AUTO RACING

Only one lead-change on track in 400

2013-07-28T19:00:00Z 2013-07-29T15:57:08Z Only one lead-change on track in 400Tim Cronin Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
July 28, 2013 7:00 pm  • 

SPEEDWAY | There are two racing-related parades each year in the Indianapolis area.

The first is the 500 Festival Parade, held annually downtown the day before the Indianapolis 500.

The second is the Brickyard 400.

Sunday’s race had 20 lead changes, but only one, when Joey Logano zoomed past Brad Keselowski at the entrance to Turn 3 on the 87th lap, came at speed on the track. The other 19 were caused by pit stop shuffles when the leader pitted.

In the early years of the race, the average number of on-track passes for the lead was three.

The lack of passing, along with the tire fiasco of 2008, have caused people to stay away from the race in large numbers. The grandstands, which seat about 235,000, appeared to welcome no more than 120,000 on a cool 69-degree Sunday.

The solution to the problem is vexing. Kasey Kahne, who finished third, remembers the good old days of about a decade past, before the track was diamond-ground to increase grip.

“I know in ’04, my first year here, it was pretty easy to pass,” Kahne said. “It was after they did some work to the track. You could run the outside, kind of a diamond (shape) and get runs down the straightaway. Now we can’t move around (taking a second line) enough.

"If they can make the surface or the tire so we can move around, it’s probably going to be the only way you’re going to make that happen.”

Said Jimmie Johnson, who couldn’t be caught when he led and couldn’t catch Ryan Newman in return, “You need a second lane with some kind of banking. These corners aren’t really that long. You have four 90- degree turns. That puts a lot against the track for side-by-side racing, but we still love this place.”

The lovers include Tony Stewart, dead against changes.

“We’re racing here,” Stewart barked. “If you want to see passing, we can go out on (Interstate) 465 and do all the passing you want. Racing is about figuring out how to take the package you’re allowed and make it better than what everybody else has and do a better job with it.

“For some reason in the last 10 years, everybody is on this kick that you have to be passing all the time. It’s racing, not passing. We’re racing.”

Kiss the bricks? Ick!: The tradition of kissing the bricks at the start-finish line, started by Brickyard 400 winner Dale Jarrett in 1996, was upheld on Sunday by winner Ryan Newman, his crew, and his family.

That was true of everyone but little Brooklyn, his 2 1/2 year old daughter but the wisest one in the family. She looked at the bricks, and Ryan, and demurred.

Around the Brickyard: Matt Kenseth, who finished fifth, on Jimmie Johnson’s powerful car: “Jimmie went by me so quick I thought he was going to suck the numbers off the doors.” ... In a Speedway first for any major race, every starter were around at the finish. The lack of “start-and-park” entries in the Sprint Cup series and a clean race – nobody even scraped the wall, much less had an accident – meant the 43 drivers who started finished, even Jeff Burton, who was 43rd and 50 laps off the pace. Burton’s crew replaced a gearbox in the garage and got him back on the track. ... The race was the fastest in Brickyard history at 2:36:22, with Newman’s average speed 153.485 mph. That was faster than Dale Earnhardt’s 155.218 in 1995, a race with only one caution to Sunday’s three yellows. ... Newman earned $423,033 from the purse of $9,265,009.

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