The winner at the Brickyard was Johnson; the losers were just as easy to spot

The right-rear tire off Matt Kenseth's car sits behind the wall on pit road. Geoff Burke/Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Tire Graveyard 400 on Sunday was won by Jimmie Johnson for the second time.

The event is also known as the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, but that title hardly seems appropriate in a three-hour, 28-minute horror show of shredded rubber.

This was no race. It was a ridiculous sideshow of survival, certainly not deserving of the second biggest event in NASCAR.

The event had an unbelievable nine competition cautions, meaning NASCAR threw a yellow flag to allow the teams to come to pit road and change tires before that failed.

Basically, the fans saw a series of short heat races and at a reduced speed. Twelve circuits were the most consecutive green-flag laps in this 160-lap debacle.

"No one wants to race like that," said Greg Stucker, Goodyear's director of racing. "We will look at all the data and try to figure it out. We will work with NASCAR and the teams. It's the entire package together that we have to consider."

The only time all day the drivers gunned it was during the final seven laps after the final restart, when Carl Edwards made a mild challenge to Johnson.

"I want to thank the fans for putting up with this," Edwards said. "That's a long day. I just want to say to the fans that everybody was trying to do their best."

Judging by the empty seats, fewer spectators came out to see the event than ever before in the 15-race history at Indy, which might be another indication of difficult economic times causing people to stay home.

But the race still had over 200,000 fans in the grandstand to see one of the strangest Sprint Cup events in years.

The most dramatic moment of the day came when Jeff Burton hit an unfortunate bird on a restart with 55 laps to go. Amazingly, the tire held up through the bird's demise.

The biggest surprise was the lack of complaints from the competitors.

"Everybody is working together in a tough situation to make the most out of the day," team owner Joe Gibbs said with 50 laps to go. "I think the fans understand that, too."

Don't bet on it. NASCAR did what it had to do for safety when it realized in practice Saturday that the tires were a major problem. But why did it come to this?

"I don't know," NASCAR president Mike Helton said during the race. "That's a good question. The tire isn't much different from what we used here last year. There are a lot of unanswered questions."

Somebody needs to find some answers soon. Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition, was asked what he would say to the fans who watched Sunday's race.

"If you're a good fan, it's OK to be disappointed," Pemberton said. "Not every race is a barn burner, but I've not seen this in a long time. We try to put on the best race we can and we do a damn good job of that most of the time.

"We'll take what we learned today and do a better job as a group. It's safe to say we won't do the same thing next year. We have to make sure this doesn't happen again."

Here's a guarantee: NASCAR will have an open test at Indy next year and every year hereafter.

That didn't happen this year.

Goodyear used three Cup teams to conduct tire tests with the new car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in April. Dale Earnhardt Jr. for Chevrolet, Kurt Busch for Dodge and Brian Vickers for Toyota did the tests.

A harder tire was tested for part of the two-day session. But the drivers told Goodyear officials it caused handling problems, making it difficult to control the car in the four 90-degree turns at IMS.

So Goodyear opted for the same compound it used on the old car at Indy in 2007. That will go down as one of the worst decisions of the season.

"Yes, it's [Goodyear's] fault," Edwards said. "But everybody makes mistakes. I don't give a damn to race 10 laps at a time, but I'm sure we won't see this again here."

Pemberton doesn't think an open test at Indy would have changed much.

"Generally when you have an open test, you've already picked your tires," Pemberton said. "I don't think an open test would have done what we all as competitors want to achieve."

Tires have been an issue at several events this season. The new car has caused additional problems because of the higher loads it puts on the right-side tires.

The worst tire situation before Sunday was the spring event at Atlanta, when a harder compound caused numerous accidents.

"At least at Atlanta we could run more than 10 laps at a time," said Jamie McMurray, who finished fifth on Sunday.

Tony Stewart criticized Goodyear at Atlanta, saying he wouldn't put Goodyear tires on any of his personal cars.

The harder tire didn't work at Atlanta; a softer compound didn't work at Indy.

"I think Goodyear was put in a tough box," said Denny Hamlin, who finished third on Sunday. "I don't know if any tire compound would get through a fuel run here.

"They assumed that tire would rubber in the track like before, but it turned into dust and never filled in the gaps. I applaud NASCAR for not putting anybody in danger."

The abrasive surface at Indy always causes tire concerns, but never like this.

"It's kind of sad to be at Indy and have a race like that," said David Ragan, who finished 14th. "Everyone has to do a better job."

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.