INDIANAPOLIS — Today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race honors a deserving American hero with the grand prize winner earning naming rights, thus the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard.
It could easily be named the Matt McQuinn 400 at the Brickyard.
And in a way, it is. Furniture Row Racing pays tribute to the shooting victims from last week’s movie theater tragedy in Aurora, Colo., with a special paint scheme on the No. 78 Chevrolet driven by Regan Smith. McQuinn, who was laid to rest Saturday in Springfield, has his name on the rear quarter panels along with 11 others who died in the shooting. Front Row Racing’s shop is located in Denver about seven miles from where the shooting took place.
McQuinn, 27, used his body to shield St. Paris native and girlfriend Samantha Yowler from the gunfire. Yowler, who was shot in the leg, was among 58 injured.
“Our hearts go out to the victims and to their families,” Furniture Row Racing general manager Joe Garone said. “We mourn the loss of life from this senseless tragedy, and feel we also need to stand up and acknowledge the heroism of those people who put their lives on the line to save others. Our thoughts this weekend will be with all the people who suffered from this horrific act of violence.”
In addition to the quarter panels, Smith’s car features:
- A ribbon on the hood with a memorial cross and the red and gold on Colorado’s state flag
- An inscription on the rear bumper reading: For Those Lost, Those Injured / And Countless Acts of Bravery
Shaver, a native of Troy, Ala., won Crown Royal’s “Your Hero’s Name Here” contest. After losing part of his lower left leg in a farming accident, Shaver began a career as a firefighter and certified EMT to give back to his community.
Keselowski kisses the Bricks
Brad Keslowski gave Roger Penske his first NASCAR victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway — to go along with his 15 Indy titles — after winning the Nationwide Series Indiana 250 in a controversial finish Saturday evening.
On a restart with 72 laps left in the 100-lap event, leader Keselowski led the field to the restart alongside Elliott Sadler. But before Keselowski went full throttle, Sadler passed the race leader and was black flagged for jumping the restart. Sadler and his team argued Keselowski lost traction and spun his tires on the restart. It also appeared Sadler received a push from behind from Austin Dillon that shot him out front. Salder was black flagged but stayed on the track hoping race officials would reconsider. He finally served his pit drive-through penalty with 12 laps left. He finished 15th.
Keslowski, who took the lead from teammate Sam Hornish Jr. on lap 72, beat Hornish to the finish by 3.304 seconds.
“It happened really fast, and I don’t have a complete picture of what happened, so it’s hard for me to make a statement about it,” Keselowski said about the controversial restart. “But I can tell you my perception of it was I got a push from Sam, and it was a little more than I could take, and certainly I wasn’t going full throttle but I was not in the zone when Elliott took off. It appeared that Elliott got a push from behind, as well, and maybe he just couldn’t slow down, I don’t know. I don’t know how it all played out.”
Ty Dillon, Denny Hamlin and Austin Dillon rounded out the top five.
Danica Patrick’s return to IMS was short lived. She tapped Reed Sorenson going into Turn 1 on lap 39. Reed slid sideways and collected Patrick.“I tried to go around him and dind’t quite get by him and spun around, and unfortunately that was it,” said Patrick, who said Sorenson slowed going into the turn. “I am sorry if I did anything to affect his day, but I didn’t mean to.”
NASCAR at Indy had Smoke fuming
When NASCAR invaded the hallowed grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1994, Tony Stewart was among those not happy. It’s safe to say Smoke was fuming.
“I was one of those guys that when I watched the first Cup test at Indy, I got pretty upset about it. I was like, ‘This is the home of the Indy 500, and that’s all that should be here,’” said Stewart, who raced the IndyCar Series from 1996-2001 and joined Sprint Cup in 1999.
“But after awhile, after the first year, I started watching a lot more and started wrapping my arms around it. … I’ve got a lot of buddies that race in the Nationwide Series, and a lot of those guys probably would not have the opportunity to ever race at Indianapolis. So I’m glad to see those guys, and it’s a great facility. I think the more that realistically we can run there, the better.”
The Nationwide Series ran for the first time at IMS on Saturday and the Grand Am sports car series ran Friday.
Moving the Nationwide race from Lucas Oil Raceway to historic IMS had some critics asking if the series deserved to race there.
“It’s important for the series to be here. It solidifies that we’re big-time auto racers,” said Mike Wallace, who drove the JD Motorsports with Gary Keller to 20th in the Nationwide race. “We’re a small, under-funded feat and do the best with what we’ve got.”
The Sprint Cup series shifts to scenic Pocono Raceway next week. Tucked in the Pocono Mountains the track offers challenges besides those tricky triangle turns.
“They have those cypress trees on that back straightaway and I always watch those and wonder what would happen if a deer jumped out,” Carl Edwards said. “You have to put that out of your mind.”
Added Kevin Harvick: “Well, before they had all the fences I was always thinking about whether a deer was going to jump out in front of me as I was going down the straightaway).”
“We aren’t kissing any bricks today but we have a big cardboard check that we can lay our lips on. This was fun.” – Michael Annett, driver of the No. 43 Pilot/Flying J Ford Mustang after claiming a $100,000 bonus in the Dash For The Cash in the Nationwide race.
Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte and Mark Martin are the only drivers to compete in all 18 Brickyard 400s. All qualified for today’s race. … What can winning the Brickyard do for a driver’career? Fourteen of the 18 drivers to win at the Brickyard have won the series championship. In eight seasons, the winner of the Brickyard has gone on to win the series title. Jimmie Johnson was the last to sweep in 2009. Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart have also swept.