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Ben Smith

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Brickyard great, but nothing to cry about

– Ryan Newman has smooched the bricks, holding his little girl in one arm. He’s felt the love of the fan(s). He’s explained, the best he can, why winning at Indy didn’t turn an Indiana boy like him into 5 feet, 11 inches of emotional goo.

High time now for a few last observations, 24 hours on, of a 20th Brickyard 400 that may or may not have had the shine of history to it:

1. Ryan Newman’s explanation for why Indy didn’t turn an Indiana boy like him into 5 feet, 11 inches of emotional goo.

The discount-store answer: It’s just not him.

“I don’t show a lot of emotion,” Newman said Sunday. “But to me, it’s awesome to win at Indy. It’s awesome because it’s my home state. I grew up racing around here, Winchester, Salem, IRP, little tracks like Anderson. I’ve raced go-karts at pretty much every go-kart track around here, and been kicked out of half of them. Those are the things that make it special. I think about those things more than I carry the emotion on my cheeks.”

Can’t be said better than that.

2. So this is why people hate Jimmie Johnson.

The man is simply not beatable when he’s right, especially at a place like Indianapolis, where the proceedings too often turn into an episode of The Frontrunner And Them Others. Johnson so thoroughly dominated the 2012 Brickyard he left everyone else in awe; Sunday, he had a repeat on his racket until a pokey stop on the last pit cycle put him hopelessly in Newman’s wake.

Dominance like that does not exactly make the pulse pound. But it should be appreciated.

“When somebody does a good job, does a great job, everybody hates that,” Tony Stewart said Sunday. “I don’t understand that. It baffles me as a race car driver.”

It should baffle all of us.

3. Time travel is cool.

Or so you would have thought, too, if you’d seen that B-25 doing the flyover prior to Sunday’s race. Jimmy Doolittle flew one of those things over Tokyo, way back when. A whole bunch more of them helped beat Hitler and Tojo. It’s not saying a lot for the uneventfulness that later ensued, but it was the highlight of the day.

4. The future’s pretty interesting, too.

On a fall-like day when no one had the go-to it’s-too-hot excuse, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a virtual ghost town, more sparsely populated than it has ever been for the Brickyard. All of that stark emptiness just threw another log on the fire of one of the weekend’s hot topics: How soon will it be before IMS puts up lights and NASCAR makes the Brickyard a Saturday night race?

It would pump life into an event that’s clearly lost its mojo, if only for the last couple of years. After Sunday, you have to believe all parties involved are thinking exactly that. When even so eminent a figure as Jeff Gordon says that, while the Speedway doesn’t need lights, it would be, like, super-cool if it had them, the handwriting on the wall seems written in screaming orange neon.

Night racin’s a-comin’. And sooner than you think.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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