The Brickyard Brings Out The Best In Bill Elliott The Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway always seems to bring out the best in NASCAR elite drivers and race teams. In the 16 previous runnings of the Brickyard 400, only the sport's top...
The Brickyard Brings Out The Best In Bill Elliott
The Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway always seems to bring out the best in NASCAR elite drivers and race teams. In the 16 previous runnings of the Brickyard 400, only the sport's top drivers and teams have visited Victory Lane. There have been no fluke victories.
Among the nine former Brickyard winners are three veterans of the Wood Brothers' No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford team. Dale Jarrett won in 1996 and 1999. Ricky Rudd won in 1997, and Bill Elliott, the current driver of the famed No. 21, won at Indy in 2002.
The Brickyard, historically has been one of Elliott's better tracks. Besides his win in '02, he has four other top-five finishes and five top-five starts, including a fourth-place start last year aboard the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion.
So it wasn't surprising that Elliott was unusually upbeat earlier this week as he discussed his upcoming run at one of auto racing's most storied facilities.
"I've enjoyed racing there a lot over the years," he said. "It's been a good race track for me."
Elliott said his Brickyard victory is right at the top of his list of career accomplishments. It was a dominating win in a race many consider second only to the Daytona 500.
"It was big," he said. "I remember how badly Dale Earnhardt Sr. wanted to win that race."
Elliott said he believes the Brickyard 400 is a race in which experience pays off. The facts seem to back him up. Jarrett won Indy at age 47. Dale Earnhardt won it at 44 and Elliott got his Brickyard win at age 45, with Rusty Wallace, also 45, finishing second behind him.
"It's a race track where you have to have patience, but your car has to be right too," Elliott said. "It's a four-cornered race track with 90-degree turns. It's laid out so differently."
As he heads back to Indy, Elliott is encouraged by the fact that he'll be driving a brand new race car, one that crew chief David Hyder and the team have spent countless hours preparing.
"I know Hyder and the boys have worked hard to get things turned around for us," he said. "We've gone through a lot of changes, and we're still working through the change from the wing to the rear spoiler on the back of the car, but I'm looking forward to this weekend.
"We ran good there last year."
Elliott's hoping he and his team can duplicate their qualifying success of a year ago, for several reasons.
"You need to be good in qualifying," he said. "That's the start for the whole weekend."
Elliott also likes the fact that fuel mileage and pit strategy often come into play at Indy, because for years that has been one of the strong suits of the Wood Brothers team.
"They do an excellent job on that side," he said.
Len Wood, the man many consider the garage master of fuel-mileage calculations and strategy, said that in many ways, he figures fuel at Indy much like he does at any other track.
"You always have gas mileage in the back of your mind," Wood said. "We'll work the race backwards as far as figuring the fuel, but we'll also have to see how much the speeds slow down as the tires wear and we'll have to consider the likelihood of a green-white-checkered finish."