1996 Brickyard 400 Daily Trackside Report - 07/31/96 By virtue of Jeff Gordon taking the 1995 Winston Cup championship, the Hendrick Motorsports hauler carrying the ...
1996 Brickyard 400 Daily Trackside Report - 07/31/96
By virtue of Jeff Gordon taking the 1995 Winston Cup championship, the Hendrick Motorsports hauler carrying the #24 DuPont Refinishes Chevrolet was the first to pull into the Red Lot behind Gasoline Alley at 5:58 a.m. today, with Mike Belden of Concord, N.C. at the wheel and a television cameraman riding with him. It was Belden's first time to have the honor of being "first in." Each of the last two years, "Mountain Man" Jim Baldwin of Lansing, N.C., was first into the Red Lot after Dale Earnhardt's two straight Winston Cup titles. "We love coming to Indy," Belden said. "We like the track and Jeff likes the track. It's always fun to come to a place where you know you can do well." The first car out of a transporter at 7:02 a.m. was the #24 of Gordon and it was also first in Gasoline Alley a minute later.
Of the 51 cars on the original entry list, 48 cars had checked in through NASCAR registration as of 10 a.m. today. From the original entry list, cars not on the grounds were #19 Loy Allen Jr., #49 Eric Smith and #63 with no driver assigned. According to NASCAR officials, #19 and #63 were listed as scratches for the weekend. The number for the car assigned to Steven Seligman has changed from #65 to #57.
The 1996 Brickyard 400 Media Guide and a Brickyard 400 statistics and record package are available from the press room office.
>From Winston Cup Racing Updates, 1996 Brickyard 400 Indianapolis Edition:
--Dale Earnhardt has finished 12th or lower in four of the last six races. Earnhardt has fallen from a 136-point Winston Cup lead after Race No. 12 at Dover to 23 points behind leader Jeff Gordon six races later. Earnhardt has started 11th or better in the last six races.
--There have been seven different winners in the first 18 races (Jeff Gordon at Richmond, Darlington, Bristol, Dover, Pocono and second Talladega, Rusty Wallace at Martinsville, Sears Point, Michigan and second Pocono, Dale Earnhardt at Rockingham and Atlanta, Sterling Marlin at Talladega and second Daytona, Dale Jarrett at Daytona and Charlotte, Ernie Irvan at Loudon and Terry Labonte at North Wilkesboro.
--There have been 10 different Busch Pole winners in the first 18 races (Terry Labonte at Rockingham, Richmond, North Wilkesboro and Sears Point, Jeff Gordon at Charlotte, Dover, Pocono and second Daytona, Mark Martin at Bristol and second Pocono, Ricky Craven at Martinsville and Loudon, Dale Earnhardt at Daytona, Johnny Benson at Atlanta, Ward Burton at Darlington, Ernie Irvan at Talladega, Bobby Hamilton at Michigan and Jeremy Mayfield at second Talladega).
--Terry Labonte leads all drivers with 14 starts from a top-15 starting position.
--Jeff Gordon has eight front-row starts this season, four from the pole and four from the outside.
--Mark Martin has started from the top 10 in 11 races this season. Bobby Labonte has seven top-10 starts in the last eight races.
--Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon are the only drivers with 11 top-five finishes in the first 18 races of the season.
--Jeff Gordon leads all drivers with 14 top-10 finishes in the first 18 races, followed by Terry Labonte with 13, Dale Earnhardt with 12 and Dale Jarrett with 11. Gordon has led at least one lap in each of the last 11 races.
--Ernie Irvan has posted five straight top-five finishes.
--Ricky Rudd (sixth) and Jeff Burton (12th) are the only drivers of the top 40 in Winston Cup points who have no DNFs this season. John Andretti and Derrike Cope lead all drivers with eight DNFs each this season.
--Chevrolets have led 3,125 of a possible 5,164 laps this season, followed by Ford with 1,723 and Pontiac with 316.
--Greg Sacks posted the fastest testing speed at Indianapolis with a lap of 177.340 miles per hour, followed by Derrike Cope at 176.915 mph.
--Five drivers -- Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Bill Elliott, Morgan Shepherd and Rusty Wallace -- have each scored top-10 finishes in both Brickyard 400s to date.
--Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett have each led at least one lap in 11 of 13 superspeedway races this season. Jarrett has scored more Winston Cup points on superspeedways than any other driver, three more than Dale Earnhardt (1,891-1,888).
--Bobby Hillin Jr., Dave Marcis, Rick Mast, Kyle Petty and Hut Stricklin are seeking their first top-10 finish of 1996.
