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Top 25 Moments at the Brickyard | 25-21

 

Editor’s Note: This is a five-part series looking back at the top 25 moments in the 24-year history of the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line. The moments will be unveiled five at a time, starting with No. 25 and finishing with No. 1. The 25th Running of the event is scheduled for Sept. 7-9 at IMS.

No. 25: Fuelish move for dominant Jarrett. It appeared Dale Jarrett, not Jeff Gordon, would become the first two-time winner at the Brickyard through the first half of the 1998 Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line.

1996 winner Jarrett took the top spot on Lap 54 and drove away from the field. He was on cruise control, seemingly headed for history as the first two-time winner of the Cup Series race at IMS and also destined for a $1 million bonus to the race winner from series sponsor Winston.

Jarrett led by four seconds over inaugural Brickyard winner Jeff Gordon on Lap 80 when his No. 88 Quality Care/Ford Credit Ford sputtered on the backstretch during green-flag racing. Jarrett’s car was out of fuel and coasting, painfully crawling down the pit entry lane and pit road without power as the field zipped past on the racetrack.

The fuel-starved car finally halted only a few hundred feet down pit lane, and the Robert Yates Racing crew was forced to sprint up pit road and push the car to its stall for service.

Jarrett returned to the track four laps down after the calculation mistake by crew chief Todd Parrott and his crew. As a testament to the dominant speed of his car, Jarrett made up all four laps on the field over the final 80 laps but never again contended for victory, finishing 16th.

It was one of the cruelest, most shocking disappointments in the history of the race, leaving the affable Jarrett nearly speechless after the race.

"I drive the race car; I come in when they tell me to come in, and that's all I do," an angry Jarrett said. "We ran out of gas. It's as simple as that."

The Robert Yates Racing team atoned for its mistake a year later, as Jarrett dominated for his second victory – without any fuel calculation problems. Still, 1998 always will be the one that got away.

No. 24: Speed trap snags dominant Montoya. The list of heart-wrenching disappointments at the Brickyard started with Dale Jarrett running out of fuel while leading by four seconds at the midway point of the 1998 race.

That event had bitter company after 2009.

2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya was crushing the field during the 2009 race in his No. 42 Target Chevrolet fielded by Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, leading 116 of the 124 laps in one of the most dominant drives in the history of the race.

Formula One veteran Montoya led by five seconds and appeared to be cruising toward racing history, becoming the first driver to win the Indianapolis 500 and Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line. He entered the pits for his last stop with 35 laps left but was caught speeding.

Montoya protested on his radio with the famous “I swear on my children and my wife that I was not speeding. No way!”

Way. The penalty was no mistake. NASCAR timing data showed Montoya’s car was speeding while crossing two of the multiple electronic timing loops embedded into pit lane.

That mistake and subsequent drive-through penalty dropped Montoya to 11th at the finish. Jimmie Johnson drove to the front for keeps on Lap 137 and held off charging 50-year-old Mark Martin – who the day before became the oldest pole sitter ever at IMS – by .400 of a second at the finish, becoming the second three-time winner of the race.

No. 23: Trading paint, setting the table. Make no mistake: This was a pure PR stunt, plain and simple. But it also paved the way for one of the most talented and successful drivers of his generation to come to NASCAR.

NASCAR superstar Jeff Gordon and 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner and Formula One race winner Juan Pablo Montoya swapped cars June 11, 2003 for laps on the IMS road course in a publicity stunt to generate media interest in the Big Machine 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line and United States Grand Prix Formula One races at IMS.

Gordon grew up racing USAC open-wheel cars on short tracks but moved to NASCAR in 1990 instead of continuing in open-wheel competition in CART or European formula racing. He always was mentioned on both sides of the Atlantic as the great American talent who got away from open-wheel racing, for a variety of reasons.

Montoya was one of the most talented drivers of his day, winning the CART championship in 1999, the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie in 2000 and winning the Monaco Grand Prix in F1 just 10 days before the car swap.

