Indianapolis Brickyard 400 Friday report

Leffler fastest on opening day of Brickyard 400 practice INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Aug. 6, 2004 -- Jason Leffler turned the fastest lap in the first round of practice Aug. 6 for the 11th Brickyard 400 with a lap of 184.460 mph in the No. 60 Haas ...

Leffler fastest on opening day of Brickyard 400 practice

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Aug. 6, 2004 -- Jason Leffler turned the fastest lap in the first round of practice Aug. 6 for the 11th Brickyard 400 with a lap of 184.460 mph in the No. 60 Haas Automation Chevrolet.

The unofficial practice speed is faster than the fastest official stock car lap of 184.343 set during qualifying in 2003 by Kevin Harvick, making former USAC open-wheel standout Leffler the favorite to win the pole during qualifications, which start at 10:10 a.m. (local time) Saturday, Aug. 7.

"The Haas Automation Monte Carlo ran really good," said Leffler. "We had a great test here, took the car home and worked on it and made it even better. Indianapolis is incredible, I just love coming here. I'm really excited just to be a part of this race. It is a really fast race car."

Leffler is driving full time for team owner Gene Haas in the NASCAR Busch Series this season and is performing "double duty" this weekend, driving in the Kroger 200 Busch Series race Aug. 7 at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

"We have a good draw (in Brickyard 400 qualifying), we go out 11th, and that's going to be a lot of it," he said. "I'll just be happy to start somewhere. I'll be ecstatic to start somewhere in the top 10. I'll just be happy starting the race tomorrow (at IRP). We got a busy day going back between IRP and here. Once I run that lap tomorrow, I'm going to be a happy man and if we're solid in the field, I'll be real excited."

Leffler has not started a NEXTEL Cup Series race in 2004, but he has experience in both stock cars and open-wheel racing cars at IMS. He competed in the 2001 and 2003 Brickyard 400 and the 2000 Indianapolis 500. His best Brickyard 400 finish is 26th in 2001, and his best start is 26th in 2003.

Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates teammates Casey Mears, Sterling Marlin and Jamie McMurray occupied the second, third and fifth spots, respectively, on Friday's speed chart. Mears turned a lap of 184.222 in the Target Dodge and Marlin ran 183.337 in the No. 40 Coors Light Dodge. McMurray was fifth at 183.042 in the No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge.

NEXTEL Cup Series points leader Jimmie Johnson was fourth at 183.158 in the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet.

Ganassi Racing has won at Indianapolis, but not in stock cars. Juan Pablo Montoya gave Ganassi his first Indianapolis 500 victory in a Target-sponsored Indy Racing League® IndyCar® Series car in 2000. McMurray finished third in the 2003 Brickyard 400, and Marlin finished second in 2001 to race winner Jeff Gordon to deliver the Ganassi team its best NASCAR finishes at IMS.

Two accidents took place in short succession in the first hour of practice, and a third occurred 10 minutes before the session ended. At approximately 2:30 p.m. (local time), Scott Pruett did a 180-degree spin midway through Turn 1 and hit the SAFER Barrier with the driver's side of the No. 09 Miccosukee Resorts Dodge. The car then slid to the inside of the track and came to rest next to the inside retaining wall in the short chute between Turns 1 and 2.

Pruett was transported by ground to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis for further evaluation and X-rays following the accident. He was released later in the afternoon.

Minutes after the track reopened following Pruett's accident, the No. 02 SCORE Motorsports Chevrolet driven by Hermie Sadler suffered heavy right-side damage after Sadler hit the SAFER Barrier in Turn 2. Sadler was unhurt.

At 3:50 p.m., Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 National Guard Ford, spun in Turn 4 and hit the SAFER Barrier with the left-rear corner of the car, causing heavy damage. Biffle also was unhurt.

Fans were treated to two special events on Friday morning: the Brickyard 400 Golf Challenge presented by Brickyard Crossing Golf Resort and the Champion's Chat in the Pagoda Plaza.

Elliott Sadler, who drives the No. 38 M&M's Ford on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup circuit, led his team to victory in the Brickyard 400 Golf Challenge. Sadler and his teammates, consisting of IndyCar Series driver Darren Manning, WRTV Channel 6 (Indianapolis) sports director Dave Furst and ESPN 950 AM (Indianapolis) radio broadcaster Greg Rakestraw, combined efforts to finish 2-under par.

No one hit the million-dollar hole-in-one shot on Hole 7, but Sadler and NBC broadcaster and NASCAR driving legend Benny Parsons both landed their shot within 10 to 15 feet of the hole.

The Champion's Chat consisted of discussions and fan questions and answers with former Brickyard 400 winners Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Ricky Rudd, Bobby Labonte, Bill Elliott and Kevin Harvick.

The 11th Brickyard 400 weekend continues Saturday with NEXTEL Cup qualifications at 10:10 a.m. (EST, Indianapolis time), practice from 2:10-2:55 p.m. and final practice from 3:45-4:30 p.m.

***

Brickyard 400 tickets: Tickets for the 11th annual Brickyard 400 on Aug. 8 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.

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing