Desperately seeking a win at the Brickyard

July, 28, 2011

Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for lack of a better word, is special.

I'm totally into the historic nature of the track, all the great races and moments that have taken place there, including this year's Indianapolis 500, which was both riveting and heartbreaking.

But this weekend is interesting for another reason. It's an opportunity for a driver to get an all-important win to move up the ranks in the wld card race to make the Chase. Currently, it'll just take one for the drivers between 11th and 20th in the points to get into a Chase spot. David Ragan could cement a Chase spot with another win, too.

First of all, when visiting "NASCAR Now" and Bristol, Conn., on Wednesday, Joey Logano told me he was going to win, so he's one of those wild card drivers who could use the leap.

But I also have statistics to back up three big drivers to watch at Indianapolis who are in need of a win in the next seven races.

Greg Biffle: Armed with a new crew chief, I hope notes were saved from the Greg Erwin regime on how to get around the Brickyard. Last year, despite not winning, Biffle had the best driver rating, average running position and overall green-flag speed in the race.

In 2009, Biffle ranked sixth in all those categories, so it isn't a one-year wonder for Biffle.

Juan Pablo Montoya: You could argue he could've won in 2009, or make the same argument with 2010. Dude's overdue to kiss the bricks and wash it down with some milk.

His numbers were more impressive in 2009, when he was second in average position and green-flag speed and first in driver rating, than they were last year. But he was the fastest car on 100 of the 320 laps run at Indianapolis the last two years, by far the most of any driver.

Mark Martin: His season has been a struggle so far, but sitting in 20th, one win puts him in that second wild card spot, and Indianapolis is as good a spot as any.

In 2009, when Martin finished second in points, he led the field in green-flag speed and average position. But last year, when Martin missed the Chase, he still ranked fourth in both of those areas. So, even with his late struggles, Indianapolis remains a strong point on the schedule.

The racing might not always be great at Indianapolis, but with drivers making a run for a Chase spot, it'll definitely be tense.

The Eliminator: Indianapolis

Most people just pick winners, some by hunches, some by stats, and some by just picking a name off the top of their head.

I don't pick winners, I pick losers. I'll make my race pick by telling you why all but one driver in the field just can't win.

1) There's never been a first-time Cup winner at Indy (17 drivers eliminated, 31 remaining).
2) Of the last 13 Indy winners, 12 had a previous top-five finish there (11 eliminated, 20 remaining).
3) Of the 17 all-time Brickyard winners, 16 had a win earlier in the season (11 eliminated, nine remaining).
4) The last 13 and 15 of the 17 all-time Indianapolis winners had a top-12 finish in the last Cup race overall (four eliminated, five remaining).
5) Of the last 16 Brickyard winners, 15 finished sixth or better in at least one of the previous two races (four eliminated, one remaining).

Your winner: Jimmie Johnson

Matt Willis | email

ESPN Staff Writer
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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