July 25, 2008
Experts' Picks: Allstate 400
  My Pick: Tony Stewart
Why he'll win: The winner of two of the last three races at Indy, Stewart has yet to reach Victory Lane this season, but that should change on Sunday. The Brickyard is his home track ? he lives in nearby Columbus, Ind. -- and he'll have a slew of family and friends in his private suite above Turn 2. It says here that Stewart, who's had the best car in the field in no fewer than four races this season but has nothing to show for it, will put on a quite a show for his guests.
Keep an eye on: Jeff Gordon -- Like Stewart, Gordon has yet to reach Victory Lane this season. But Gordon is a four-time winner at the Brickyard and he finished third here in '07. He's still looking for his breakout race of '08 and it could very well happen on Sunday at his favorite track on the circuit.
Don't expect much from: Ryan Newman -- A native of South Bend, Newman hasn't run well in the Hoosier State in the Cup series. In seven career starts at Indy, his average finish is 23.7.
  My Pick: Kyle Busch
Why he'll win: No, he's never won at the Brickyard, but then the Shrub has made a habit this year of winning races that he's never won (or even run well in). There is, however, some history on his side -- specifically three top-10 finishes in three starts and an average result of 7.0 -- that makes him the pick.
Keep an eye on: Jeff Gordon -- His year to date hasn't been awful, unless it's measured against the four-time Cup winner's own lofty standards, which make his mix of bad luck and mediocre cars more than a bit troubling. Still, the word in the garage is that Hendrick expects to be a much stronger team in the second half. Combine that with Gordon's illustrious history at Indy, and it all could mean that he's a major player this weekend.
Don't expect much from: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. -- Like Busch, he's made a habit this season of finding success at tracks where he hasn't traditionally run that well. At the Brickyard, all he's got to show for his eight starts is two top 10s, two DNFs and an average finish of 21.1. History won't be on Junior's side this weekend.
  My Pick: Jeff Gordon
Why he'll win: I know, I know ... this hasn't been one of his better seasons. But the four-time Allstate 400 winner takes the trophy at Indy once every three to four years, and with victories in '94, '98,'01 and '04, his time has come around again. Keep in mind that Chevrolet's won the last five races held at this track, and the No. 24 is clearly its best hope for victory number six.
Keep an eye on: Kyle Busch -- How could you not keep an eye on the championship leader at this point? With a series-best seven wins, Busch has proved he's a threat at any track, any time, any place. He has three consecutive Top 10 finishes at Indy, and should be a lock to continue that streak come Sunday afternoon.
Don't expect much from: Casey Mears -- With an average finish of 22nd and just one Top 10 finish, Rick Mears' nephew is far from replicating his uncle's legendary Indy record in stock cars.
  My Pick: Jeff Gordon
Why he'll win: He's won more NASCAR races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway than any other driver, and can move onto a select podium with another victory, joining retired Formula One driver Michael Schumacher with five wins at the Speedway. That's more than A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears -- select company. And what better time or place for his first victory of the season?
Keep an eye on: Kevin Harvick -- The Bakersfield, Calif., product grew up idolizing Mears and won his first Brickyard 400 in 2003. Take away a blip finish of 19th in 2005, and his average finish is sixth.
Don't expect much from: Sam Hornish, Jr. -- Certainly the 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner will be awash in fuzzy sweater memories in his first stock car race at Indy. Juan Pablo Montoya, the 2000 Indy 500 winner, finished a surprising second in his first Brickyard 400. This race might actually remind Hornish how much he subconsciously misses IndyCars.
  My Pick: Kyle Busch
Why he'll win: In a year in which Toyota has been the dominant car manufacturer and its most dominant driver has been Busch, it only makes sense that this will be the winning combination at the one track where a driver has to earn the victory more so than anywhere else on the circuit. There are no fluke winners when NASCAR comes to the Brickyard, and Busch is certainly no fluke. With Joe Gibbs Racing's history of excellence at this track with Tony Stewart, Sunday will be Busch's turn.
Keep an eye on: Tony Stewart -- Although he's a two-time winner of this race and the defending champ, he actually could have won two or three more. But that was with the old car. With the new model that has baffled many top drivers, it may be the one thing that keeps him from producing a "Smoke-like" finish. However, there is no other track on the circuit that motivates Stewart more than the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Don't expect much from: Jimmie Johnson -- Although he won this race in 2006, he'll be the first to admit that this is not one of his better tracks. That trend will continue on Sunday.
  My Pick: Jeff Gordon
Why he'll win: Gordon has been one or two small adjustments on the No. 24 Chevrolet away from winning several times this year. At Indianapolis, where the driver can make a big difference, he should be able to drive through any deficiencies to his first victory of the season and fifth in the Brickyard 400. Indianapolis is a perfect match for Gordon's skills on road courses, with its flat, high-speed, left-handed corners that require precise entry to maintain momentum for those long straights.
Keep an eye on: Kyle Busch -- With his seven Cup wins this season, Busch would be the favorite if he wasn't doing the triple: racing in Craftsman Trucks on Friday and Nationwide on Saturday. He's been fast everywhere this year and that will be true on Sunday, but running back-to-back night races before the daytime Brickyard will bring in the fatigue factor in the 160-lap, 400-mile race and cost him just enough focus to prevent another victory. A top-five is possible, but a top-10 more likely.
Don't expect much from: Greg Biffle -- His sixth-place finish in 2004 is his only top-10 in five starts at Indianapolis and he's been 15th or worse in the other four. He's not known as a good road racer and Indianapolis requires elements of those skills. Biffle also was 15th at Pocono in June and that is the track closest to Indy in driving and setup terms.
  My Pick: Jeff Gordon
Why he'll win: Gordon is the Brickyard's darling. He had his coming-out party in the inaugural stock car race here and has won the event four times, the most in histoy. Gordon spent his teenage years racing on dirt tracks in Indiana, and he feels right at home for the Brickyard 400.
Keep an eye on: Kyle Busch -- He won't let us take our eyes off of him. Not only is he dominating the 2008 season, he's made steady progress at the Brickyard. In three career starts, he's finished 10th, seventh and fourth.
Don't expect much from: Juan Pablo Montoya and Sam Hornish, Jr. -- Two former Indy 500 winners. Montoya finished second in last year's Brickyard, but his average Cup finish in 2008 is 22nd. Hornish has struggled as a NASCAR rookie this year with an average finish of 29th.

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