--Jimmy Spencer has five top-10 finishes in the past seven races and has risen from 21st to 15th in the Winston Cup standings during that period.
--Terry Labonte leads all active drivers with 524 consecutive starts.
--Dale Earnhardt has won at least one race each season for 15 consecutive years (1982-1996). Rusty Wallace has won at least one race each season for 11 consecutive years (1986-1996). Ricky Rudd is looking to extend his streak of 13 consecutive years and Bill Elliott is looking to extend his streak of 12 consecutive years.
--58 drivers have made at least one Winston Cup start this season.
Kenny Irwin Jr. leads the USAC Silver Crown championship standings going into tonight's 100-miler at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Irwin Jr. has 605 points, followed by Jimmy Sills with 427 and Dave Darland with 410.
The Winston Media Luncheon was held at 11 a.m. today in Chalet 2B, with drivers Jeff Gordon, John Andretti and Mike Skinner on hand.
JEFF GORDON: "It's always exciting for me to be here because I have a lot of fans. I can't tell you how many people have asked me, 'How has your life changed since you won the Brickyard?' And it really has. We'd sure love to be back in the winner's circle again."
MIKE SKINNER: "It's great to be here at the Brickyard. I wish it would be under better circumstances. We'll try our best to keep the car clean and out of trouble. If we can get the car good, we'll be in the race at the end."
JOHN ANDRETTI: "I wake up every Monday morning thinking our season will turn around and this race can do that for you. I'm really proud of all out guys. They keep giving us better and better race cars, so hopefully our luck will turn around. It means a lot for me to be here at Indianapolis."
Dale Earnhardt came to the Trackside Conference Room for a press conference at 12:15 p.m.
DALE EARNHARDT: (Opening comments): "I went to apologize to you and Indianapolis for getting out of your press day so easily. I'm going to hang around with Skinner and try to help out as far as practice today. I may try to practice some tomorrow and possibly try to qualify the car. But I want to thank everybody for all their concern and phone calls and best wishes and well wishes over the week after Sunday. I came through it pretty good I think after seeing the films and the replays and going up and looking at the car Monday after we got back from Birmingham. The car did its job and kept me safe and I was okay to a point. I've got a few broken things but they're going to heal up in time. Dr. (Terry) Trammell's going to see me this afternoon and help me with a few things that'll maybe make me more comfortable in the car for practice tomorrow. Other than that, feeling pretty good...just a little sore in places I've never been sore." (About starting race to get points): "I don't think it's the time for me to be trying to rebuild the point system or redesign it or anything. NASCAR has it where it's pretty fair for everybody. You've got to drive the race to get credit for it. I wouldn't want somebody to drive the race and I get credit for it when they did the work. So, it's really not fair. You should have to get in the car and start the race to get points. If they see to restructure it some way, then they need to do it, not me. I'd be more interested in restructuring restrictor-plate racing, myself." (Chances of someone else qualifying car Thursday): "It possibly could. I won't know until I get in the car and see how I feel. I got in the car up at Richard's shop on Monday. I felt fairly comfortable even though I was pretty sore at the time and I'm fairly sore now. I don't want to take a chance and do something to injure myself or to take a chance and hurt somebody else or endangering somebody else's life. There's a lot of guys out there with me that I gotta think about. I'm going to take it easy and we're going to put a lot of focus on Mike practicing the car today and get him comfortable and get him as fast as we can get him going and look forward to the race. Our focal point is the race. Tomorrow's practice and qualifying is, I'd say a little extra, if we can do that. At this point, I feel like I can possibly do that. If I go out and practice in the morning and can run a decent speed to where it would get in the race, I may try to qualify it. If I don't run a speed that I feel like I can get in the race...Richard and I will talk about that. That's something Richard and I have to decide." (How aware was he during wreck?): "When the car turned abruptly sideways, I knew I was going to hit the wall. When I hit the wall is when I broke my sternum. When the car got up on its side and got up in the air a little bit, it was spinning around. I saw a flash. Another car hit me at the same time, so it was probably Derrike (Cope). Then there was a big crash and the car went airborne again and that's when I broke my collarbone and bruised my pelvis. That was when the #3 car hit me. And then the car sat back down on its wheels and was spinning around. The #29 car went by to my left and then a red car hit the front end. I assumed at that point...from the replay, I couldn't tell much...it was either Schrader or the #94. Then I came to find