IMS Brickyard test wrapup 2005-07-20

NASCAR TESTING ADDS TO INTRIGUE OF ALLSTATE 400 AT THE BRICKYARD INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, July 20, 2005 -- Private NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series testing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway created several storylines entering the 2005 Allstate 400 at the...

NASCAR TESTING ADDS TO INTRIGUE OF ALLSTATE 400 AT THE BRICKYARD

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, July 20, 2005 -- Private NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series testing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway created several storylines entering the 2005 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.

The chase for the pole is up for grabs, expect the unexpected in terms of which teams will have a fast race car, and NASCAR teams plan to turn out in droves for the prestigious event, scheduled for Aug. 5-7.

Also add to the mix a smooth new racing surface, and the 2005 edition of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard could be one of the most compelling in history.

A total of 46 drivers -- who will compete for 43 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard starting spots -- participated in two-day tests at the 2.5-mile IMS oval over a three-week period, on July 5-6, 11-12 and 18-19. They completed a total of 5,291 laps, or 13,227.5 miles.

It was a vital test, as only three drivers in the top 35 of the current NEXTEL Cup point standings -- Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman and Mike Bliss -- didn't turn laps this month at Indy.

The Hamilton family -- Bobby and Bobby Jr. -- led overall speeds. Hamilton was fastest in the No. 04 Bobby Hamilton Racing Dodge at 183.905 mph July 19, while Hamilton Jr. posted a lap of 182.576 in the No. 32 Tide Chevrolet on the same day.

2002 event winner Bill Elliott was third at 182.562, rookie Kyle Busch was fourth at 182.450 and Greg Biffle, who is battling Johnson for the top spot in NEXTEL Cup points, was fifth at 181.963.

Hamilton Jr. has shown flashes of speed in his PPI Motorsports ride throughout his first full NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season. But the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's challenging layout, with fast, 5/8-mile straightaways and relatively tight, 1/4-mile turns, historically has been a challenge for rookies on race weekend.

The senior Hamilton is a full-time driver in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, but his speed July 19 inspired him and his team to take a shot at the 2005 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. Hamilton said the speed charts in testing mean little on race weekend due to the knowledge and skill of veteran, full-time NEXTEL Cup teams.

"We have a very good truck organization, but I'm smart enough to know that experience is what counts, and running a Cup team week in and week out is huge," Hamilton said. "We know we're against all odds coming here."

The reason Hamilton is realistic about his chances is simple: It is hard to tell which teams, during testing, are focusing on race setup versus qualifying setup. One reason why testing at Indianapolis is a two-day frenzy for teams is that time is short to find the right balance for the long green-flag runs during the race and the right package for a short burst of speed in the two-lap qualifying program.

The first and third rounds of testing were conducted under hot, sunny, humid skies -- very typical of early August weather in Indianapolis. But drivers taking part in the second round of tests battled scattered rain and cooler, cloudy weather conditions. Casey Mears, the 2004 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard pole winner, expressed frustration with the weather in the second round of testing.

"Every time we go out, we want to make five eight-lap runs, but we're making one or two-lap runs because it keeps raining," Mears said July 12. "We're not finding out what the car's going to do on a long run which is what we want to find out the most."

Another indication that veteran teams prepared for race weekend quietly is the lack of former race winners in the top 20 in testing. Only 2002 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard race winner Elliott and 2003 champion Kevin Harvick (19th in testing) made the top 20. Four-time winner Jeff Gordon was 21st, 1997 winner Ricky Rudd was 37th, and two-time winner Dale Jarrett was 42nd.

Despite his slower speeds, Jarrett, who sits 10th in NEXTEL Cup points, expressed optimism with the team's progress. Asked about the team's testing strategy, Jarrett divulged no secrets. But he couldn't hide his desire to add a third Allstate 400 at the Brickyard trophy to his collection.

"It's (Allstate 400) important whether I was there (in points) or not," Jarrett said. "It's an important race to me, being a former winner I understand everything that goes along with winning this race, and I just love to compete here. The couple of times I haven't had a very good car here, it's just been a miserable week because you come here wanting to run well.

"I put this race very high on my calendar. It's important for us because we're around that top 10 (in points) but it's more important because I want to get back to Victory Lane here."

Gordon is vying for a significant piece of motorsports history Aug. 7: to become the first five-time winner of a major racing event at Indianapolis. A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears each collected four Indianapolis 500 wins, and Michael Schumacher is a four-time winner of the United States Grand Prix.

