INDIANAPOLIS — Winning at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway is special all on its own for NASCAR drivers.
Those victories also tend to separate those drivers in another way as well.
Fourteen of the 18 Sprint Cup races held at the Brickyard were won by past or future series champions. In eight seasons, the winner of the race also won the championship that season, most recently in 2009 with Jimmie Johnson.
With a record like that, the winner of Sundays Crown Royal 400 is more than likely to be a former champion or on his way to earning his first. Qualifying for Sundays race is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. Saturday.
NASCAR stars Jeff Gordon and the late Dale Earnhardt won the first two Cup series races at Indy. No surprise, they accounted for 11 championships between them.
Growing up here and going to the track numerous times as a kid, there is just something special about each trip here, said Gordon, who finished second last season to winner Paul Menard. The four corners look the same but each is unique with different transitions and bumps.
As a driver, factoring that in with a few little dips, the way the wind is blowing, the radius and everything else can give you an advantage. But the car has to be good, as well.
Weve had the best car or one of the best cars in each of the races weve won here.
Winning at Indianapolis doesnt guarantee a Cup championship but it certainly doesnt hurt a drivers chances. In addition to Johnson, Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart have all won a championship the same season they won at Indy.
Stewart, a former IndyCar champion and Indiana native, was among those not happy when NASCAR elected to begin racing at the Brickyard nearly two decades ago.
I was one of those guys that when I watched the first Cup test at Indy, I got pretty upset about it. I was like, This is the home of the Indy 500 and thats all that should be here, he said.
I think most of us in society dont like change, but after a while, after the first year, I started watching a lot more, and started wrapping my arms around it and then Formula One came and Moto GP.
It was really neat to see so many different disciplines at the highest levels coming here to race.
You dont have to come from Indiana or have an open-wheel background to appreciate the motorsports history of the Brickyard.
If you watch the past winners and seeing Paul (Menard) and Jamie (McMurray) and the emotion of that win and how important it was to their teams, I think the guys that havent won it dream of being standing there on those bricks, said Carl Edwards.
It would be very cool.
And who knows?
More times than not, there is a series championship not far behind.