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On the way to Sprint Cup Championship

Brickyard 400 

It doesn’t happen every year,  but if, as they say, history repeats itself, last Sunday’s winner at Indianapolis could have a date with NASCAR history following the Ford 400 in Miami on Nov. 21.
Eight times during the Brickyard 400’s 16-year existence the race winner has capped his season with the Sprint Cup Series title. Even more impressive, 14 of those 16 race winners have been a past, present, or future Sprint Cup champion.  
Those are pretty strong odds with just six aces remaining in the final ten race countdown of the “Race to the Chase,” the ten race summer stretch that sets the field for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Standings leader Kevin Harvick and Ricky Rudd are the only non-champion drivers to win the Brickyard 400 (Rudd in 1997 and Harvick in 2003). Right now the spotlight is squarely on Harvick who has bounced back from a win-less 2009 season that saw him miss the “Chase,” to enjoy a career year in 2010.   

Harvick has two wins in 2010, Talladega in February and Daytona three weeks ago. He has led the points race for the past 18 weeks, but needs to improve his Chase seeding.  “Our big turnaround started last year at Indy,”  Harvick said of Richard Childress Racing’s 2010 rebound.  
“We made a lot of management changes, and we started over on our race cars. We took a different direction with the engineering and really just came up with a new plan. But all the credit goes to Richard. He pulled the trigger on a lot of different things, whether it was reorganizing people or getting funds to build new cars. I mean, he stepped out on a huge limb to spend the money to start over halfway through the year, and it’s paying off for us.”
Jeff Gordon is another top 12 driver seeking a return to Victory Lane. The four-time champion is not only in the midst of his “Drive for five” pursuing his fifth Sprint Cup Championship, but Jeff and wife Ingrid are expecting their second child in the next few weeks. Gordon will have relief drives standing by at the next couple of races just in case he has to make a fast exit  to be present for the birth. Gordon sat for an interview with the media that followed the Cup circuit last weekend at Indianapolis.
As the only four-time Brick 400 winner and also a four-time Cup Champion, Gordon was naturally asked to rank the importance of the Wins at Indy to his career. Gordon responded. “They’re huge to me. I wasn’t born in Indiana but went to high school there, growing up there. Not just that but being born in California, racing was everything to me. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy 500, guys like Rick Mears and A. J. Foyt, Johnny Rutherford, Al Unser, all this guys were heroes of mine that I aspired to be like.
“Living in Indiana, racing around Indiana Indianapolis Raceway Park, the fairgrounds, Bloomington, all over the place, it was every short track open-wheel driver’s dream to race at Indianapolis one day. To be able to do that in the very first ever stock car race there in ‘94, win it, then go on to win it three more times is something that I probably put up as the highest accomplishment of my career.”
Asked his opinion on the recent Nationwide race dustup between Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski, Gordon said, “Well, I’m just glad that I’m not the one making those decisions. You know, I think it’s been well documented this year that NASCAR is allowing the racing to be more in the drivers’ hands, to stay out of some of those incidents that are judgment calls. Right now what I saw to me that was right on the edge of crossing the line, if not possibly crossing the line.  So it’s kind of a new era now. In the past, I would have immediately thought something would have been done.”
“The thing is, drivers have always taken care of these things on the track. It’s just how racers go about it, they log that in the back of their mind, and there’s going to be a time and a day. Who’s to say what the line is right now.  But I definitely have some questions when I get to the track to kind of clarify that a little bit.”  
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