Wednesday, July 24, 2013

2013 Brickyard 400 Preview: Is Jeff Gordon still a contender at Indy?

Gordon has kissed bricks four times over his career, the last in 2004
Jeff Gordon makes his 20th career start on the fabled bricks of Indianapolis Motor Speedway this Sunday, and in some ways we can say that NASCAR's rise in popularity happened when Gordon won the inaugural race in 1994. A part of the country that had mostly been exposed to Indy cars was getting their first look stock cars, while the kid who raced midgets in Indiana was about to become the face of NASCAR across the country.

It may not seem like that big of a deal when looking back at everything that has transpired over the last 20 years, but almost everything good that has happened for the sport came as a direct result of NASCAR finally getting to race on the bricks.

Not only was Gordon born at that moment, which kicked off one of the great rivalries in the sport with Dale Earnhardt, but growth began to happen in imaginable proportions. America was ready for Jeff Gordon and stock car racing. Meanwhile, open wheel racing was dying as internal greed and stupidity crippled the sport to being barely a blip in the sports page when they race.

Tony George, owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, should get just as much credit as anyone for NASCAR's rise because of his role in destroying the popularity of the open wheel cars.

Following NASCAR's first race on the bricks, tracks started popping up all over America. California, Texas, Las Vegas, Chicago and Kansas all soon began to have NASCAR events and the sport was off and running. Sponsorship loyalty among the fans proved to greater than other sports, which meant there was plenty of money to be thrown around for anyone selling NASCAR.

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