ROUSH COULD EARN ELUSIVE BRICKYARD VICTORY WITH FANTASTIC FIVE INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, Aug. 1, 2005 -- Nearly all of the top NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams of the last decade have earned a victory in the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard since the ...
ROUSH COULD EARN ELUSIVE BRICKYARD VICTORY WITH FANTASTIC FIVE
INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, Aug. 1, 2005 -- Nearly all of the top NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams of the last decade have earned a victory in the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard since the race's debut in 1994.
Hendrick Motorsports has won the race four times, all with Jeff Gordon driving. Richard Childress Racing and Robert Yates Racing each have won it twice. Joe Gibbs Racing won it in 2000 with Bobby Labonte. Same with Evernham Motorsports in 2002 with Bill Elliott.
One team is conspicuously absent from that list -- Roush Racing.
The powerful Roush team has won the last two NEXTEL Cup titles, with Matt Kenseth in 2003 and Kurt Busch in 2004. But it never has kissed the fabled bricks at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a winner of one of the most prestigious races on the schedule.
That very well could change this year.
If any of Roush's five Cup drivers -- Greg Biffle, Busch, Carl Edwards, Kenseth and Mark Martin -- win the 12th annual Allstate 400 at the Brickyard on Aug. 7, it could hardly be classified as a surprise. The Roush team has been that good this year.
All five Roush drivers are 17th or better in the series standings, including Biffle (third), Busch (fifth) and Martin (seventh) in the top seven.
Roush drivers have combined to win nine of the 20 races this season, with Biffle earning a series-high five victories, and Busch and Edwards each winning twice. Hendrick Motorsports is next-closest in the victory derby this year, with five wins.
No doubt, Roush is due for a victory at Indianapolis. And if ever there is a year for that breakthrough to occur, this is it.
Another NASCAR superteam without a victory in this event is Dale Earnhardt, Inc. But lead driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. likes his chances for victory this weekend after a simple right-front spring change made his No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet come alive during the last NEXTEL Cup Series race, July 24 at Pocono, Pa.
"We were two laps down so we couldn't really gain (positions) on the leaderboard," Earnhardt said. "But on the track, we passed everybody but the winner. That was pretty cool.
"It was a brand-new car. I hated it at first but loved it at the end. We decided we've got to take it to Indy and see what we can do with it."
A strong finish is vital for Earnhardt. He is 14th in the series points with just six races left before the top 10 drivers in the standings compete for the title in the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup. Earnhardt is 110 points behind 10th place Dale Jarrett, a two-time winner of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard with Robert Yates Racing, in 1996 and 1999.
"It's hard to even imagine what it'd be like," Earnhardt said of winning this race. "I definitely want to experience it before my career is over, if even only once. Daddy (Dale Earnhardt) won there (in 1995), and I remember how special it was for him. He won a bunch of races, but I don't think there's any question winning the Brickyard was one of his career highlights.
"It's a hard race to win because all the teams put so much emphasis on it. You have to have the best car, the best pit crew and the best driver to win that race. If you only have two of those three things, you'll lose."
Gordon is another elite driver on the outside of the Chase, struggling to earn a spot. He is 15th in the series standings in the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, 114 points behind Jarrett.
But unlike Earnhardt, who hasn't won at Indianapolis, Gordon enters the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard with a confidence bred by unparalleled success at the historic, 2.5-mile oval. A victory would put him alone among legends as being the first five-time winner at IMS. And it also would boost his Chase hopes significantly.
"Everywhere we've tested this year, we've run well," Gordon said. "Winning a big race like this definitely can help the morale of the team and build some momentum. Right now we're looking at a stretch of races coming up we have to run well to get in the top 10, and Indianapolis is one. It's an important race for us already, but it's one that we'd love to win."
Put Tony Stewart in that category, too.
2002 series champion Stewart, a resident and native of Indiana, is winless in five Indianapolis 500 and six Allstate 400 at the Brickyard starts. A victory in this race would fulfill a dream.
"If I could give away my championship and just get one win at Indy, I would do it in a heartbeat," Stewart said. "Two years ago we led a lot of laps and just fell off the pace there at the end. I don't care if I lead one lap at Indy -- just as long as it's the right one. That's how much it means to me."
Stewart is in prime position for an Indy breakthrough. He has won three of the last five races this season, including his first victory at Daytona, and is second in the standings in the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet, 66 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson.
Stewart's team, Joe Gibbs Racing, also knows how to win at Indianapolis. Bobby Labonte put Gibbs' team into Victory Lane in 2000 at Indy en route to the series title.
Another team poised for a breakthrough victory at Indianapolis is Penske Racing. The powerhouse has won the Indianapolis 500 a record 13 times but never has won the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.
The team's favorite, both logical and sentimental, is Rusty Wallace.
Logical, because Wallace has five top-four finishes in 11 starts for Penske at Indianapolis. He also is enjoying a renaissance this year in the standings in the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, as he is in fourth place.
Sentimental, because this will be the final start at the Brickyard for Wallace, the 1989 series champion and one of the most popular NASCAR drivers ever. Wallace, 48, is retiring after this season.
Practice for the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard starts at 1:30 p.m. (local time) Friday, Aug. 5, with qualifying at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 6. The race starts at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 7.
Allstate 400 at the Brickyard tickets: Tickets for the 12th annual Allstate 400 at the Brickyard on Aug. 7 are on sale.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com or by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700 or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area. Parking and camping information also can be obtained through the ticket office.