out it was Schrader. He said, 'I seen you and I aimed for ya.' The car stopped. The smoke was rolling out from under the dash because the wires were burning because the dash was knocked down in the car so far from the top collision. I switched the battery switch off. I started trying to unbuckle my helmet. I knew my collarbone was hurt. At about the same time, the safety crews and NASCAR...Steve Peterson and Buster Auten got to me. Like I told 'em, 'Don't cut the top off...I think I can get out.' So they worked with me and pulled me out of the car. And then I tried to...well, I wanted to lay down. I didn't want to stand up. But I couldn't because it hurt too bad starting to lay down. My chest hurt too bad, so I said, 'Just walk me to the ambulance.' That's why I was walking instead of laying on the stretcher. I didn't want to walk." (How much convincing will he need to get out of the car?): "I don't think it'll take much convincing. And, too, with any broken bones...I broke my clavicle and sternum is broken in two. If I would happen to get in another crash, it could put me even further back in my career as far as this championship we're running for. If I can just maybe go to the first caution or get out the first lap, whatever Richard and I decide, then I'll get out of the car and Skinner'll get in, we'll try to hold our own and get the most we can get. That's basically what we want to try to do...hold our own through this period until I can recuperate and maybe be 100 percent or close to 100 percent in two or three races. I think here and Watkins Glen are going to be the races that I'm going to have to have relief or full relief as a driver. Then hopefully at Michigan, I can run the whole race." (How much did physical condition keep him from having worse injuries?): "I think being in good shape is a plus for anything...I'm telling you, I feel safe in our race cars, I feel safe in the seats and the harnesses and the sensing equipment I use, open-face helmet. If I'd had a full-face helmet, I think I would've hurt my neck. And I have no neck injuries. I held on to the steering wheel completely the whole time. I was bouncing around in the car but I was still braced in there pretty good. I was comfortable with that and I don't have any second thoughts or I wish I had this or I wish I had that. I think I had the safest everything I had in that car and a safe race car when it was all over." (About his seat): "I think I would've had some major neck and back injuries if I'd had a stiffer-style seat that a lot of other guys use. The seat I have...the belts are holding me in that seat. The seat is not holding me in that seat. After a crash like that, you'd think I'd have multiple belt burns and everything. I have no marks on me from the belts. I have no marks on me from the lap belts. I feel comfortable. I feel like our seat is one of the safest for me -- it may not be for anybody else -- but it is for me. I get out of the car a lot of times when a lot of other guys would be hurt...and not saying they're any softer than I am, but the stiffness of their seats hurt them before they'd hurt me." (How aware was he of moments before the accident?): "When I came through the tri-oval, I knew the #4 car was on my right rear and the #28 was right behind me. And the last glance I saw of the #28, he was to the inside of my left rear. And then the car turned abruptly to the right. I knew the #4 car was the only possible answer there. Why, I didn't know. I wouldn't think he would've done it on purpose. I knew at that point, when it was all over and they were carrying me, was riding down pit road in the ambulance, it was going through my mind what happened. It had to be some accident, something broke on his car, somebody turned him, something happened to him for him to do what happened. There was no way he would turn into the car at that point without some reason."
(How will he work with Mike Skinner?): "Us testing the car up here and trying different springs and stuff, I know which way the car went when we changed things. If he needs me to talk about the track, the entering of the corner, how he's driving the track, I'll be there for him. I guarantee you, even up in the tests, Rick Mast got in my car and drove it a little bit and helped me. Anybody who can help anybody is going to be a plus. I just want to be there...I didn't have to come up here today. I didn't have to come until tomorrow. I came up here to be with Richard and the team and to help out if I could during practice with Mike and the car. The same car won the race up here last year. I know the car well. I know the setups on the car and what the car reacts to so maybe I can help out. My focus is to get him as comfortable in that race car and go as fast as he possibly can for a long time. We're not about qualifying today. We're running the car for race setups. And that's what we're going to be doing today and Friday." (Feeling when he was upside down): "You're waiting for the next bump, crash, boom, bam, really. You know its' going to hit and you know it's probably going to hurt. You're just holding on, waiting. The car stayed on its left side for a long time before Robert (Pressley) hit it. It hit