NASCAR's Top Dogs and the Art of Kissing at the Brickyard in Indianapolis
Kissing is most often thought of as a symbol of passion, love and affection, but when a driver kisses that famous Yard of Bricks, he or she is maintaining tradition and showing respect for the history of the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The original track, built in 1909, was made of a mixture that included dirt, gravel, limestone and crushed rock held together with a tar and oil solution.
Needless to say, it wasn't the best racing surface, and they quickly realized it needed to be repaved in some manner. The solution was some 3.2 million 10-pound bricks laid individually in sand with mortar.
As time went on it became necessary to pave the track, but there is a one-yard-wide strip of bricks at the start-finish line made of those original bricks that gave the track the name "The Brickyard."
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ran its first Brickyard 400 race at Indy in 1994. Jeff Gordon won the inaugural race.
It was in 1996, after Dale Jarrett had won the Brickyard 400, that his crew chief, Todd Parrot, suggested they kiss the bricks, and a tradition was born that is carried out at each NASCAR race.
For winners, it is a thrill to turn their cap around and gather with the crew, team owner, sponsor reps and other significant people like wives and girlfriends to line up along the Yard of Bricks and pay homage to the track so full of history.
Let's take a look at a few kissing instances at the Brickyard and the enthusiasm shown as the drivers affix their lips to the not too tasty bricks.
1. Jamie McMurray
Jamie McMurray won the 2010 Brickyard 400 behind the wheel of the Earnhardt/Ganassi Bass Pro Shops No. 1 Chevrolet.
Though McMurray closed his eyes for the kiss, his lips barely brushed the surface of the bricks.
McMurray became the third driver to win the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 in the same year with Dale Jarrett and Jimmie Johnson being the other two.
2. Jimmie Johnson
Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson has won at the Brickyard three times: 2009, 2008 and 2006.
In this 2009 picture, Johnson plants a firm, closed-mouth kiss on the Yard of Bricks. His crew chief, Chad Knaus, must have inhaled a bug with his nose solid against the bricks, but it is hard to tell if he is grimacing or laughing.
Johnson's wife, Chandra, could be doing most anything under her long mane of blond hair, but it is a good guess she is planting one on the bricks.
3. Jimmie and Chandra Johnson
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the Lowe's No. 48 for Hendrick Motorsports, was fresh from kissing the bricks with his hat still backwards after his 2008 win at the Brickyard.
He and his wife Chandra are seen kissing, which is not an uncommon sight at the tracks. Ain't love grand!
4. Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart drove the No. 20 Home Depot car to victory at the Brickyard in 2007 for Joe Gibbs Racing. The JGR driver also won the 2005 race at Indy.
Now this is how you should be kissing those bricks. Stewart planted one like he meant it.
5. Tony Stewart and Team
Once again we see Tony Stewart doing a serious kiss with his team after that 2007 win at the Brickyard. This was supposed to be synchronized kissing, but we see a couple guys a little off the pace.
6. Jeff Gordon
Jeff Gordon has driven the DuPont No. 24 Chevrolet to victory at the Brickyard four times for Hendrick Motorsports: 2004, 2001, 1998 and the inaugural event in 1994.
Here we see Gordon and his boss, Rick Hendrick, kissing the famous Yard of Bricks after the 2004 win.
Gordon appeared to be serious about his kiss, and after four wins at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he should be. Hendrick seems to be doing a pretty good job as well.
7. Bill Elliott
Bill Elliott drove the Evernham Motorsports Dodge to victory at the Brickyard 400 in 2002.
Here we see Elliott with the perfect hand placement for balance as he places his Southern-style kiss of respect on the famous bricks. Good job, Bill!
8. Bobby Labonte
Bobby Labonte was driving the Interstate Batteries car for Joe Gibbs Racing when he won the 2000 Brickyard race.
Here Labonte (in white) kisses the historic bricks with Jimmy Makar and Joe Gibbs. Of the three, it looks like Coach Gibbs perhaps planted the best kiss.