INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - The testing numbers don't lie: The Brickyard 400 is one of the most coveted victories for any NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers. A total of 38 drivers combined to turn 6,284 laps around the ...
INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, July 21, 2004 - The testing numbers don't lie: The Brickyard 400 is one of the most coveted victories for any NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers.
A total of 38 drivers combined to turn 6,284 laps around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway during six days of testing this month for the 11th annual Brickyard 400 on Aug. 8. That's 15,710 miles of testing, nearly the same distance from Indianapolis to Auckland, New Zealand - and back.
In fact, each driver averaged 165 laps - five laps more than the actual race distance - during testing July 6-7, July 12-13 and July 19-20 at Indianapolis.
"This is a race where everybody brings their best stuff, puts their best effort forward," three-time Brickyard 400 winner Jeff Gordon said. "If you don't, you're certainly not going to have a chance of winning, and even if you do, it doesn't secure anything."
Said 1989 NASCAR champion Rusty Wallace: "It's definitely one of the top three tracks of the year to win. It's a tough one because everybody's testing; the entire NASCAR circuit comes here. Everybody raises the bar; it's a real pressure-packed weekend."
Experience plays a big role in success in the Brickyard 400, as inaugural race winner Jeff Gordon and last year's winner, Kevin Harvick, were the only Brickyard champions who didn't have at least four years of top-level NASCAR experience when they won.
But that trend could be changing, if last year's race and this month's testing speed charts are any indication.
Harvick won the 2003 Brickyard 400 in just his third NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season, the least-experienced winner since Gordon won in 1994 in just his second full season.
The top three drivers in testing this month - Jeff Green, Brian Vickers and Jason Leffler - have combined to complete just three full NASCAR NEXTEL Cup seasons. Green has raced two full seasons, Leffler one, while Vickers is a rookie after capturing the NASCAR Busch Series title in 2003.
Green was fastest overall at 181.641 mph in the No. 43 Cheerios Dodge on July 7, while Vickers was second at 181.554 in the No. 25 GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet on July 13. Leffler rounded out the top three at 180.787 in the No. 60 Haas CNC Racing Chevrolet on July 13.
Veteran Sterling Marlin was the fastest of the final week of testing, fourth overall at 180.305 in the No. 40 Coors Light Dodge on July 20.
Fellow veteran Mark Martin recorded the fastest speed by a Ford driver, 179.690, in the No. 6 Viagra Ford on July 13. That was good for seventh overall.
Only two past winners cracked the top 10 in testing. Gordon was ninth overall at 179.456 in the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet on July 13, while 2002 winner Bill Elliott was 10th at 179.085 in the No. 91 Visteon Dodge on July 20.