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Gorches: Brickyard weekend gets a tune-up

Joe Torres East Chicago wsixth annual Post-Tribune Fantasy Nascar contest. | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media









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Joe Torres of East Chicago won the sixth annual Post-Tribune Fantasy Nascar contest. | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media ptmet

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Updated: August 28, 2012 6:22AM



It’s a whole new world for the Brickyard 400. Or should I call it the Crown Royal Presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard powered by BigMachineRecords.com?

Oh my god! I knew NASCAR was over the top with its sponsorship names — such as the Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola or the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover.

Come on now. It almost makes me miss the days of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.

Guess what 99 percent of NASCAR fans call it: The Brickyard 400 ... period.

And in case you’re wondering who Curtiss Shaver is, he’s an Alabama fireman who won some sort of contest to have his name added to an already long race name.

Whatever NASCAR wants you to call it because it makes money, this weekend will be much different than the previous 18 NASCAR weekends at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

First, instead of running Saturday’s Nationwide Series event at Lucas Oil Raceway (formerly Indianapolis Raceway Park) a couple miles away from the yard of bricks in Clermont, the race will cap off a busy Saturday for the first time at the same place the Sprint Cup race will take place.

And why not? It always baffled me why NASCAR didn’t hold the lesser series race at the iconic Brickyard — all 21/2 miles of it — and instead held it at 0.6-mile track.

IMS also added the Grand-Am Series race, which will run on Friday, to the busy weekend. Grand-Am cars run on the Indy road track that has been used for MotoGP races in recent years, and the Formula One United States Grand Prix that used to run in Indianapolis.

Running three races at IMS is a novel way to make up for dwindling attendance for the Sprint Cup Brickyard 400 in recent years. From having more than 250,000 for the race for more than a decade, to barely topping the 100,000 mark last year, something needed to be done from a business standpoint.

But I certainly hope the workers at IMS are getting hazard pay since three races could create logistical issues. For the first time in the track’s history, walls and tire barriers from the road course will need to be taken down quickly so that Saturday’s long day of oval racing can roll without a hitch.

Saturday used to be a calm day with some Sprint Cup practice, qualifying and that’s basically it. Now there’s a pair of Sprint Cup practices to start the morning, Nationwide qualifying to follow, then Sprint Cup qualifying, and finally the Nationwide race.

That’s a lot of racing. Several drivers will be scrambling because they’re running both races in different cars.

One of those will not be Danica Patrick, at least based on the entry list as of Thursday night. She will be running the Nationwide Series on Saturday, her first race at IMS since she stopped running the IndyCar Series in which she had two top-five finishes in the Indianapolis 500 (fourth in 2005 and third in 2009).

I would think she’d want to run both — first the Nationwide race to get used to the track in a stock car, and then the Sprint Cup race. Her driving style actually might work well at IMS because of how the cars tend to spread out during long green flag runs, and she’s a lot better when there aren’t cars around her.

Juan Pablo Montoya will be running twice — in Friday’s Grand-Am road race and he’ll try to finally win the Brickyard 400 after a couple close calls.

So what can we expect for Sunday’s main event? Look for fuel mileage to be a factor. It seems to be more prevalent in the last couple years with the new car design and it came into play last year when Paul Menard survived for the win because he barely had more fuel than the rest.

Tony Stewart loves this track since it’s only a little more than 20 miles from his home in Columbus, and he’s won twice (2005 and 2007). Jimmie Johnson has won three times (2006, 2008 and 2009) and his teammate, Jeff Gordon, has won four times. Gordon will try again to match F1 driver Michael Schumacher’s five victories at IMS.

But the last two years have been surprises — Menard and Jamie McMurray in 2010. So expect someone who hasn’t won at the Brickyard to challenge and maybe win. Let’s go with Kasey Kahne, Johnson, Stewart, Montoya and Gordon as my five driver picks.

Fantasy NASCAR: This year’s winner of the Post-Tribune’s sixth annual Fantasy NASCAR contest is Joe Torres of East Chicago. He won two tickets to Sunday’s race after just attending the Nationwide race at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday. So he’s ready for some more racing.

Thanks to all the participants in our contest. Entries were increased over the course of the campaign, and the reward for the readers is one more contest this week for the Brickyard. Send five driver picks by noon on Sunday and the winner will get a prize.



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