The “Trading Paint” function captivated racing fans and media worldwide. SPEED Channel broadcast it live.

It was the first time Gordon and Montoya ever drove an F1 and NASCAR car, respectively. But you never would have known it based on their performance.

Gordon showed his talent immediately by turning quick laps in Montoya’s Williams F1 car, leading some to speculate he could be offered an F1 test drive or race drive at age 32. Montoya also looked like a natural in Gordon’s Chevrolet Monte Carlo, getting an immediate feel for the heavier vehicle and less efficient brakes, and raving about how the car slid around so much more than an aerodynamically planted F1 car.

While Gordon never left NASCAR to test or race in F1, the pure enjoyment of the ride swap may have planted a seed in Montoya’s mind about racing in NASCAR. Fast-forward three years, and Montoya announced he was leaving the powerful McLaren team in F1 to return home to Chip Ganassi Racing, with which he won the CART title and the Indy 500, to race full time in the NASCAR Cup Series starting in the 2007 season.

No. 22: Commercial viability. The idea of a second major race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway besides the Indianapolis 500 didn’t just bubble up in the early 1990s when International Race of Champions (IROC) and NASCAR Cup Series cars tested for the first time on the 2.5-mile oval.

A USAC Stock Car division race was proposed for IMS in the late 1960s but didn’t happen. NASCAR Founder Bill France threatened to move the July Firecracker 400 NASCAR race from Daytona International Speedway to IMS in 1980 during a tax dispute with officials from the City of Daytona Beach and Volusia County, but all was resolved, with the race staying at DIS.

But there was one event that took place Sept. 24, 1991 at IMS that may have been an underrated, underreported catalyst toward the first NASCAR race at the Brickyard.

Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt enjoyed a long sponsorship partnership with Craftsman tools, and a commercial featuring Foyt and Craftsman was filmed that day in the Gasoline Alley garage area at IMS.

Foyt’s NASCAR Cup Series Oldsmobile Cutlass stock car was in the garage area during the filming, and Foyt and then-IMS President Tony George decided to take the car out for a few laps on the 2.5-mile IMS oval. Foyt was the first driver behind the wheel, followed by George.

The event was completely impromptu, just a fun spin between two longtime friends. The only coverage the next day in the Indianapolis Star was a black-and-white feature photo of Foyt’s Copenhagen Oldsmobile driving under the flag stand and across the Yard of Bricks with the headline, “NASCAR at Indy?” The opening line of the photo caption read, “This was an unusual sight Tuesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway: A NASCAR stock car circling the 2 ½-mile oval.”

A subsequent line in the caption read, “A preview of things to come, perhaps? Actually, Foyt was filming a commercial for Sears tools in his Copenhagen Oldsmobile.”

But that photo – and the fun hot laps – were a portent of things to come. Less than three months later, the IMS Board of Directors approved a proposal by George to hold a second major race at IMS. That race became the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994.

No. 21: Clean sweep for Kyle. No one should have been surprised that Kyle Busch swept both the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Powered by Florida Georgia Line for the NASCAR Cup Series and the Lilly Diabetes 250 for the NASCAR Xfinity Series in July 2016 at IMS.

After all, Busch pulled off the same feat for the first time the previous year. But the level of crushing dominance by Busch was something never seen before or since at IMS during a NASCAR weekend.

The talented, mercurial Busch swept both the Cup Series and Xfinity Series races from the pole in 2016, the only time in history that has been achieved. The Brickyard 400 victory ensured Busch became just the second driver to win in consecutive years at the Brickyard, joining Jimmie Johnson in 2008 and 2009.

While the Brickyard 400 needed 170 laps – 10 more than scheduled – and two “overtime” attempts to achieve a green-flag finish, the outcome never was in doubt. Busch led an event-record 149 laps, including the last 109 trips around the 2.5-mile oval. It was the most crushing performance by a winner in Brickyard history.

 
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