With NASCAR visiting the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this week for the Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard, we asked a few members of the motorsports media to share Brickyard stories. Today, Jeff Gluck of USA Today explains why drivers, crew chiefs and writers cherish coming to IMS.
If you walked around the NASCAR garage and asked drivers, crew chiefs and crewmen which race they’d most like to win, I’m confident the top answers would look like this:
1. Daytona 500
Honestly, the same is true when it comes to which races most NASCAR media members think are the most important to cover. With apologies to Darlington’s Southern 500 and the high-profile races at Charlotte Motor Speedway (Coca-Cola 600 and the All-Star Race), that’s certainly true for me.
You can tell it’s big for us at USA TODAY Sports. There are some races where we send just one reporter to cover the weekend; that’s all the event really warrants (don’t tell the other tracks!). But we’re planning to have four writers on Sunday at the Brickyard – and that’s not even including the coverage from the Indianapolis Star, which is our sister paper.
And even though it’s now been more than two decades since NASCAR started coming to Indy, it still feels like a huge deal to be there.
The first time I visited IMS – it was for the 2006 Brickyard 400 – I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face the entire weekend. I grabbed a Pace Car ride and got that jaw-dropping view coming out of Turn 4, where drivers see the canyon of stands down the straightaway with the pagoda and scoring pylon on the left. I walked through Gasoline Alley and touched the Yard of Bricks with a sense of awe. I visited the IMS Museum and tried to picture those little cars on the track decades before I was born.
All the warm and fuzzy feelings people have for IMS? Yeah, I got them right away. There’s just something cool about watching drivers go around a track that has held car races for almost as long as there have been cars.
I think the drivers and teams feel the same way, which is why it’s such a prestigious race to win. As a result, most of the major organizations build new cars for Indy and have their latest technology ready to debut.
If you’re fast at the Brickyard, you’re going to be fast for the rest of the year. It’s a crucial measuring stick to see where each team stands – and all of them are well aware of it.
Take crew chief Rodney Childers, for example. A couple years ago, he was going back and forth between staying with Brian Vickers or jumping to Stewart-Haas Racing to lead Kevin Harvick’s team.
He’d just won at New Hampshire with Vickers and was leaning that direction until Ryan Newman won at Indy and Hendrick-powered cars were six of the top seven finishers.
Childers told himself: “If I’m ever going to win the Daytona 500 or the Brickyard 400 or any of these big races, I’m going to have to be associated with that group somehow.”
So he ended up making the move – and won the championship with Harvick last year, their first season together.
As a media member, I want to cover drivers and teams bringing their best efforts and going all out. Clearly, that’s exactly what happens when NASCAR goes to Indianapolis.
And the best part? It’s always been that way.