Long after the NASCAR haulers have left Speedway late Sunday night and Monday morning, a group of racing fans are still fuming over the way Brickyard 400 champ Jimmie Johnson celebrated his record-tying fourth Brickyard 400 victory.
Some—mainly open-wheel aficionados—are charging Johnson and his crew with “desecrating” the famed yard of bricks.
The exuberant Johnson did the customary NASCAR burnout after Sunday’s race. But as part of the celebration, Johnson put the nose of his car into the pit wall at the start/finish line and burned smelly, stinky rubber all over and right on top of the historic three-feet wide yard of bricks.
The burning celebration burned a spot into many Hoosiers hearts.
The celebration shown on network television lit up the social networks with more than a few complaints. Many complained Johnson showed a lack of respect for the track and its heritage and the historical significance of that hallowed ground where he burned rubber. More than a few called Johnson “classless” and downright “rude.”
“I had no issues with his smoky burnout down the front straight that included the three feet of brick at the flag stand. Nor was I concerned with Brad Keselowski’s burnout after his nationwide win, or any burnout done after a win. Smokey, stinky burnouts are cool and a huge part of racing. Celebrate, but don’t roast them right on top of the bricks. That’s just disrespectful,” wrote motorsports blogger Eric Hall.
The complainants’ hackles were raised further when Johnson and his crew appeared to sign their names on the yard of bricks after the race. Indianapolis Motor Speedway spokesman Doug Boles said he wasn’t aware of the signing.
“That is not a normal part of the celebration,” Boles said, adding that he was going to check the yard of bricks himself to see if there were signatures there. It’s unclear what was going to be done if there were signatures on the hallowed ground.
Aside from the abnormal ground-level autograph session, Boles said IMS officials had no problem with Johnson’s celebration, adding “it doesn’t hurt the [structural] integrity of the yard of bricks.”
“It’s no different than when they do the burnout on the Daytona 500 logo on the infield in Daytona,” Boles said.
Boles thinks criticism of Johnson’s post-race celebration is unfair.
“People who were upset by this should listen to Jimmie’s comments,” Boles said. “There’s not a driver in the NASCAR paddock who understands and respects the history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway more than Jimmie Johnson. He grew up wanting to race here. He reveres this place.”
If Johnson reveres the Speedway, many open-wheel followers think he has a funny way of showing it.
"I do not doubt JJ’s knowledge of the history and lore of the Speedway and I am positive he understands the importance of the facility to Indianapolis area residents, American open-wheel fanatics and the larger motorsports community as a whole” Hall wrote. “But any machines other than open-wheelers during May are visitors in our house and they should respect the Brickyard as such.”