the drivers as they arrive at IMS with temps hovering around 100 degrees.Â Friday and Saturday see a chance of an isolated thunderstorm with temps in the mid-90s which may or may notÂ hinder track conditions.Â Race day looks good with mostly sunny skies and a high near 90 degrees.Â So fans attending (like me), make sure you bring plenty of water and sunscreen this weekend.Â You’ll need it as you always have at the Brickyard 400.
Qualifying:Â There are 48 teams entered into this weekendâ€™s Brickyard 400 but only 43 slots available for starting positions.Â Remember, cars that are not in the top 35 in points must qualify on speed or else they go home.Â Surprise names on the entry list?Â Two-time Winston Cup champion Terry Labonte, Indiana native David Stremme, and Casey Mears (nephew of IMS and Indy 500 legend Rick Mears).
Who to Watch:Â Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart.Â If you combine all three names these guys have won NINE of the past seventeen Brickyard 400′s.Â So there’s a great chance one of these three will have a private moment with the yard of bricks.Â My statistical pick for this weekend?Â Jeff Gordon.Â His last Brickyard 400 victory was 2004 right before the Tony-Jimmie domination began at IMS.
Don’t bet on:Â Juan Pablo Montoya.Â I don’t need anymore names on this list other than his.Â In 2009 he dominated the race and led 116 laps and then was penalized for speeding in the pits.Â In 2010, again, dominated the race and led 86 laps but lost the lead due to a late pit stop for tires and never recovered.Â Juan has won everything at IMS except for this race.Â The Brickyard 400 hates him and hasn’t shown him love since 2007 when he finished second to Tony Stewart.
Dark Horses:Â Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch.Â Matt has two wins this season and an average finish of 7.5 so maybe he isn’t a dark horse but his name never comes up at IMS.Â Kyle Busch has four top-tens in six Brickyard 400 starts.Â Last year he finished eighth and is having an incredible 2011 season.
Race Winner:Â No matter what the stats and number say, when I hear Brickyard 400 one name comes to mind and my heart belongs to Tony StewartÂ at this track.Â He loves this place, lives thirty minutes away and is getting ever so close to that victory every weekend.Â He finished second two weeks ago to Ryan Newman and this is his time right now.
I’m pulling out all the stops this weekend and wearing all my lucky race gear and shaving my legs on race day just for TonyÂ (don’t ask – it’s an old tradition of mine I’ve been doing for years until he stopped winning).Â If he happens to land in Victory Lane, let’s hope he doesn’t slip up on national television like he did in 2007:
Race Wiener:Â Juan Pablo Montoya.Â He’s getting attention this weekend (and not in a good way)Â because IMS is notÂ his friend.Â He’ll either wreck or win this race and I don’t thinkÂ he’s ready to kiss and make up with this track anytime soon.Â Sorry, Juan.
This weekend’s Brickyard 400 is going to be hot, humid and crazy.Â I’m crossing my fingers for no technicalities where yellow flags will be thrown every twelve laps and I’m praying the traffic is smooth which it always has been in years past.Â I’m not telling you where I park.Â It’ll be a bittersweet weekend for me because after this weekend I won’t see IMS until May of next year so hopefully the tears I will be shedding will be for Tony Stewart in Victory Lane.
Join Us:Â Erin and Morgann will have a live Twitter feed of Sunday’s Brickyard 400 along with all of the weekend’s racing action via #AerysSports and #NASCAR on Twitter.Â Make sure you look for us via AerysSports on Twitter as well!