High-five for Gordon or Johnson at Indy?

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Updated: 7/25/2013 5:17 pm

A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser have won the Indianapolis 500 four times each.

The 400-miler at Indianapolis is arguably the second most prestigious race on the Sprint Cup Series schedule -- the Daytona 500 being the first.

Johnson, the five-time Sprint Cup champion, has won three of the last five Brickyard 400s, including a victory in last year's race. In February, he won the Daytona 500 for the second time in his already illustrious career. Johnson is the only driver to win the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 and the series title in the same season, doing so in 2006.

Two other drivers have won the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the same year: Dale Jarrett (1996) and Jamie McMurray (2010).

Prior to his first Brickyard 400 win seven years ago, Johnson had struggled at Indianapolis, posting DNFs in two of his first four races here. He has noted that while he typically prefers "quirky-shaped" tracks like Indy, it took him a while to find his way around its four flat corners.

"It took me quite a while to figure out the track," Johnson said. "But I feel tracks that are unique and quirky - one-of-a-kind tracks - I seem to adapt well to them. Those are tracks like Martinsville, Dover, Darlington and the Brickyard. There isn't a track out there like those.

"In my opinion, once you figure out how to drive those quirky tracks, you've got something that doesn't change. It always takes that line and that rhythm to get it right. And, when I show up at the racetrack, I stay very focused on that particular driving style. We adjust the car to it, and it pays off. So for me, it's just finding that line, and then once I've got it, I seem to own it.

"At the Brickyard, I found it on my own. I found it through a lot of frustrating test sessions, races, a few crashed cars, and then it finally clicked. I don't remember the exact moment. I do at Martinsville, but I don't at Indy. It was just one weekend we came back, and the light went off in my mind, and I'm like, 'That's how!' And then we won. That was our first win."

Johnson's four victories has made his crew chief, Chad Knaus, the winningest NASCAR crew chief at Indianapolis.

"All of those victories were so special," Knaus said. "I think last year's was a lot of fun, from the standpoint of really having a super-dominant race car, so that was definitely one that stood out."

Johnson heads to Indianapolis with a commanding 56-point lead over Clint Bowyer.

Sunday's Brickyard 400 will mark the 20th time NASCAR's premier series has competed at Indianapolis. Gordon, who grew up in nearby Pittsboro, Ind., won the inaugural Cup race here in 1994. The four-time series champion also won at this track in 1998, 2001 and '04. His three poles, 11 top-five finishes and 15 top-10s at Indy is tops among all drivers.

"I never dreamed I would win one, let alone four," Gordon said. "Winning five would be unimaginable. You don't focus on a number, though. You focus on the handling of the car, getting the car to the front and leading the lap that counts the most - the last one."

Opening in 1909, IMS has a unique "rectangular" shape and a relatively flat surface. The lengths of the turns here are 1/4-mile in length, while the straightaways are 5/8-mile long.

"The four corners look the same, but each is unique with different transitions and bumps," Gordon noted. "It's challenging, but as a driver, putting all that together with the dips in the track, the wind and how it's affecting the car, the radius of the corner and everything else can give you an advantage.

"I think this track suits my driving style, and the (No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports) team has given me great cars here over the years. I always come here with confidence."

Sitting 12th in the point standings with seven races to go before the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship begins, Gordon is in need of a win to help him qualify for the playoffs. Gordon, though, is only two points behind 10th-place and Hendrick teammate Kasey Kahne.

Forty-five teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Brickyard 400.

Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Sunday, July 28. Race: Brickyard 400. Site: Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Track: 2.5-mile oval. Start time: 1 p.m. ET. Laps: 160. Miles: 400. 2012 Winner: Jimmie Johnson. Television: ESPN. Radio: IMS Radio Network/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.

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