INDIANAPOLIS — The most memorable moment of Sunday's Brickyard 400 was the final lap. No, not the one where Kyle Busch crossed the finish line to win his second consecutive Brickyard and lead his race-record 149th lap. The last lap at Indianapolis ...
TOP TRENDING Jeff Gluck, USA TODAY Sports 12:46 a.m. EDT July 25, 2016
USA TODAY Sports' Jeff Gluck breaks down the Brickyard 400, where Kyle Busch won for the second straight year and Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon shared an emotional final lap.
USA TODAY SportsINDIANAPOLIS â€”Â The most memorable moment of Sundayâ€™s Brickyard 400 was the final lap.No, not the one where Kyle Busch crossed the finish line to win his second consecutive Brickyard and lead his race-record 149th lap.The last lap at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a ceremonial one. As Busch did burnouts on the frontstretch, legendary drivers Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon slowly took their cars around the track one more time â€”Â a side-by-side salute to fans after a combined seven Brickyard wins and seven Cup championships.It was fitting, because the weekend was largely about the pair. Stewart, who has said he is retiring from NASCAR at the end of the season, was racing in the series for the last time at his beloved home track. And Gordon, a fellow Hoosier, came out of retirement to replace an injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 car.Their final lap at Indy will be replayed for years to come. And the tributes arenâ€™t over yet.Stewart will continue to receive accolades as his career winds down, and Gordon will draw attention for what is perhaps his final final race at Pocono Raceway next week if Earnhardt is healthy enough to return after that.Clearly, their time in the spotlight is coming to a close. So who will take over once theyâ€™re out of the car for good?Look no further than the front of the pack Sunday.The NASCAR world tends to get caught up in any up-and-coming drivers who show potential. Rookies Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney have enjoyed solid seasons, while youngsters like Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon continue to improve.When USA TODAY Sports asked 20-plus drivers this season who will win the championship five years from now, Elliott was the overwhelming pick.That may be the case. But if so, heâ€™s going to have to beat a driver who is absolutely dominating the series at times â€”Â and likely wonâ€™t stop anytime soon.Think about it: Busch is only 31. He has a Cup championship and 38 career wins â€”Â more than nine drivers in the NASCAR Hall of Fame and now just 11 fewer than Stewart, who is perhaps the greatest talent of his generation.Busch is in a different generation â€”Â one with hard-nosed racers like Joey Logano (15 wins at age 26) and Brad Keselowski (Cup title and 21 wins at age 32).These are the drivers who are set to take over from Gordon and Stewart. These are the drivers who likely will win the bulk of the races and championships over the next decade.But right now, itâ€™s Buschâ€™s world. Just look at Sunday, when he won his fourth straight NASCAR national series race at a track known to be very difficult to master. He made it look easy, and seemingly no one could touch him on restarts despite the field getting several shots at the end of the race.Logano came closest, sticking to Buschâ€™s door through Turn 1 until a caution came out on a late restart. But the next time, Busch just pulled away.It doesnâ€™t hurt that Busch is driving for the best organization in NASCAR right now. The Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas have only gotten stronger since winning all the big trophies and the championship last year;Â Sunday marked Toyotaâ€™s 10th victory of the season through 20 events.But Busch is a unique talent with the capability of taking his car to another level, even though fans might get upset that he wins so often and donâ€™t like how he ruffles some feathers along the way.Wait a second. That sounds like some other drivers we know, doesnâ€™t it?Yes, Stewart and Gordon made plenty of fans unhappy over the years with their winning ways. The boos they heard in the prime of their careers certainly rival the ones Busch receives now.But as their driving days wound down, they were respected. Stewart and Gordon received the loudest cheers before Sundayâ€™s race.The same could happen for Busch someday. Not now, but perhaps in 10 years.Give him time. Heâ€™s not going anywhere.Follow Gluck on Twitter @jeff_gluckReplay1 of 292 of 293 of 294 of 295 of 296 of 297 of 298 of 299 of 2910 of 2911 of 2912 of 2913 of 2914 of 2915 of 2916 of 2917 of 2918 of 2919 of 2920 of 2921 of 2922 of 2923 of 2924 of 2925 of 2926 of 2927 of 2928 of 2929 of 29AutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow Captions
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