The famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway will play host to the boys of the Sprint Cup Series this weekend, after the Series took a much needed week off.
NASCAR drivers have been hitting the rectangular track for 15 years now, with 13 of the races being won by past Series champions.
Perhaps even more important than winning at the Brickyard is following that up with a Series championship later in the season.
Seven times, the driver and crew that "Kissed the Bricks" in Indy went on to win that year's championship, including three of the last four.
Jimmie Johnson accomplished the feat in 2006 and 2008, while Tony Stewart did so in 2007. Four-time Series champion Jeff Gordon has done so twice (1998 and 2001), while Bobby Labonte did so in 2000 and Dale Jarrett did in 1999.
Here is a look at what drivers are Hot and which ones are Not this weekend.
Stewart has quickly become a favorite pick each and every weekend. The two-time Series champion enters Indy with two wins on the season, and looks to continue that momentum at his "home track."
At Indy: In 10 races at the famed track, Stewart has two wins, four top-fives, six top-10s, one pole an an average finish of 9.1.
According to NASCAR's Loop Data, Stewart has an Average Running Position of 9.4 (second-best), a Driver Rating of 111.2 (series-best), 76 Fastest Laps Run (series-high), 189 Green Flag Passes (fourth-most), an Average Green Flag Speed of 169.852 m.p.h. (series-best), 516 Laps in the Top 15 (80.6 percent | series-high) and 116 Quality Passes (series-high).
This 50-year-old is having the time of his life in his return to NASCAR full-time, as he leads all drivers with four wins on the season.
Indy is a place where Martin has threatened, but never won. Martin enters Indy driving Hendrick Motorsports equipment for the first time, however, and looks to continue his charge to a Chase berth this weekend.
At Indy: In 15 races at The Brickyard, Martin has five top-fives, nine top-10s and an average finish of 14.1.
According to NASCAR's Loop Data, Martin has an Average Running Position of 11.0 (fourth-best), a Driver Rating of 98.8 (sixth-best), 161 Green Flag Passes (11th-most), an Average Green Flag Speed of 169.248 m.p.h. (eighth-fastest), 496 Laps in the Top 15 (77.5 percent | second-most) and 111 Quality Passes (third-most).
Juan Pablo Montoya
Montoya enters this weekend as one of the hottest drivers in the Sprint Cup Series. This team has quietly began "points-racing" and worked their way into a Chase spot.
The No. 42 team has finished in the top-10 in five of the last six races and its' driver (Montoya) is comfortable driving around Indy.
Montoya won the Indy 500 in 2000, and finished a respectable second in his first trip to Indy in a stock car.
At Indy: Montoya has only two starts at The Brickyard in a stock car. Though he finished second in his first Allstate 400, an accident ended his day early in his second — leaving him with a 39th-place finish.
Gordon is quietly lurking behind points leader Stewart, and heads to a track where he has found great success.
At Indy: Gordon has competed in all 15 events at The Brickyard, and has captured four wins, nine top-fives, 12 top-10s, three poles and an average finish of 8.6.
According to NASCAR's Loop Data, Gordon has an Average Running Position of 14.7 (12th-best), a Driver Rating of 97.5 (eighth-best), 19 Fastest Laps Run (ninth-most), 195 Green Flag Passes (second-most), an Average Green Flag Speed of 169.454 m.p.h. (fifth-fastest) and 111 Quality Passes (third-most).
Dark Horse: A.J. Allmendinger
It could be going out on a rather long line, but Allmendinger could be a solid selection for this week's Fantasy Roster.
The Dinger has competed in only one race in a stock car, and he finished 10th.
At Indy: While the numbers represent only one race, Allmendinger has an Average Running Position of 9.4 (series-best), a Driver Rating of 98.4 (seventh-best) an an Average Green Flag Speed of 169.692 m.p.h. (fourth-fastest).
Da 'Biff finished a disappointing 31st at Chicagoland the last time the cars were on the track, and fell four spots in the championship standings to 13th.
In the past nine races, Biffle has only two top-10 finishes (fifth at Michigan and third at Dover), and if the No. 16 team isn't careful, they could be caught on the outside of the playoff field come Richmond.
At Indy: Biffle has run decent at Indy, with two top-10 finishes (including last year's race) and an average finish of 17.5 — but this team will need better than a 17th-place finish if they want to push themselves back into Chase contention.
One year ago, this youngster was sitting 15th in the championship point standings, and vying for a spot in the Chase.
Heading into Indy this weekend, Ragan is 30th in points and hasn't had a top-10 finish since Talladega in April.
At Indy: Ragan has two starts at The Brickyard, with an average finish of 15th.
With rumors swirling that Ragan could be the odd man out once Roush Fenway is forced to scale back to four teams, this team better hope for a solid finish this weekend.
Next Race: Allstate 400 at The Brickyard
The Date: Sunday, July 26
The Track: Indianapolis Motor Speedway; 2.5-mile oval
The Time: 2 p.m. ET
The Distance: 160 laps/400 miles
TV: ESPN, 1 p.m. ET
Radio: IMS Radio and Sirius Satellite
2008 Polesitter: Jimmie Johnson
2008 Winner: Jimmie Johnson
Schedule: Friday—Practice, 2-3 p.m.; 3:30-4:30 p.m. Saturday—Qualifying, 10:10 a.m.; Practice, 2-3 p.m. and 3:30-4:40 p.m.
2009 Top 12 Drivers
1 Tony Stewart 2,884
2 Jeff Gordon 2,709
3 Jimmie Johnson 2,672
4 Kurt Busch 2,526
5 Denny Hamlin 2,457
6 Carl Edwards 2,438
7 Ryan Newman 2,385
8 Kasey Kahne 2,336
9 Juan Pablo Montoya 2,321
10 Kyle Busch 2,298
11 Mark Martin 2,296
12 Matt Kenseth 2,295
This article is also featured on Pit Road Report.
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