By Jared Turner
Following a remarkable 12-year winning streak for Chevrolet at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch delivered Toyota’s first victory at the fabled 2.5-mile track last year.
So was Busch’s win a fluke or a sign that the bowtie boys no longer hold their longstanding advantage at Indy?
The answer will come this weekend when NASCAR’s top series competes at the world’s most famous speedway for the 23rd time.
In the 22 previous Brickyard 400s, Chevrolet drivers has won 16 times. Fords have won just three times, while Pontiac and Dodge – two manufacturers no longer in the sport – have joined Toyota with a lone triumph at Indy.
Any way you slice it, history suggests the Chevys will be hard to beat on Sunday – a fact not lost among drivers and teams in the Sprint Cup Series garage.
“There’s two things going on there,” said Adam Stevens, the crew chief for Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team that finally last year put a halt to Chevy’s amazing streak at The Brickyard that extended all the way back to 2003 and the first George W. Bush administration. “No. 1, if you look at the percentage of the field, most of them are Chevrolets. That helps. Historically, some of the best teams have been Chevrolet teams. So, you’ve got odds in your favor to begin with.
“On top of that, they’ve always had a strong motor package. If there’s a place where the motor is going to shine, it’s here. So, they’ve got a couple things in their favor.”
Indianapolis, which unlike most tracks features four distinct corners, is a virtual carbon copy of itself at opposite ends of the track — another factor that may contributed to Chevy mostly maintaining its advantage through the three generations of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars.
“Once you work out a combination of springs and bars that work really good for a race team, they’re able to carry it from one package to the next with making small adjustments to it,” said Roush Fenway Racing co-owner Jack Roush, whose Fords are notably winless in the 22 Sprint Cup Series races held at Indy.
“Many things work in a combination. Once a team gets the code — many times when I’ve had it for different racetracks, I’ve not really understood it — sometimes you can carry it forward from driver to driver. … I think it’s just a matter of having the momentum and having a good playbook that has a good combination of those setup parameters. Whether they understand it or whether they don’t, it works to their advantage as long as they stay true to what’s working.”
Busch proved last year, however, that Chevy can be beaten at Indy – which gives renewed hope to the reigning Sprint Cup Series champion and the rest of the field this weekend at the historic track that has meant so much not only to NASCAR but the entire motorsports world.
“I knew we had a really good car on Friday when I was just going out there practicing by myself,” Busch said of last year’s Indy win. “It drove really good by itself and I knew we’d have a good shot if we could get out there and get out front. I felt like we were the strongest car by ourselves, but traffic was just so hard to pass. We had a lot of fun today. We tried some different strategies there toward the end that kind of worked in our favor. I wasn’t sure about it, but late restarts definitely worked in our favor, and to come home with a victory here at the Brickyard 400 there’s nothing else like it.”