the wall, then spun around on its left side and it slid down and Derrike hit it and it spun around again on the left side. It stayed on the left side of that car for a long time and there was a lot of fire and sparks coming in the car at that point. I could see the asphalt. The small red place I have on my cheek is from the window net. At one point, my head got into that. But there's no ground marks on the window net or shows that it was into the pavement or anything. Everything did it job. But you're just waiting for the next thud or bump or bam. And you're hoping you'll soon stop. I thought I had till Schrader hit me and I slid a little more. Another point, I talked with Al (Unser) Jr. Monday. We had called and talked to (Roger) Penske and talked to Al about possibly driving the car. It was just a tough decision for him. He really wanted to do it but he's in a points race too. He's one point out of it and had a test scheduled for Saturday. He said Roger and him talked about it and they could change but he really felt bad about it if he'd do it because both teammates (Paul Tracy and Emerson Fittipaldi) are hurt. He's racing for that championship, so he said, 'Can I have a rain check?' So he took a rain check on it. Mike Skinner's our best bet. He's worked with Richard and the team. He knows what's happening with the team. He knows our focus here. He knows what we want to accomplish. He has a situation set for next year so he's not worrying about proving anything to try to get a ride. So, we're really comfortable with Mike. We feel that he'll do a good job on Saturday. And that's what our focus is." (About windshield roll bar during crash): "I just knew it was a hard crash. The one car I could see was Derrike's car that flashed and clipped the top and the front end. I think he did partial damage to the top. I think he took the hood off the car. But then when the #33 hit, that's when it pushed the top and the dash down in the car. And it also pushed the carburetor and air cleaner and everything else down into the engine, too. It pretty much ruined the race car and everything on it. Richard made a museum piece out of it. If he didn't, I was going to take it. You walk away from that, it's a pretty good testimony to your physical fitness and the safety of your race car and the equipment you use." (Is pain worse this time than other injuries?): "It's been so long ago, you sorta forget how that is. I reckon it's sorta like falling off a bike. You get your nerve back up to get back on it, you're okay until you fall again. It's painful. I've had some tough days since Sunday. I was sorer last night and this morning than I was the day before. I think this is sorta the turning point, that it'll start getting better from here on. Dr. (Terry) Trammell's going to work with me this afternoon. He has some little tricks that he can use on the skin and the areas that are hurt that maybe will relieve the pain while I'm driving and help with the seat belts and the shoulder harness and Bill Simpson's got some stuff we're going to try and we'll be doing that this afternoon and in the morning and just get where I can comfortably practice. To say it hurts any less or any more, I just know I don't want to hurt like this any more." (Has he talked to Ernie Irvan?): "No comment." (What would he do to break up the 'packs' at Daytona and Talladega?): "Take the restrictor plate off." (What about speeds then?): "If they don't want to go that fast, don't race."
RICHARD CHILDRESS: (Options to use Mike Skinner here Thursday): "Anything we do here tomorrow, we'll do with Dale and if we need something to do with the car, we'll get Dave Marcis to help us. We're still, in the run for the (NASCAR Supertruck) championship and we're going to try to keep him focused over there tomorrow." (First words to Dale after crash): "As good as I can remember, the scariest part to me...I saw him turn and go into wall. But I thought car caught more of the left side, but what it did is it impacted, flipped back around and caught the back of the car so we were real lucky there that it didn't get a real hard side lick. He went out of sight flipping. I kinda put my head down and said a little prayer there and then I started asking him, 'Dale, talk to us.' I kept asking him, 'Talk to us.' He didn't come back and come to find out is he cut the radio communication in two. He actually could hear us at that point and I started talking to Teresa. Teresa was doing great. She was doing better than I was. She was trying to calm me down. We're all fortunate to have him here today talking to us."
At the 12:30 p.m. draw for qualifying order, in which the top 40 draw in order of owner points and other cars draw in order of car number, 48 cars selected spots for Thursday's Busch Pole single-lap qualifying lineup. Winston Cup point leader and 1994 Brickyard 400 winner Jeff Gordon drew 43rd. Second-place point holder Terry Labonte's team drew 46th. Dale Earnhardt's team drew 12th. Jimmy Spencer's team, the 15th to select, drew first off the line. Steven Seligman's team was the last to draw and got fifth off the line.
At 1 p.m., #25 Ken Schrader was first on the track for practice, followed by #94 Bill Elliott.
