What has gone right, and wrong, at the Brickyard 400

Scott Horner,
Checkered flag

The Brickyard 400 quickly became one of NASCAR's most coveted titles when it started in 1994, and it still is as the 25th edition hits the track this weekend. Jeff Gordon, who spent his teenage years in Indiana, has five Brickyard wins, and Jimmie Johnson has won here four times. The race has also provided career highlights for Hoosier natives Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman.

Here are some of the greatest – and not so great – moments in race history.


Jarrett accidentally starts Speedway tradition

Crew chief Todd Parrott (left) and driver Dale Jarrett prepare to kiss the bricks in 1996. It has become a tradition for drivers, crews and fans at the Speedway.

Dale Jarrett and crew chief Todd Parrott commemorated their 1996 win by kneeling at the yard of bricks and giving them a kiss.

"This is the day I'll always have an cherish,"  Jarrett said after the race. "It's not a matter of money in this thing, it's a matter of pride and accomplishment."

His father, NASCAR legend Ned Jarrett, was even more emotional.

"I was more nervous today than I've ever been before, more choked up," the elder Jarrett said. "I really didn't think there ever would be a Jarrett win a race at Indy."

They could not have imagined that the gesture would turn into a tradition for drivers, crews, and even fans that rivals the Indy 500's drinking a celebratory bottle of milk. 

Jeff Gordon wins inaugural race in '94 

Jeff Gordon storms onto the NASCAR scene by winning the inaugural Brickyard 400. He was just past his 23rd birthday.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway broke its tradition of hosting only IndyCar races with its inaugural NASCAR race, and it was an instant hit with a storybook ending.

Jeff Gordon, who spent his teenage years in Pittsboro dominating Indiana short-track racing, had moved to stock cars and was quickly becoming a national sensation. 

He led 93 of the race's 160 laps, earned his second Cup victory and was overcome with emotion before a sellout crowd.

"I had to get all the tears wiped off my face," he said after taking an extra celebratory lap.

The win came two days after his 23rd birthday.

Tony Stewart realizes a lifelong dream

Tony Stewart celebrates his 2005 Brickyard 400 win, a lifelong highlight to that point.

"It's definitely the greatest day of my life." 

Tony Stewart was born in Columbus, started watching races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway by age 6 and had been a short-track and IndyCar racing champion.

But he hadn't won at IMS.

That changed in the 2005 Brickyard 400 when he became to the first Hoosier-born driver to win at IMS since Wilbur Shaw captured the 1940 Indianapolis 500.  

He vowed to celebrate with family and friends, as well as his team, even if it meant partying through the night.

"If I died right now, my life's complete," he said.

Jeff Gordon makes it 5 

NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon celebrates his fifth Brickyard 400 race win in Victory Circle at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sunday, July 27, 2014.

That was one big exclamation point. 

Jeff Gordon, not quite to his 43rd birthday, became the sole leader in Brickyard 400 wins by taking his fifth checkered flag in 2014. It was the 90th of his 93 Cup wins, where he stands third behind Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105). 

Gordon made it possible with an unusual move. He swept past teammate Kasey Kahne on the outside on a restart with 17 laps to go.

"I finally made the restart of my life when it counted most," Gordon said.

The roar of the crowd as he finished was thrilling, even for a driver much closer to the end of his career than the beginning.

"That sends a chill up your spine as a race car driver in a race that is so important to you, to have so many fans out there supporting you," Gordon said.

Foyt's reaction to Gordon's 4th 

Jeff Gordon gets his fourth Brickyard 400 trophy.

When Jeff Gordon matched three Indianapolis 500 heroes with his fourth win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2004, he didn't claim to be in the same company with A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

But he acknowledged thoughts of IndyCar greats crept into his mind late in the race.

"It was starting to get to me. I didn't realize how much this really means to me to win four," Gordon said.

Foyt made sure Gordon knew his place, as only A.J. can. 

"That's like comparing chicken(crap) with chicken salad; they're different cars," Foyt said. "That'd be like a four-time winner at Pocono saying he was as good as a four-time winner at Indy just because he drove an Indy car at both places."


