Heat, humidity and NASCAR. For more than 100,000 people, that was an ideal combination this past Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. OK, maybe not \"ideal,\" but the world famous racing facility hosted the 13th running of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard for NASCAR fans from around the world, and served it up with some typical Indiana August weather.
For 12-year-old Paul Myers of Durango, Colo., the heat had yet to spoil his day at the track as he waited for the start of the race. Along with his dad and many other race fans, Paul spent some time under the stands before he went to his seat to watch the 160-lap event.
\"This is my first Brickyard in person,\" the youngster pointed out, \"and I'm having fun so far. I've watched the Brickyard on television before, and it's my favorite race. I'm a fan of the bigger tracks.\"
While this father and son seemed to enjoy their day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there were others who, with the help of the heat and, in some cases, too much alcohol, didn't have such a good time at the track. Numerous fans had to be treated for heat-related issues, and at least one fan was escorted from his seat by police.
Recently, there has been some talk in the media that the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard has become the second most important race in the Nextel Cup series, behind the granddaddy of them all, the Daytona 500. And yet there are others who think that the NASCAR race held at IMS is for the most part \"boring.\"
While the action at the shorter tracks - like Bristol, Martinsville and Darlington - is filled with the competitors \"tradin' paint\" with each other, most of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard finds the cars strung out around the track and rarely bunched up or banging fenders.
This year's race, for example, had few moments of excitement until the last dozen laps, when fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. found himself in a battle for the lead. The Earnhardt fans, which probably outnumber those of every other driver in NASCAR, erupted when Earnhardt took the lead for a short while, just laps from the finish. Junior went on to finish sixth.
As Earnhardt was cheered every time he drove by, four-time Brickyard 400 winner Jeff Gordon was equally jeered as he made his way around the track. When Gordon suffered mechanical problems early in the race, the news was greeted by a loud round of applause in the stands.
Last year's winner Tony Stewart, whose driving style and personality is reminiscent of A.J. Foyt (talented and hot-tempered), has garnered a more positive response from the fans in the stands every year, and his growth in popularity is sure to continue.
Whether the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard is an \"important\" race in the Nextel Cup series or just a boring one, the fans will be back next year. Just like the dog days of an Indiana summer.