Monday, July 27, 2009

Jimmy Johnson Takes Second Straight Brickyard Win

I think it was Yogi Berra who once said "It's deja vu all over again." That was the way I felt at the Brickyard yesterday as Jimmy Johnson became the first NASCAR driver to win at Indy two years in a row. It was also a lot like the Indy 500 in 2000, except Juan Pablo Montoya didn't get to kiss the bricks this time. Back then just as yesterday, JPM thoroughly kicked everyone's butt and was the class of the field by a longshot until a speeding penalty on pit road cost him a certain victory. So instead of having Juan draped in the Columbian flag in Victory Lane as the first driver to win the 500 and the 400 at Indy, JJ got his third trophy with the mounted gold brick and second in a row.

The conspiracy theorists were all over the penalty call when it occurred as up to that point the race was a snoozer as this year the tires weren't the problem. The racing, or lack thereof, was the problem. From my vantage point in Turn 1, no one seemed able to pass unless they were right up under another guy's bumper and loosened them up so they could drive under them going into 2, or someone got bogged down by the field fillers who were clearly content to just run laps and stay off the fence. After Montoya got the pass through penalty and dropped to 12th, it was just a question of who would get the lead on the next restart since clean air was everything yesterday and whoever was in front was pretty much untouchable. I found it incredibly tough to get two cars in the frame most of the day unless it was the first couple of laps after a restart or the leaders were passing a backmarker. Not what I call real exciting racing photography, but that's the way it goes sometimes. Despite what the shills on Victory Lane say on SpeedTV, not every NASCAR race is a great one. This one certainly wasn't. And for all the NASCAR drivers they brought to town before the race "guaranteeing" to put on a show, it didn't pan out, although no one wadded up any equipment this year.

The fact that Montoya dominated was no real surprise to me. In 2000, I was shooting in Turn 3 at the 500 and Juan took no prisoners that day, passing other cars in places where no one else dared to put a wheel. He was just a 500 rookie then and didn't know "they don't drive that way at Indy", but he showed everyone the fast way at the Indy 500 then just as he did yesterday at the Brickyard. It's really a shame that the day ended as it did, but he about put everyone to sleep at the 400 this year, his dominance was so complete. The biggest surprise to me was the huge number of empty seats. I'm sure it was obvious on TV but it was blatant in person. The big corporate ticket blocks may be a thing of the past, at least at Indy, as huge areas were wide open. It was a very disappointing day, but at least I didn't leave the track angry like I did last year.

I'm off to Kentucky next for the Indy Racing League race this weekend. Let's hope the rules tweaks the IRL has discussed make for a better show.

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