Former Indiana resident Gordon downplayed the significance of winning five Allstate 400 at the Brickyard titles but appreciates the Speedway's rich history. A victory also would provide a boost to his team, which has dropped from second to 15th in points since May 14.

"For me, growing up as a kid and watching the Indy 500, I recognize that there's a different between the two races," Gordon said. "It's not that I wouldn't want to be compared to A.J. (Foyt), (Al) Unser and (Rick) Mears, it's just a different race and different circumstances.

"Everywhere we've tested this year, we've run well. Winning a big race like this definitely can help the morale of the team and build some momentum. It's (Allstate 400) an important race for us already, but it's one that we'd love to win."

***

Tickets: To purchase tickets, camping or parking for the 12th Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, contact the IMS ticket office at (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area, (317) 492-6700 locally or log on to www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com.

*** <pre> UNOFFICIAL SPEED REPORT, NASCAR NEXTEL CUP TESTING INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY, JULY 5-6, 11-12, 18-19, 2005

Rank Car Driver                 Speed (mph)     Date            Total Laps
1.   04  Bobby Hamilton         183.905         July 19         78
2.   32  Bobby Hamilton Jr.     182.576         July 19         73
3.   91  Bill Elliott           182.562         July 19         142
4.    5  Kyle Busch             182.450         July 19         147
5.   16  Greg Biffle            181.963         July 11         112
6.   17  Matt Kenseth           181.742         July 11         90
7.   49  Ken Schrader           181.727         July 11         68
8.    7  Robby Gordon           181.722         July 11         45
9.    1  Martin Truex Jr.       181.668         July 19         180
10.  38  Elliott Sadler         181.495         July 11         79
11.   8  Dale Earnhardt Jr.     181.494         July 19         94
12.  41  Casey Mears            181.296         July 11         122
13.  10  Scott Riggs            181.244         July 12         116
14.  42  Jamie McMurray         180.810         July 12         161
15.   6  Mark Martin            180.760         July 19         241
16.  01  Joe Nemechek           180.751         July 11         133
17.  36  Boris Said             180.703         July 12         162
18.  23  Mike Skinner           180.692         July 18         147
19.  29  Kevin Harvick          180.682         July 12         87
20.  31  Jeff Burton            180.402         July 11         84
21.  24  Jeff Gordon            180.303         July 19         65
22.  11  Jason Leffler          180.270         July 11         168
23.  18  Bobby Labonte          180.266         July 12         162
24.  15  Michael Waltrip        180.260         July 11         95
25.  97  Kurt Busch             180.208         July 6          139
26.  40  Sterling Marlin        180.083         July 19         173
27.  37  Kevin Lepage           179.725         July 11         45
28.  19  Jeremy Mayfield        179.661         July 11         134
29.   2  Rusty Wallace          179.633         July 11         76
30.  07  Dave Blaney            179.614         July 12         90
31.   9  Kasey Kahne            179.601         July 19         220
32.  77  Travis Kvapil          179.525         July 11         135
33.  45  Kyle Petty             179.431         July 12         147
34.  51  Stuart Kirby           179.293         July 19         74
35.  43  Jeff Green             179.225         July 19         84
36. 99A  Carl Edwards           179.165         July 5          49
37. 21A  Ricky Rudd             178.999         July 6          164
38.  50  Jimmy Spencer          178.839         July 5          21
39.  44  Terry Labonte          178.683         July 19         114
40.  66  Mike Garvey            178.646         July 12         53
41.  20  Tony Stewart           178.385         July 19         127
42.  88  Dale Jarrett           178.177         July 19         221
43.  92  Tony Raines            178.115         July 19         60
44.  25  Brian Vickers          177.502         July 19         155
45.   4  Mike Wallace           177.110         July 11         84
46.  22  Scott Wimmer           176.918         July 18         75

Total Laps: 5,291

-ima-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Burton , Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Hamilton , Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Michael Waltrip , Jason Leffler , Mike Skinner , Kyle Petty , Ken Schrader , Michael Schumacher , Boris Said , Jimmy Spencer , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Greg Biffle , Jeff Green , Kevin Lepage , Sterling Marlin , Robby Gordon , Mike Wallace , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Bobby Hamilton Jr. , Casey Mears , Tony Raines , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Scott Riggs , Stuart Kirby , Rick Mears , Kasey Kahne , Scott Wimmer , Mike Bliss , Martin Truex Jr. , Brian Vickers , Carl Edwards , Elliott Sadler , Dave Blaney , Mike Garvey , A.J. Foyt , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin , Travis Kvapil , Al Unser