While all the talk leading up to the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was on the potential restart issues that derailed NASCAR Nationwide Series points leader Elliott Sadler's bid for win number four of 2012, perhaps some of it should have been on a man who's won the Cup championship five times.
After all, other than Jeff Gordon, who was the first to win four 400-mile races at Indy, El Cajon, CA's Jimmie Johnson had to be the talk of the town.
With a fast, strong bullet at his arsenal, his team and crew chief as confident as ever, it seemed like it was time for Johnson to revisit the hallowed grounds of Victory Lane at Speedway, IN.
Sunday's 19th running of the Brickyard 400 was the Cup legend's blueprint to success, the model of excellence that teams have followed since 2006, and perhaps his finest hour since those five straight titles (2006-'10).
Calm, confident, and cool, Johnson and his No. 48 Lowe's/Kobalt Chevy team had the confidence of an NFL quarterback, not even concerned about the pressure inside the pocket.
In his case, he had very little competition for the afternoon, as challengers Gordon, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Greg Biffle, and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. were not a match for the newest four-time 400-mile champs.
Ultimately, Johnson's fourth career win at Indy put him in elite company, as he joined Indianapolis 500-mile winners Al Unser, A.J. Foyt, and Rick Mears, F1's Michael Schumacher, and NASCAR's Jeff Gordon as the only racers to win a quartet of Brickyard events.
The moment was one that Johnson absolutely had to appeciate and soak in.
''I'm able to join racing legends, my heroes and people I looked up to my entire life,'' Johnson said. ''To join them was a huge, huge honor.''
Johnson beat Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Gordon to the stripe, as Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex, Jr., Brad Keselowski, and Tony Stewart rounded out the top-10.
Busch wasn't too keen or disappointed about his runner-up effort, while Biffle took note about the strength of Johnson's fast Chevy Impala.
''It didn't really matter if you were in front of him or not, he was going to pass you in about four or five laps anyway,'' Biffle said. ''His car was just really, really good.''
Even Gordon, who perhaps had a car that was almost as good as Johnson's during a long green flag run, recognized just how strong his teammate has been the past six years.
"They're that good and they deserve it," Gordon said.
A relatively calm race, only a few competitors fell to the wayside because of crashes. Restarts seemed to dictate track position and ultimately the race's outcome, as being on the outside lane was almost a surefire way to lose spots.
Perhaps the most interesting news bit was how Brad Keselowski's No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger R/T team gambled on pitting off-sequence to pull ahead of Johnson and the lead pack. While it may have not paid off, it netted another top-10 finish this season.
Matt Kenseth, who entered the race as the points leader, relinquished his command of the Cup standings, as he tangled with Joey Logano and Bobby Labonte in the closing stages of the race.
His Ford was too battered for race-day repairs, coming home in 35th.
Couple that with Earnhardt's strong fourth-place effort and it resulted in "Little E's" first points lead since September of 2004, which was during his No. 8 Budweiser/Dale Earnhardt, Inc. days.
Carl Edwards, whose season has been one of discontent, continued on a downward spiral, as he fell from his second-place starting spot to a 29th place finish, far back in the serial race standings.
Other notables included Mark Martin, who placed 11th in his first race back since his runner-up finish at Pocono last month, Kasey Kahne (12th), Sam Hornish, Jr. (16th), and David Stremme (24th).
Twitter Talk Thoughts:
What were the thoughts of some race fans in the social media world with today's Brickyard 400? In what will be a new feature with race day summaries, I'll gather the thoughts of some fans and writers who interact with me following the end of every NASCAR race this year.
Tweet me at @RTiongson and make sure to use #TPF to count towards next week's edition of Twitter Talk Thoughts here on The Podium Finish!
Here were some notable fan reaction to the race.
Sonia Gonzales of California had hopes for a dramatic race finish but while she was content with the winner, she took note of some race day favorites who fell to the wayside either due to restart problems or car handling issues:
@aspecialsonia: "was really hoping for that late race caution for a shootout finish. Awesome for Johnson to run away with it, but I wanted a race! For whatever reason, there were a lot of big name guys (Harvick, Kenseth, Kahne) that had ill handling cars and a complete opposite for Kahne who finished quickest in practice. His car never got to where it was then."
Meanwhile, Gina Navarra of Florida believed the Indy 500 was a far more entertaining show than the Brickyard 400.
@fastlifeofgina: "Far from entertaining. Makes me wish it was May again."
Now here's a look at the current Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship standings, including the current two wild card seeds:
- Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (Hendrick Chevy/1 win)
- Matt Kenseth (Roush-Fenway Ford/1 win)
- Greg Biffle (Roush-Fenway Ford/1 win)
- Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Chevy/3 wins)
- Denny Hamlin (Gibbs Toyota/2 wins)
- Kevin Harvick (Childress Chevy)
- Martin Truex, Jr. (Waltrip Toyota)
- Tony Stewart (Stewart-Haas Chevy/3 wins)
- Brad Keselowski (Penske Dodge/3 wins)
- Clint Bowyer (Waltrip Toyota/1 win)
- Kasey Kahne (Hendrick Chevy/2 wins)
- Kyle Busch (Gibbs Toyota/1 win)
Next Sunday, the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams hit up the "Tricky Triangle" otherwise known as Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, PA. Brad Keselowski looks to defend his victory last summer while Jeff Gordon hopes to nab one of those important victories needed to land a wild card slot.
ESPN carries the race telecast starting with NASCAR Countdown at noon ET/9 AM PT with Nicole Briscoe, Rusty Wallace, Brad Daughterty, and Ray Evernham in the studio. Allen Bestwick, Dale Jarrett, and Andy Petree will call the action from the booth while Dr. Jerry Punch, Mike Massaro, Vince Welch, and Dave Burns will cover pit road.