By: Drew Hierwarter
Well, at least the tires weren’t a problem this year. NASCAR’s once a year visit to the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway usually brings more hype and hyperbole than actual racing excitement, and this year was no exception.
We all knew that last year’s debacle with Goodyear tires that wouldn’t go more than 10 or 12 laps before shredding themselves wasn’t going to happen again. Throughout the months leading up to the race the media and the internet was full of reports on Goodyear’s near constant testing at Indy and how hard they were working to not have a repeat of the 2008 mess. To their credit, Goodyear spent millions of dollars and hundreds of manhours to make sure the tires they brought to Indy this time would last at least as long as a load of Sunoco fuel.
Nine times in the 400 mile race distance one of seven different drivers took over the lead of the race. Seven of those lead changes occurred due to the leaders making pit stops. Only two lead changes happened because one car passed another on the track. And both of those were on the new double file restarts after caution periods.
The rest of the time the leader, running in clean air, would be able to pull away from his nearest pursuer. Juan Pablo Montoya took over the lead from Mark Martin on lap four during the restart after an early caution and, except for when he made pit stops, held the lead until lap 136. Running out front in clean air Montoya was able to pull away from Martin and stay there easily. At one point he was more the five seconds ahead of second place Mark Martin. Five seconds is an eternity in NASCAR these days.
When Dale Earnhardt, Jr’s engine expired, bringing out only the third caution flag of the day, Montoya entered the pits for the last time. He had the dominant car throughout the race and barring something unusual, nobody was going to beat him. Then Montoya beat himself.
The speed limit on pit road was 55 mph and NASCAR gave the drivers a 5 mph cushion. Montoya, with no pressure and no reason to hurry, was electronically clocked at 60.11 mph in one segment of pit road, 60.06 in another, and above 59 mph in the rest of them.
The resulting drive through penalty put Montoya back in 12th place. With only 27 laps remaining in the race, and with traffic to contend with, the best he could do was an 11th place finish.
In the final laps, Mark Martin made a couple of vain attempts to get close enough to Jimmy Johnson to pass him, but in the end it was Johnson winning the third Brickyard 400 of his career.
The Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is prestigious because of the venue. The
The 2009 Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway may have been the headline event of the weekend, but all of the real racing occurred on Friday during the Camping World Truck Series race and Saturday in the Nationwide Series race over at the “little” speedway on the other side of town.