Will Sunday’s race at Indy identify next NASCAR Sprint Cup champion?

Perhaps more than any other race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, the Brickyard 400 historically has been an excellent predictor of the series championship.

In 1998, Jeff Gordon started a streak of four straight years in which the Indy winner went on to win the title. Dale Jarrett (1999), Bobby Labonte (2000) and Gordon (2001) followed.

In 2005, Tony Stewart won both the Brickyard 400 and the series crown. Jimmie Johnson accomplished the same feat in three of his six championship seasons, 2006, 2008 and 2009.

To Gordon, the very nature of racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway helps explains why eight Brickyard winners within a span of 12 years also won Sprint Cup championships in the same season.

“I think that this is a track that demands the best team, the best cars — because track position is so important here,” Gordon said Friday at IMS. “(It’s) so hard to pass here. And because of that, what happens is that the pit crew becomes crucial. The pit strategy becomes crucial, and the speed of the car, especially in qualifying, becomes crucial.

“I don’t know what the percentage rate is of those who go on to win the championship, but typically, that means the best team is pretty much going to win this race, which means they’re probably going to be the one to beat for the championship.”