Want to know even more about Jimmie Johnson and Team 48? See what journalists from around the country are saying about Team Lowe's Racing.
There are several famous yards in sports. “The Tackle” from Super Bowl XXXIV between the Tennessee Titans and St. Louis Rams will be remembered for linebacker Mike Jones’ game-saving tackle of Titans receiver Kevin Dyson a yard short of the goal line as time ran out. Another example would be golf’s 2012 Masters tournament where, deadlocked in a playoff with Louis Oosthuizen, Bubba Watson hit an incredible shot from the trees to leave his ball just over two yards from the cup, from where he made the putt for the win and the legendary green jacket.
While these yards were certainly involved in classic game-changing moments, one of the most historic yards in all of sports lies embedded in the track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The famous “yard of bricks” is synonymous with the 2.5-mile track. Track owners repaved the speedway in late 1909 after the first two motorsports events held at the track ended with issues concerning the original track surface, a mixture of gravel, limestone and stone chips, among other things.
After subsequent repaving projects, the final sections of brick were paved over in October 1961. The exception was the 36-inch brick section that makes up the start-finish line. Now, crossing those bricks in front of 42 other NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitors guarantees a driver’s name is cemented forever in the famed track’s record books, as Jimmie Johnson has done three times – 2006, 2008 and 2009.
Johnson will go for his fourth win Sunday. To earn it, however, he must cross over the most hallowed yard in sports first to claim victory.
We had a rare weekend off. What did you do last weekend?
“My family has been in Europe for July. I took them over after the Kentucky race and came home to race two more times and get some work done. I left immediately following the race at New Hampshire and flew back over and spent our off weekend over there. It was exciting to see and explore. At the same time, my mother-in-law, my wife, my daughter and then some other families, friends that we know in North Carolina, they took their families over, so kids and wives have been all over Europe having a great time. I’m very happy that my wife and daughter have been able to explore and experience that. I was just eager to see them since it had been two weeks, and I couldn’t wait to get over there and see them both.”
Is there a mystique going to Indianapolis Motor Speedway? Is it similar to going through the infield tunnel at Daytona?
“Oh, yeah. You drive through the tunnel at Indy and come in and look around and the history just starts talking to you. I’m so happy to have had three very special moments there myself. I hope to have a fourth and join some elite company of drivers who have won four times there.”
Indy is a very difficult track, but you have been very successful there. What is the key to getting around Indy?
“Track position is everything. The track position challenge starts in qualifying. Clearly, a fast racecar is important, but maintaining track position and, especially, having track position at the end of the race is everything.”
Do you have a favorite Indy tradition?
“Well, there are two things. Kissing the bricks is a big one, which is so cool. When I was up at Indy the other day, the first thing I did was run out on the frontstretch and take a look at the bricks and hopefully picked my spot where I will be after the race. Another neat thing that takes place when you win is they put the driver in a Corvette and take you around the speedway, waving to the fans. And they have a microphone there so you can talk to everyone, which is cool. I’ve over the years had my crew guys pile on the car. We have a really neat photo of me, (wife) Chani, Mr. Hendrick and I think 10 or 11 other crew members just laying on top of this Corvette taking the victory lap around the track, which is really cool.”