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Hello race fans. Here we are, the week prior to one of the biggest races of the season and one of my personal favorites, the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. I have been lucky enough to attend the first 13 Brickyards, so I know a little bit about the history of this event and how to get around the track. This blog may be a little longer than other's I've posted, but you'll get a ton of information from who to watch out for on race day, local media outlets that will provide you with the best coverage of the race, to short cuts getting in and out of your parking spot. I've tried to make it easier for you by having sections. This will allow you to skim through and read the parts you want.

 History -- This will be the 15th stock car race at the famed 2 ½ mile oval located in Speedway, Indiana. Last year the posted earnings was over $9.5 million. Race winner Tony Stewart cashed a check for $488,111. Scott Wimmer, who finished 31st had the smallest check for $139,450 while last place finisher, Jeff Green, came home with $145, 647. Jeff Gordon has won the race four times (most of all drivers) and has 11 top 10's out of 14 races. Rain has only delayed the race once in the brief history of the event. That occurred in 1995 when rain was in the area all morning and early afternoon. There finally came a window and the race started around 3:00. The first half of the race was caution free. Dale Earnhardt crossed the finish line in dark shadows. The race started out being run on Saturday afternoon, rather than a Sunday. IMS CEO, Tony George, did this because he didn't want in any way to interfere with the tradition of the Indy 500. That's why it's a 400 mile event rather than a 500. That is also why originally it was called "The Brickyard 400" rather than "The Indianapolis 400." He wanted the Brickyard to stand out and be totally separate than the open wheel event held in May. This race will be the first for ESPN to broadcast this year.

 Who To Watch -- Jeff Gordon -- He's in the middle of a stretch of races where he has historically done well at. He graduated Tri West High School, which is a 30 minute drive at most from IMS. He has a bowling tournament every year in support of his foundation, so you know he always has that extra drive at Indy to pull off a win. What a better place to get into the win column for the first time in 2008 than at Indy.

Kevin Harvick -- Has 5 top 10's out of 7 races, with one victory in 2003.

Matt Kenseth -- While he's never won the famed golden brick trophy, he has always done well here, finishing second twice and a total of 5 top 10's in 8 races.

Mark Martin -- He vowed earlier that he would win this year's Brickyard. That's a bold statement for a mild mannered Martin to make. He has 9 top 10's out of 14 races and was challenging Jeff Gordon for the win in 1998 when a wreck at the end of the race, forced the event to end under yellow.

Kyle Busch -- Just the way he's been running this year, makes this guy a contender at every venue we go to.

Denny Hamlin -- Loves to race a flat track. There's only nine degrees banking in the turns, so this, combined with Toyota power, place in history and racing in front of a large Federal Express contingent ( Fed Ex has a hub at Indianapolis International Airport), could fare well for Fed Ex driver.

Kasey Kahne -- Owner, Ray Evernham, already has a trophy with Bill Elliott, but Kasey (who has race sponsor Allstate as an associate sponsor on his car) has run well here.

Carl Edwards -- He loves the Pocono track and Pocono is similar to Indy. Typcially, all the RFR teams do well at IMS.

Brian Vickers -- My dark horse pick for the Brickyard. He has been close to winning a few times this year. Great runs at Pocono and Chicago recently could set that team for a victory photo.

What To Watch For -- Indy has a narrow pit road and that could spell trouble for drivers getting out of the pits, especially during cautions when there will be more cars pitting at one time than during a green flag run. It's not uncommon to see three wide racing down the front stretch. Cars can get a run off of turn 4 and use that momentum to make a run down the front stretch. Drivers will use that momentum down the front and back stretches to get under a car going into turns 1 & 3 to make a pass. Also you'll see drivers making moves in the short chutes between 1 & 2 and 3 & 4 to set a guy up for a pass in the middle of the turn and drive off from them in the straightaway. While the race winner will get the majority of post race attention by the media, the race will be pivotal for the racers trying to get into the chase. Point positions 7 through 16 are only separated by 224 points going into the weekend. Drivers complained of a loose car during a night race (when cars typically run tight) at Chicago. If the sun is out during the hot Hoosier summer, they'll have a really loose car at Indy. IMS has historically been a track that is very sensitive to track temperatures, so crew chiefs will have to be constantly thinking about the changes they'll be making on those pit stops. The race is schedule to start around 2:00 local time. It will take around 3 ½ hours to run. With sunset being around 9:00, we should have plenty of sunlight to run the race. That is unless we have rain move through to push the running time back later.