Winston Cup practice: 1:01 p.m. -- #25 Ken Schrader turned a lap at 170.004 miles per hour. 1:06 p.m. -- #3 Mike Skinner took the track for the first time. 1:09 p.m. -- #11 Brett Bodine turned a lap at 172.025 mph, fastest of the day. 1:16 p.m. -- #88 Dale Jarrett turned a lap at 172.463 mph, fastest of the day. 1:23 p.m. -- Yellow, debris, south short chute 1:26 p.m. -- Green. 1:33 p.m. -- #25 Schrader turned a lap at 173.054 mph, fastest of the day. 1:42 p.m. -- Yellow, #12 Derrike Cope smoking in the pit exit lane. 1:47 p.m. -- #9 Lake Speed turned a lap at 173.167 mph, fastest of the day. 2:05 p.m. -- Yellow, debris on backstretch. 2:07 p.m. -- Green. 2:09 p.m. -- #25 Schrader turned a lap at 173.284 mph, fastest of the day. 2:32 p.m. -- #1 Rick Mast turned a lap at 174.250 mph, fastest of the day. 3 p.m. -- After two hours of practice, 11 drivers had unofficially broken the track qualifying record of 172.536 miles per hour set by Jeff Gordon a year ago. Rick Mast was the fastest at 174.250 mph after only 12 practice laps. Others who had surpassed the mark were Morgan Shepherd, Ken Schrader, Lake Speed, Jeremy Mayfield, Bobby Hillin Jr., Ernie Irvan, Jeff Burton, Terry Labonte, Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin. Forty-seven cars have been on the track to this point, running 675 laps. 3:36 p.m.--Yellow, #10 Ricky Rudd smoking in Turn 4 3:54 p.m. -- Green. 4:01 p.m. -- #90 Dick Trickle turned a lap at 174.112 mph, second fastest of the day. 4:03 p.m. -- #28 Ernie Irvan became the third driver over 174 mph with a lap at 174.058, third fastest of the day. 4:04 p.m. -- #29 Greg Sacks turned a lap at 174.297 mph, fastest of the day. 4:05 p.m. -- #6 Mark Martin turned a lap at 174.965 mph, fastest of the day. 4:10 p.m. -- After three hours, 10 minutes of practice, 18 drivers had unofficially broken the track qualifying record set by Gordon in 1995. The seven additional drivers to the 3 p.m. report were Greg Sacks, Dick Trickle, Brett Bodine, Michael Waltrip, Kyle Petty, Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett. 4:23 p.m. -- #1 Rick Mast turned a lap at 174.517 mph, second fastest of the day. 4:41 p.m. -- #2 Rusty Wallace turned a lap at 174.537 mph, second fastest of the day. 4:50 p.m. -- #1 Rick Mast turned a lap at 174.622 mph, second fastest of the day. 4:52 p.m. -- #9 Lake Speed turned a lap at 174.737, second fastest of the day. 4:56 p.m. -- #94 Bill Elliott turned a lap at 174.672 mph, third fastest of the day. 5 p.m. -- Track closed.
At 4:50 p.m., the temperature was 80 degrees with 48 percent humidity and west winds at 13 miles per hour.
A total of 34 drivers unofficially broke the track record of 172.536 miles per hour set by Jeff Gordon in qualifying a year ago. A total of 1,315 laps were run today by 48 cars. #83 Mike Skinner ran the most laps with 83. #44 Jeff Purvis ran the fewest with 11. There were four yellows for 28 minutes.
MARK MARTIN: (About fast lap): "When we ran it today, it wasn't that important to us to have the fastest time in practice. At that time, we weren't thinking about it. We were thinking about the risk associated with running on the ragged edge. We have a great race car. We found that out six weeks ago in testing and again today. Obviously, we got a good lap and we have two hours of practice time tomorrow. That will be plenty of time. We'll probably make a couple more simulated qualifying laps tomorrow." (Is there more speed?): "Maybe, but sometimes if you go for more, you give more than you get. These drivers drive these cars faster than they can go. That's what makes it interesting. We've won practice here and ordinarily that isn't much, but here at Indy, that's something special. Streaks start with one and Indy is the one we want to win. It would be incredible to win here."
MIKE SKINNER: "Wow, what a place. Dave Marcis took myself and several other rookies around in a van and we talked about where you let off and on. I really had a great time out there. We never blocked the car off all day. We concentrated all day on race setup and I adapted to the car pretty quickly, so we worked with the shocks and struts and just race day setups. Dale (Earnhardt) talked to me when I came in the garage today. I couldn't have asked for someone to help me more. He said, 'Hey, if you wreck this one, no problem, we'll get the other one off the truck.'"
A.J. FOYT: "It went all right. We were trying a lot of things real quick today. We have run faster. This is the motor I tested with. We're changing the motor for tomorrow. We really didn't have time to cool down the car at the end. We're not really disappointed. I've been out there for a little while. I think there's a little bit left in me. We ran in testing a little over 172. I didn't want to look like a fool out there today and back it into the fence or something. I was driving where I was comfortable."
BILL ELLIOTT: "Tomorrow is another day. We ran at the most opportune time of the day...1 o'clock, 2 o'clock tomorrow, I think you are going to see times pretty close to the same as what you see here. I don't think you're going to see much difference."
LAKE SPEED: (About going faster Thursday): "Hard to tell, really. I think we can but whether we actually can do it all depends on the tires. The tires are a lot alike but not every set is alike. If you change the balance on the car and get a good set of tires and the condition is just right, I believe we can go faster...just a little bit."