“The longer I’ve been with NASCAR, the more that everybody wants to win this race,” Stewart said. “This is a marquee event. The way I sense it now the Daytona 500 is still the biggest race of the year, but the Brickyard is the second-biggest race of the year to the NASCAR guys, and that’s something that I’m pretty proud of. It deserves that level of respect, and this facility is a one-of-a-kind. As time has gone on, the fans understand how big of an event this is and how much it means to the teams and drivers to not only run well at the Brickyard, but to also understand what a marquee event it is. It’s really a big boost to your team if you can win at Indy.”
Another element that has added to the prominence of NASCAR’s annual trip to IMS is that the list of winners includes many Cup champions, such as Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Jimmie Johnnson, Bobby Labonte, Bill Elliott, Dale Jarrett and Stewart.
“With the exception of maybe once or twice, the guys that normally win here are the guys in contention to win the championship every year,” Stewart said. “It usually isn’t a fuel-mileage race. It normally comes down to the fastest car always wins here, and that’s what you want in a marquee event like this. You want the fastest car to win, the best team and the best driver on that day.”
A notoriously slow starter during his NASCAR career, once again Stewart got off to a sluggish start this season. But with a recent win at Dover and a runner-up finish last week at Daytona, Stewart is 10th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings as he enters the mid-summer portion of the schedule.
“I would say probably the last 13 or 14 years, people have been asking me that same question” Stewart said about why he gets into a groove during the summer. “I never have had a good answer.
“I honestly don’t know. The only thing I can think of is just the tracks get hot and get slick. Seems like when the tracks get slick, that plays into your driving style a little bit.”