 Fan Events -- There is always a bunch of show cars at area stores. The Indianapolis Star newspaper will be the best source for this if you're in the area. There is a Kroger grocery store on Rockville Road, that is usually a big host of at least five show cars and they have several giveaways. There has been a few Nationwide drivers show up for autograph sessions also.

Chevy Days at the Brickyard -- Scheduled for Friday, July 25 at IMS. This event is free with your $10 track general admission ticket. There are three autograph sessions scheduled from 9:00 AM through 11:00 AM. You can also test drive your favorite Chevrolet vehicle on IMS's road course from 8AM to 4 PM. Friday is also a scheduled practice day for the Brickyard with cars hitting the track for the first session at 2PM.

Qualifying -- Scheduled for Saturday morning at 10. With your $15 track general admission ticket, you can also enjoy a free concert by the Goo Goo Dolls.

Race Day Concert -- Country Music Star, Craig Morgan will take the stage behind the Pagoda beginning at 10 AM. Legend, Charlie Daniels and his band are scheduled for a noon start.

Vendors -- There will be several race souvinier rigs parked at the famed corner of 16th Street and Georgetown Roads. For those not familiar with that intersection, it is where turn 1 is at. If you go up Georgetown Road, there will be several mom and pop type of souvinier tents. I hope you're not hungry when you walk up and down the street because the smells of all the different foods will drive you crazy. Speed TV has had their stage along Georgetown Road in the open field by the VFW Post #500. Once inside the track, head over toward the Museum between turns 1 & 2. That is where all your driver souvinier rigs will be parked along with a Chevrolet display.

 Travel Tips -- If you are coming to the race on race day from anywhere in a 40 mile radius, you should leave by 8AM. By the time you get to Indianapolis, the major routes to the track will be backed up. This is especially true for I-465 North from Crawfordsville Road south to near Washington Street. Also Lynhurst Avenue will be backed up to just before Rockville Road. I'll give you two shortcuts if you're coming from the Westside of town. This is where we came from and the routes I'm most familiar with.

If you're lucky enough to park for free in the Allison Transmission lot (you have to have a pass), pay attention. Take Rockville Road to North Mickley (the traffic light just past I-465). Take N. Mickley to Vermont Street and take a right. Stay on Vermont St. (you'll cross over Lynhurst) to Grande Avenue. There will be a stop sign there and you'll turn left on Grande Ave. Continue on Grande Ave. to 10th Street and make a left. The parking lot will be just down the street on the right. There should also be signs posted over the road to help direct you in the right direction. This route has always proven to be a great route with usually no waiting in traffic.

Here's another hint if you don't have that free pass to park at Allison's. you can park at Speedway High School on Lynurst near 25th Street. They'll charge around $10 to $15 to park and there are bathrooms available by the football stadium. You're only a short walk down 25th St. from the turn 4 entrance. All proceeds from parking there goes back to the school. They do this so they don't have to have any other fundraisers throughout the year. And possibly best of all, it has an easy out and a shortcut I'll explain in just in a minute. Go North on Lynurst Avenue from either Washington St., Rockville Rd., or Vermont St. Continue north on Lynhurst past Crawfordsville Road. After you get past Crawfordsville Road, get in the left lane and stay there. Speedway High School will be about another mile up the road on will be on the left. If you can, try to park in the back of the lot. When the race is over, police will direct everything coming out of that front entrance to SHS to Lynhurst and you'll be stuck in traffic a very long time. Go out the back entrance to the High School and make a left turn. There won't be any police directing traffic there, but the street will be blocked off at the traffic light there at 25th and Lynhurst preventing any traffic coming your way. From there you can meander down the back streets and you can get back toward Crawfordsville Road and I-465 and then go where you need to go. This back route also won't have much of a wait, if any.

 Local Media, Websites, & Pre Race Info -- www.wthr.com The local NBC affiliate. They have great coverage and their sports director, Dave Calabro, is also the P.A. Announcer for IMS. Usually on race day, they will stream live coverage of their pre race shows. It usually begins around 5AM or 6AM.

 www.indystar.com -- Website for the local paper, the Indianapolis Star. If you're in town for the race, be sure to get a copy every morning. The paper will be packed full of articles, traffic flow information and scanner frequencies.

 www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com -- Official site for IMS

www.jayski.com -- Will have all the latest news and rumors of the Brickyard and all of Nascar.

Every TV station in town and most radio stations will offer special race day programming beginning early that morning. If you're in the area, pick your favorite and have some fun.

All right fans. I hope you enjoyed the preview. I know there was a lot of info packed in here and hopefully that is info you can use.

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