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More superheroes have been added to Indy's heritage

Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor

The Inside Line Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Indianapolis Motor Speedway witnessed an appearance from Spider-Man following its prestigious Indianapolis 500, and now the famed track can add a couple of more action heroes to its legacy after this weekend's Brickyard 400.

Helio Castroneves, dubbed Spider-Man for his fence-climbing celebrations, lived up to his nickname two months ago when he climbed the safety fence following his third Indy 500 victory.

After Jimmie Johnson held off Mark Martin in the closing laps to win Sunday's Brickyard 400 for the third time in the last four years, Martin anointed Johnson, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, as "Superman."

Johnson in return labeled Martin the "Bionic Man."

Juan Pablo Montoya was supposed to have the car to beat at Indy, and he led 116 of 160 laps. But Montoya's pit-road speeding penalty late in the race prevented him from becoming the first driver to win both the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400. He won the Indy 500 in 2000.

Montoya's mishap allowed Martin to take over the top position. Martin's lead, however, was short-lived. Johnson passed him just after a double-file restart with 24 laps to go, in turn claiming his third victory of the season.

IMS can now be added to the list of tracks that Johnson has conquered recently.

IMS can now be added to the list of tracks that Jimmie Johnson has conquered recently.
Johnson survived Indy's tire fiasco last year, leading a race-high 71 laps, despite no more than 12 consecutive laps running under green due to the numerous competition cautions for tire issues.

In 2006, Johnson didn't have the dominant car at Indy, but he prevailed after passing former teammate Kyle Busch with 10 laps remaining.

"For us, this track, it's so tough to say which track is more important and which race from the (Indianapolis) 500 to the (Brickyard) 400," Johnson said. "To be so close to the fans, the fact that I wanted to race here as a kid in the Indy 500, then to come back and now win here, it is the coolest feeling ever."

Charlotte and Martinsville have alternately been dubbed "Jimmie's house" for the past several years. Johnson recorded four consecutive victories at Charlotte from 2004-05, and has won five of the last six races at Martinsville.

Johnson is attempting to win an unprecedented fourth straight championship in NASCAR's top division this year. He is a sure bet to make the field for the "Chase for the Sprint Cup," which begins in September at New Hampshire, though his legacy is not something that is foremost in the driver's mind.

"...As far as how I feel I fit in history, I've never been one to think I can put myself there," he said. "It's something that comes from all of you down the road, as you get close to retirement. I got a lot of years left in me. Hopefully four, five, six time race wins (at Indy) would be awfully cool."

But Martin might have said it better in respect to his teammate.

"His cape don't get tangled around his neck much," Martin said regarding Johnson's success in NASCAR's top division.

But you could argue that Martin, who has been a major part of the NASCAR story this year as well, is just being humble.

At age 50, Martin became the oldest pole winner in any major event in the 100- year history of IMS. He also leads the Sprint Cup Series with four wins so far this year.

Martin has yet to win at Indy, but Bionic Man is certainly deserving of a spot along with Johnson in the track's cast of Super Friends.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Symeon at csymeon@sportsnetwork.com.

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