Five storylines worth watching

But it's adopted Hoosier Gordon, who lived 20 minutes outside of Indianapolis in the small town of Pittsboro for a few years in his teens when he broke into USAC racing, who has tasted the most success at IMS. Gordon won the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994 in one of NASCAR's "too good to be true" stories, and he added three more victories through 2004. Now he and his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Johnson are vying to become the first driver to win five times on the IMS oval; as well as he has run this year, at age 42, it wouldn't be a surprise at all if Gordon took that historic fifth Brickyard win on the 20th anniversary of his first.

3. The dark horses: The Brickyard 400 has occasionally thrown out a surprising result; Ricky Rudd won for his own team in 1997, while Bill Elliott scored the next-to-last win of his career at Indianapolis in 2002.

In recent years, Brickyard anomalies have almost become a trend. Jamie McMurray captured the 2010 race as one-quarter of team owner Chip Ganassi's "Chip Slam" (the 2010 Daytona and Indianapolis 500s, the Brickyard and the 2011 Rolex 24 at Daytona), followed a year later by Paul Menard's lone Sprint Cup Series victory. Even Newman's emotional win last year, when he knew he would not be retained for 2014 by Stewart-Haas, came somewhat out of the blue.

Who has the best chance of springing a surprise this year? It could be Juan Pablo Montoya, who dominated the 2009 and '10 Brickyards but came away disappointed. Although he recently returned to full-time Indy car racing, Montoya is wheeling one of Team Penske's ultracompetitive Fords, and the Colombian qualified eighth for Sunday's race.

Three more drivers to watch: Brian Vickers, who will start fifth, sitting 18th in the points, may need a race win to make the Chase; Kyle Larson, who replaced Montoya in Ganassi Racing's No. 42 Chevrolet this year; and Wood Brothers Racing's Trevor Bayne, who was quick in practice and tends to thrive in important races.

4. End of Ford futility?: To say that Chevrolet has owned the Brickyard 400 is an understatement, and I'm not talking about the fact that Chevy has supplied the Pace Car and support vehicles for every NASCAR race at Indianapolis over the last 20 years.

Chevrolet has won 15 of the 20 Brickyards to date; the last non-Bowtie branded stock car to win at Indy was Elliott's Evernham Motorsports Dodge in 2002. Pontiac is another one-time winner, courtesy of Bobby Labonte and Joe Gibbs Racing in 2000, and surprisingly, Ford has won only three times: twice with Dale Jarrett (1996 and '99), sandwiching Rudd in 1997.

Fifteen years after Ford's last Brickyard win, company executives are surely itching to find their way back to Indianapolis' elevated Victory Circle. They have an excellent chance this year, because the Team Penske Fords driven by Keselowski and Logano have been competitive everywhere in 2014, and they'll both start in the top 10 on Sunday. Remarkably, 15-time Indianapolis 500 winning team owner Roger Penske has never won the Brickyard 400.

The Roush-Fenway Racing Fords continued to struggle, but Greg Biffle really needs a win, and Carl Edwards can never be counted out.

5. Still an event in decline?: No NASCAR event in memory debuted with more fanfare than the Brickyard 400, and for a period in the late '90s into the early part of the 21st century, the Brickyard was the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's toughest ticket.

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