The long NASCAR Sprint Cup season starts in cool temperatures of normally warm winters common to Daytona Beach, Florida, and ends nine months later in Homestead, Florida as temperatures drop again in the fall. Along the way, NSCS drivers weather the intense heat of spring and summer inside their roaring cars at 23 tracks across the USA.
Drivers and team members on the road only get a break of three weekends during the point quest that lasts 36 races, and last week was one of them.
A week off in hot July could be like a traditional family trek to beaches and theme parks, but Sprint Cup drivers can afford distant travel to luxurious vacation spots as well.
Jimmie Johnson often prefers Europe. “My family has been in Europe for July,” Johnson said. “I took them over after the Kentucky race and came home to race two more times and get some work done. I left immediately following the race at New Hampshire and flew back over and spent our off weekend over there. It was exciting to see and explore.”
Many NASCAR drivers will share their time-off experiences, but rolling into the legendary track at Indianapolis this week creates an exceptional excitement.
The top five drivers in the Sprint Cup points—Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin—shared their thoughts of the upcoming Brickyard race.
Matt Kenseth continues to hold onto the top spot in NSCS with one win and 13 top 10-finishes, and is eager for Indianapolis.
Matt Kenseth (No 17 Ford)
“I really feel like Indy is the second biggest race of the year and everyone wants to have the chance to be able to win that race, win the trophy, and kiss the bricks there,” Kenseth said. “Indy is one of the most unique tracks that we visit on the circuit. With our time on track there being so limited without any testing and just a few practices, you really just unload and try to get up to speed on things as soon as you can to tune in your car.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. keeps a consistent grasp on the second top NSCS spot with his win and 14 top-10 finishes and echoed some of Kenseth’s thoughts.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No 88 Chevrolet)
“Everyone wants to win at Indianapolis,” Earnhardt said. “Everyone wants to go through the process they have at post-race, the celebration and the unique thing that they do. I’ve read about the history and read about how it has survived two world wars and how it was basically the proving grounds for the automobile back in the turn of the century. I would love to be able to say I’ve won a race there. It’s at the top of the list. It battles with tracks like Daytona.”
Greg Biffle stays in the top group with his win and 11 top finishes and is ready for some speed at Indy.
Greg Biffle (No 16 Ford)
“Indy is a fast, flat racetrack and it’s very important to be able to get into the corners well there,” Biffle said. “Having the Ford power under the hood will help us get down the straightaways which is also crucial for a fast lap at Indy. We’ve run well there in the past and I have high expectations for this weekend.”
Johnson is fresh off a European vacation as mentioned and counts his Indy wins with pride.
Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet)
“You drive through the tunnel at Indy and come in and look around and the history just starts talking to you,” Johnson said. “I’m so happy to have had three very special moments there myself. I hope to have a fourth and join some elite company of drivers who have won four times there.”
Denny has had mixed results in 2012, but his two wins and 10 top-10 finishes keeps his status as contender.
Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota)
“We go there feeling like we can unload fast, get better in practice and compete on Sunday,” Hamlin said. “To win here you need the car, the driver and the crew all at their best, and then have a lot of things go your way. We have had our share of issues at Indy, but if you take those away there is no reason we can’t run up front.”
The Crown Royal presents the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway track. Fans without tickets can view the action July 29 at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN. Details available on www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com
FYI WIRZ is the select presentation of topics by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com. Unless otherwise noted, information and all quotes were obtained from personal interviews or official release materials provided by sanction and team representatives.