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ESPN.com picks the Brickyard podium

7/30/2011 - NASCAR

INDIANAPOLIS -- We have a first at ESPN.com -- total disagreement.

Our five writers made predictions Saturday for the top-3 results in Sunday's Brickyard 400 (1 p.m. ET, ESPN). Clearly, great minds don't think alike. Six picks, six different winners.

Ed Hinton joined me in picking a Roush Fenway Racing driver as the winner -- Matt Kenseth for me and Carl Edwards for Ed, which shows how crazy we are since Jack Roush's boys are 0-for-17 at Indy.

Ryan McGee decided on Jeff Gordon, despite his advancing age.

David Newton went with Dale Earnhardt Jr., banking that the turnaround starts now.

John Oreovicz took Juan Pablo Montoya, the man who should have won this event the last two years. And our resident hair champion -- Marty Smith -- went with Kurt Busch.

So we spread the love, and it will be a bit embarrassing if we all get it wrong.

-- Terry Blount

Here's a voter-by-voter breakdown of the results:

Pick Your Podium

ESPN.com writers Terry Blount, Ed Hinton, Ryan McGee, David Newton, John Oreovicz and Marty Smith give their predictions for the top-3 finishers in the 18th anniversary running of the Brickyard 400.


I'm going out on a limb and hope it doesn't break. Roush Fenway Racing is 0-for-17 at the Brickyard, but all bad things must come to an end sometime.

Terry Blount Blount

The RFR boys have been strong all season, but the key advantage this weekend could be the FR9 engine. It produces big horsepower, mandatory at Indy with the long straightaways. And the motor has an advanced cooling system that might come into play Sunday with temperatures expected to be in the 90s during the race.

All the Roush drivers have looked strong in practice this weekend, but so has Jimmie Johnson. He's the man at Indy, assuming his pit crew doesn't mess things up.

And if anyone is due here, it's Juan Pablo Montoya. Just watch out for the pit-road police.

-- Terry Blount


The buzz of Gasoline Alley is that Carl Edwards and his 99 team are falling apart due to uncertainty over where he'll be next year. 

Ed Hinton Hinton

But this is just the kind of race where they can rally and win. I think they will.

Juan Pablo Montoya is strong again, but can he put a whole 400 together? Maybe this time. You never can count out Jeff Gordon here, even when he's slumping. And he's not slumping this year.

-- Ed Hinton


Jeff Gordon's tired of hearing about turning 40, which happens this week.

Ryan McGee McGee

He's tired of hearing about his role as the sport's elder statesman. And, though he'd never admit it publicly, he's tired of being asked about winning the inaugural '94 Brickyard 400. He's all about the present. And nothing would shift the focus back to 2011 like a win at the place he's owned for most of his career.

For Tony Stewart, it's summer, which means Smoke is starting to peak. He wants off the Chase bubble. There's no better place for him to do it. Carl Edwards edges Jimmie Johnson on my list because of the 48's pit crew woes. Indy likes to put big names in Victory Lane and this year there's no bigger name with an oh-fer on his Brickyard resume than Cuz. Well, him and Kyle Busch.

-- Ryan McGee


Call me crazy, and I know many of you have, but I'm going with a huge upset. I'm going with Dale Earnhardt Jr.

David Newton Newton

Forget he's had only two top-10s in 11 starts here. Forget he's in a five-race slump that has him on the brink of falling out of the Chase. Look at this season and his 2006 season and they are almost parallel with a fast start, slump and then rally.

The rally in 2006 began at Indianapolis with a sixth-place finish. It'll begin here on Sunday with a win.

Now for my safe picks. Go with Jimmie Johnson. He's won three of the last five at Indy and knows how to get around this place. After that I've got Juan Pablo Montoya, who easily could have won the last two Brickyard 400s. Forget that he has a new crew chief. Toss in the same setup and just take two tires at the end.

-- David Newton


Juan Pablo Montoya isn't interested in history, but he already knows how much it means to win at Indianapolis.

John Oreovicz Oreovicz

He must also know that adding a Brickyard 400 victory to his triumph in the 2000 Indianapolis 500 would rank very high on the century-long list of historic accomplishments at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And I guarantee that after leading 63 percent of the laps in the last two NASCAR races at IMS and coming up empty-handed, he believes the Brickyard owes him one.

I think everyone else is racing for second place.

-- John Oreovicz


I just have a feeling about the 22.

Marty Smith Smith

Momentum may not matter to some people, but it matters a hell of a lot in my opinion. Kurt Busch and Steve Addington have really homed in on setting themselves up for that all-important final pit stop, which this year is the deciding factor in basically every race. It will be again at Indy on Sunday, because it's so hard to pass at the Brickyard and track position is everything.

 

Harvick is always good here, just has a great feel for how to go fast at Indy. Same goes for Kahne. This is Kahne's best chance to win so far this year -- and he's had a few.

-- Marty Smith