'Competition cautions' in 2008

Goodyear tires sit shredded and flat by the Goodyear garage area during the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sunday July 27, 2008. (Matt Kryger / The Indianapolis Star)

"Tire de Farce." "Unfair to the fans." "A fiasco." There wasn't much to like about the 2008 race. Though, Jimmie Johnson would disagree because he won here for the second time in three years.

Goodyear's tires were failing early and often, so frequent pit stops were required about every 10 laps. The longest green-flag run was 13 laps. Almost one-third of the race was run under caution. It reminded fans of the Formula One tire debacle from 2005, in which just six cars raced because the drivers using Michelin tires refused to take the green flag.

"It was a ridiculous race," said driver Ryan Newman.

"You just wanted to scream," said Bobby Labonte. 

After the last "competition caution," Johnson got back onto the track first and held off Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin.

Montoya's luck in consecutive years

Juan Pablo Montoya heads for the garages after a collision with Dale Earnhardt Jr. during the 2010 Brickyard 400.

Of the 320 laps in the 2009 and '10 races, Juan Pablo Montoya led 202. He started on the front row each year. The result? Finishes of 11th in 2009 and 32nd the next year. 

What happened? 

In 2009, he was assessed a drive-through penalty for speeding on pit road. He had led 116 of the race's 125 laps to that point. Montoya wasn't convinced the penalty was warranted but shrugged after the race. "Once it happens, you can't change it. It's pretty frustrating." 

He started on the pole the next year and was leading heading into a pit stop on Lap 139. He took four tires, while many contenders took two. Soon after coming off pit road, he crashed in Turn 4. 

Stewart's temper boils over

Driver Tony Stewart walks through the garage area at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after the conclusion of the Brickyard 400 on August 4 2002. Stewart the polesitter led 43 laps of the race won by Bill Elliott and finished 12th. This photo was taken shortly before Stewart struck the photographer.

Tony Stewart was frustrated after the 2002 race, in which he finished 12th after starting from the pole. He was in no mood for distractions when a photographer stepped up to take a photo of him in the garage area.

Stewart, who later acknowledged his "emotional cup was full" that day, shoved the photographer. 

Stewart later apologized but remained fiery throughout that year. He was accused of assault by a fan at another race that year (no charges were filed) and had another dust-up with a photographer the day before the season finale. 

A silver lining? He won the Cup championship for the first time the next day.

Rain out? No, the race just started

Workers squeegee water from the track at the exit of the pit road at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Saturday, Aug. 5, 1995, as rain delays the start.

The remnants of a hurricane blew into Indianapolis the day of the 1995 race. The rain wasn't torrential, but it was steady.

The scheduled 12:15 p.m. start was long passed, and thousands of fans left the Speedway, believing there was no way the race would be run.

They were wrong.

The race, minus much of the usual pre-race pageantry during a hastily arranged start, began after a four-hour delay. ABC had abandoned its live coverage (ESPN showed it the following day), meaning fans who left either had to head back to the track or miss it. 

"They left us hanging all day. We thought it was not going to happen," said a fan who was hustling to get back to the track after learning it had begun. "I really am thinking they could have treated the fans a little better."

Not too long before dusk, Dale Earnhardt won the race.

It's almost bedtime

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kasey Kahne (5) celebrates winning the Brickyard 400 Sunday, July 23, 2017, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It started with the rain.

Then came the crashes.

And then it became, can we get this thing done before dark? 

Rain delayed the start of the 2017 race by more than two hours, and when it got going, Kyle Busch -- the two-time defending champion -- and Martin Truex Jr. were the class of the field.

Truex and Busch crashed on Lap 111, taking both out of contention.

After the cleanup from that crash, the race ran cleanly until Lap 151, when a four-car crash brought out a red flag. 

Here's how it went from there: Crashes on Lap 156; Lap 160; Lap 164 (first overtime, seven cars, another red flag) and Lap 167.

It seemingly took forever to get that thing done. The race — and winner Kasey Kahne — beat sunset by just a few minutes.

Contact IndyStar sports producer Scott Horner on Twitter at @ScottEHorner.