Indianapolis, IN – The Sprint Cup Series is back in action this weekend with one of its most prestigious races of the season at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Nationwide Series also will be at Indy. And Formula One is on the road again with the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest.
Sprint Cup Series
Brickyard 400 - Indianapolis Motor Speedway - Indianapolis, Ind.
Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson will have something in common this weekend.
Gordon and Johnson have four wins each in the Brickyard 400, and another victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for either one of them would place him in a tie with Formula One legend Michael Schumacher for most wins at this historic 2.5-mile racetrack. Schumacher won the United States Grand Prix here five times.
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.
Indiana 250 - Indianapolis Motor Speedway - Indianapolis, Ind.
After his victory in Wednesday's Camping World Truck Series race on the half- mile dirt Eldora Speedway, Austin Dillon will attempt to win the $100,000 "Dash 4 Cash" bonus in the Nationwide Series for the third week in a row.
Saturday's Indiana 250 will be the second time Nationwide runs at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Brad Keselowski won the 2012 inaugural race here. Indianapolis also will be the fourth and final event in this year's Dash 4 Cash bonus program from series-title sponsor Nationwide Insurance.
Elliott Sadler won the first $100,000 award with his third-place run at Daytona earlier this month. Since then, it has been all Dillon, who is the only driver to qualify for all four bonus events. He finished third at both New Hampshire and Chicagoland.
Sam Hornish Jr., Brian Vickers and Sadler are eligible for the bonus at Indy as well.
Dillon finished fifth in last year's race at Indianapolis.
"It was very special to run the first NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, because every time you can be in an inaugural race, it is history being made. As a driver, you love getting those little notches on your belt. Going back for the second time, you have a lot more experience, so you know what to expect with the track."
Dillon also is entered in the Brickyard 400 this weekend, driving the No. 33 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. He competed in the Daytona 500 for the first time earlier this year.
"There is so much history at Indy, and I love going there," he said. "I've been able to go to the Brickyard 400 for a long time with my family. Last year, running the inaugural NASCAR Nationwide Series race with my brother (Ty Dillon) was really, really special. That's just history right there. To make my first Daytona 500 start and my first Brickyard 400 start in the same year is pretty cool."
After scoring three consecutive top-five finishes, Dillon has moved up to third in the point standings. He is just eight points behind leader Hornish and only one marker in back of Regan Smith. Dillon has yet to win a Nationwide race this season.
Forty-two teams are on the preliminary entry list for the Indiana 250.
Hungarian Grand Prix - Hungaroring - Budapest, Hungary
Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg might be at a disadvantage in this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix.
Formula One has not raced since the July 7 German Grand Prix. Last week, though, all F1 teams except Mercedes participated in a Pirelli tire test as part of the three-day young driver test at Silverstone Circuit. FIA's International Tribunal suspended Mercedes from the Silverstone test after the team conducted an unapproved tire test in May at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya.
At Silverstone, teams familiarized themselves with Pirelli's new tires that will be used for the Hungarian GP. The revised tires come in wake of the tire failures occurring in the British Grand Prix last month.
The tires will be just one concern for Mercedes. The weather will be another. Very high temperatures are expected in Budapest during the weekend.
"It's going to be tough this weekend definitely," said Hamilton, who is in his first season with Mercedes. "The (hot) conditions will not help. Plus, we haven't driven the tires as everyone else has. We've got a bit of catching up to do, but that's what we do best. We just have to work as hard as we can this weekend to try to understand the tires and put ourselves in the best position possible. We have a lot of work to do to continue to improve our race pace, but I anticipate it will be a difficult weekend."
With Hungary the 10th round in this year's 19 grand prix F1 season, Mercedes holds the second spot in the constructors' championship standings. Mercedes has accrued 183 points compared to 250 for Red Bull.
"Friday (practice) will be our first opportunity to work with the new tires on our cars, so we have a great deal to learn in a short space of time," Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn said. "We want to finish the first half of the season on a high, but the challenge facing us is clear."
Hamilton has three victories in the Hungarian GP, which is the most among active drivers. He started on the pole and won this event in his final season with McLaren last year. Hamilton has yet win a grand prix with Mercedes. He is currently fourth in the world championship standings, as he trails leader and three-time defending F1 champion Sebastian Vettel by 58 points.
"I don't really look at myself as a championship contender at the moment," Hamilton admitted. "At the beginning of the season, everyone was writing me off, and then all of a sudden, they changed their opinions. We've had some really good results. That's just due to all the hard work the team are putting in, and we're not giving up.
"We're going to keep pushing. We hope that we're going to get some wins in the future races coming. It's going to be tough, but I'm really happy with how the season has gone so far, especially compared to where the team was last year. It's a massive step."
Rosberg has won two of the last four grand prix - Monaco and Britain. He has finished no better than fourth in his previous seven races at Budapest's Hungaroring circuit.
"The Hungaroring is always a track that I enjoy driving, and it has quite a challenging layout for the drivers," Rosberg said. "With all the twists and turns, it feels very much like Monaco, but takes place on a normal circuit. Qualifying will be important this weekend, which is good for us, but we know that we have to deliver on Sunday as well."
After Hungary, F1 takes a three-week "summer vacation" before it resumes its season on Aug. 25 with the Belgian Grand Prix.