Indianapolis "Brickyard" preview

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, July 30, 2001 - The Brickyard 400 will be a welcome sight for NASCAR Winston Cup championship contenders Dale Jarrett and Ricky Rudd. Jarrett won the Brickyard 400 in 1996 and 1999 and needs a strong finish in this year's...

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, July 30, 2001 - The Brickyard 400 will be a welcome sight for NASCAR Winston Cup championship contenders Dale Jarrett and Ricky Rudd.

Jarrett won the Brickyard 400 in 1996 and 1999 and needs a strong finish in this year's edition of the Brickyard 400 on Aug. 5. He fell from a tie to first with Jeff Gordon to third in the Winston Cup standings after finishing 41st in UPS Ford in the Pennsylvania 500 on July 29 at Pocono, Pa.

1999 NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Jarrett is 107 points behind Gordon.

Rudd won the Brickyard 400 in 1997 and needs another top run this year in the Texaco/Havoline Ford to keep pace with Gordon in the standings. Rudd is second in the standings, 45 points behind Gordon. He was fastest July 24 during testing at Indy with a speed of 175.809 mph.

But Jarrett and Rudd have a bit of a problem at Indy, too: It's one of Gordon's best tracks.

Former Indiana resident Gordon won the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994 and again in 1998. He also finished third in 1999 and fourth in 1997 in the DuPont Chevrolet. So slicing into his points lead will be tough for any driver to accomplish on the historic, 2.5-mile oval.

The tight NASCAR Winston Cup championship chase is the main story surrounding the eighth annual Brickyard 400 at 1:30 p.m. (EST) at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which will be televised live on NBC. It's the 21st of 36 races this year in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.

With its lucrative purse, huge crowd and tradition-steeped site, the Brickyard 400 is one of the biggest races on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series schedule. And it's also proven to be the ideal steppingstone to the Winston Cup championship.

Bobby Labonte continued a remarkable streak last year by winning the Brickyard 400 and then the NASCAR Winston Cup championship in the same season. Jarrett pulled off the same feat in 1999, while Gordon started the trend by pulling off the double in 1998.

Labonte is a long shot to repeat as series champion this year, as he is eighth in the standings, 409 points behind Gordon. But Labonte must be considered a favorite to triumph again at Indy after winning July 29 at Pocono, a 2.5-mile track that serves as a decent indicator of Indy success due to its low-banked turns and long front straightaway, two traits of the Speedway.

While Labonte will need an epic comeback to win the title in the Interstate Batteries Pontiac, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Tony Stewart, remains in the hunt.

Stewart, an Indiana native, is fourth in the season standings in the Home Depot Pontiac, 261 points behind Gordon. Stewart seeks his first victory in any car at the track of his boyhood dreams. This will be Stewart's third NASCAR Winston Cup start at Indy, and he has made fifth Indianapolis 500 starts.

Two drivers to watch at Indianapolis are Haas/Carter Motorsports teammates Jimmy Spencer and Todd Bodine. Spencer was fastest overall in four days of testing July 16-17 and July 24-25 at Indy with a speed of 177.560 on July 17 in the Kmart Ford. Bodine was fastest July 16 at 176.229 in the Route 66/Kmart Ford.

BRICKYARD 400 NOTEBOOK

Schedule: The Brickyard 400 starts at 1:30 p.m. (EST) Aug. 5. Pole qualifying starts at 10:15 a.m. Aug. 4.

Practice sessions will take place at 2 p.m. (EST) Aug. 3, and 8 a.m. Aug. 4. The final "Happy Hour" practice for Winston Cup competitors will start immediately after the True Value IROC race, scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Aug. 4.

On the air: NBC will televise the Brickyard 400 live Aug. 5, with the pre-race show starting at 2 p.m. (EDT).

TNT will broadcast pole qualifying live at 11 a.m. (EDT) Aug. 4.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network will broadcast the race live Aug. 5, starting with a pre-race show at 1:45 p.m. (EDT). The IMS Radio Network also will broadcast pole qualifying live at 11 a.m. (EDT) Aug. 4.

IRNLS/IMS-

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Series NASCAR-CUP