Racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is not for the timid.
And winning there is not for the hesitant.
For the NASCAR crowd, IMS is one of those tracks that typically rewards front-line drivers and rarely ushers in an upset winner.
In 18 races at motorsports’ most famous track, the checkered flag has been grabbed 14 times by drivers who already owned or would later win Sprint Cup championships.
Arguably, the only upsets since the track opened its famous garages to NASCAR in 1994 were scored by Ricky Rudd in 1997 and Paul Menard in 2011.
Former Indiana resident Jeff Gordon won the track’s first Sprint Cup race to grand acclaim in 1994, the frontstretch grandstand cheers ringing in his ears – despite all the surrounding noise – as he rolled around the 2.5-mile course over the final laps.
That was the first of four Gordon wins at the Brickyard, and he remains the track’s lead winner.
The second Brickyard 400 went to Dale Earnhardt Sr., who famously proclaimed himself, in a fun gibe at Gordon, the “first man” to win the race.
Earnhardt Sr. would be killed six years later in the Daytona 500 but had forever stamped his name and the imprint of the No. 3 black Chevrolet on the Indy landscape.
Joining Gordon as the only other multiple winners of the 400 are Jimmie Johnson (three), Dale Jarrett (two) and Tony Stewart (two).
Hendrick Motorsports is the No. 1 team at the track with seven wins (by Gordon and Johnson).
Even though the 400 has lost some of the magic from the early years, it remains on the must-win list of the sport’s top drivers. The challenge of winning there – racing’s greatest track and one that presents difficult trials for heavy stock cars – makes the victory extra sweet.
“It's a little hard to pass there,” Kyle Busch understated. “I think we've all kind of seen that over the years. The restarts are always kind of exciting. And, looking forward to – if we ever get the opportunity to win there, we'd love it. We'd take it.
“It's been a pretty cool racetrack – just, I think, because of all the history and everything that's built around that racetrack and the 100 years that it's been going. I think that's kind of what makes it so exciting, too – the history of the place.”
The track has a packed schedule this weekend as the Nationwide Series and the GRAND-AM Series join the lineup. Two Nationwide practices are scheduled Thursday, and a pair of Sprint Cup practices are scheduled Saturday. Nationwide and Sprint Cup qualifying are Saturday, with the Indiana 250 Nationwide race scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET.
The Crown Royal 400 Sprint Cup race is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.