Johnson, Gordon looking for Indy history

July, 24, 2014
7/24/14
2:17
PM ET

Dozier Mobley/Getty ImagesJeff Gordon won the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994, and has added three more since.
This Sunday, NASCAR will go racing at one of the most historic tracks in motorsports, Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And two of NASCAR’s most-accomplished drivers, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, will have the chance to do something that only one other driver has ever done at the Brickyard, visit Victory Lane five times in a major race.

No driver has won the Indianapolis 500 more than four times -- A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser each have four wins in that race. But Johnson and Gordon will look to join Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher, who won the U.S. Grand Prix five times when the race was held at Indy.

With four wins apiece, both Johnson and Gordon have more Brickyard 400 wins than any other team combined in the race. Those two are responsible for all eight of Hendrick Motorsports’ wins in this race, while no other team has more than three.

The teammates will be on the short list of favorites for the race. Gordon is a regular in the top 10, with 16 in 20 Brickyard 400 starts. Johnson has won this race in four of the past eight years, and finished second behind Ryan Newman last year.

Those two don’t just have elite results, but they’ve been among the most dominant drivers in terms of raw speed. Since 2008 at Indianapolis, Johnson has paced the field with 153 fastest laps run, while Gordon is third with 97. From there, it’s a drop, as the fourth-place driver has 49 fastest laps.

Who else should we be watching for Sunday afternoon?

Busch and Montoya make return visit
The driver between Johnson and Gordon in fastest laps run is Juan Pablo Montoya, who will attempt to make the field in a third Team Penske entry this week.

Both Montoya, who finished fifth in the Indianapolis 500 earlier this season, and Kurt Busch (who was sixth), will attempt to be the fifth and sixth drivers to run both the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the same season.

Both also have a chance to join Tony Stewart as the only drivers to finish in the top 10 in both races in the same year. Stewart finished ninth in the 1999 Indianapolis 500, and seventh in the same year’s Brickyard 400.

Wider range of winners?
For the first 16 runnings of the Brickyard 400, every winner came from the top 10 in points, with the lowest points position of a winner being 10th, when Jeff Gordon won in 1994 for his second of 89 career wins.

But in the past four seasons, three of the winners entered 18th or lower in points, with Ryan Newman winning last year after entering 19th in the standings.

That being said, 40 percent (eight of 20) of the time this race’s winner has gone on to win the championship that same season.
Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.

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