Weather plays a role in Brickyard qualifying
By Steve T. Gorches 648-3141 or email@example.com July 28, 2012 11:24PM
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JULY 28: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, speaks to the media during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 28, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images for NASCAR)
1. Jeff Gordon, 2. Carl Edwards, 3. Kasey Kahne, 4. Juan Pablo Montoya, 5. Jimmie Johnson
For more from Indianapolis Motor Speedway, visit Steve’s blog at blogs.post-trib.com/gorches, or follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches during today’s race.
Updated: August 30, 2012 6:34AM
INDIANAPOLIS — About five spots before his qualifying run on Saturday for the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Greg Biffle looked up to the sky, analyzing the location of clouds and sun just before a television reporter asked him about it.
“I think it’s all about luck right now — looking for that cloud cover for a little more grip,” Biffle said.
He wasn’t the only one looking up, and it turned out to be a premonition halfway through qualifying, as the heavens determined fates on the 21/2-mile auto racing mecca.
Biffle notched the fifth spot in Sunday’s starting lineup while two fellow Ford cars were also in the top five — Carl Edwards in second and Aric Almirola in fourth.
The Fords will be joined by a pair of Toyota drivers in the top five, led by polesitter Denny Hamlin. The other Toyota is Joey Logano in third.
It’s the first time since 2001 that none of the top five qualifiers at the Brickyard were Chevrolet cars. The top driver from NASCAR’s most successful manufacturer over the last decade is three-time Brickyard winner Jimmie Johnson in sixth.
Hamlin confirmed that the skies helped determine his position.
“Our car was good,” said Hamlin, whose previous best qualifying effort at the Brickyard was 10th in 2007. “The only disadvantage we had was that the sun was out at least on the front stretch from what I could see. When (that happens), it’s more about just hitting your marks. You know the track is going to be slick and you prepare for that.”
More than any other track on the Sprint Cup Series, the Brickyard is so sensitive — whether it’s the weather or difficulty passing or a flat, rough surface creating havoc with tires.
“It’s going to be all about maintaining track position because it’s so hard to pass here,” said Hamlin, who is fifth in the Sprint Cup standings with seven races remaining before the Chase, 79 points behind first.
Hamlin knows he’s closing in on clinching a spot in NASCAR’s playoffs.
“It’s hard to point to the outfield, but we have the bat halfway raised,” he said.
It’s tough to determine the bigger surprise of the top five qualifiers — Edwards or Almirola.
It was Almirola’s first appearance at the Brickyard in his 51st Sprint Cup Series race.
“It’s exciting to come here with all the history, so I’m tickled to death to run here this weekend,” he said.
It was Edwards’ first qualifying effort under new crew chief Chad Norris, who stepped in after the last race at Loudon, H.H., two weeks ago when Bob Osborne cited health concerns as the reason for stepping down.
“It’s a testament to our whole team and everybody at the shop, the ability to rally around a cause” said Edwards, who had never worked with Norris before practice this week. “After Loudon we were all scratching our heads. To come here two weeks later and have a qualifying effort like this says a lot about Bob, (car owner) Jack (Roush), Chad and all the engineers.”
Edwards admitted he’s rarely felt good after qualifying at Indy. His best previous effort was ninth in 2008 when he went on to finish second.
“It’s just one lap and anything can happen, but it’s the first step to us coming back and making the Chase,” said Edwards, who is 11th in the standings, 44 points from the key 10th spot.
For more from Indianapolis Motor Speedway, visit Steve’s blog at blogs.post-trib.com/gorches, or follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches during Sunday’s race.