Seat time counts at Indy. John Andretti, who is one of four drivers to have competed in both the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 here, was fastest in pre-qualifying practice Friday. Andretti, released from Petty Enterprises in June,...
Seat time counts at Indy.
John Andretti, who is one of four drivers to have competed in both the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 here, was fastest in pre-qualifying practice Friday. Andretti, released from Petty Enterprises in June, is driving the Kraft 100th Anniversary Chevrolet Monte Carlo for Chance 2 Motorsports, a team owned by Teresa Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. His lap of 49.259 seconds was good for a speed of 182.708 miles per hour, just short of the track record set last year by Tony Stewart in the Home Depot Pontiac of 182.960 mph. "We’re going to go into qualifying, so everyone is throwing most of what they have at it," Andretti said. "I think overall it makes you think you have a good, fast car. Even when I brushed the wall on that lap I would have been 15th or something. It means we have a really fast car and that we should have a good qualifying effort. It’s good to be fast every day. It’s good to be fast in the first practice on Saturday before the race, and it’s good to be fastest in the second. I don’t have any stretch of the imagination to think that we’re going to stomp them for the pole because Winston Cup is too tough. But if we’re fortunate enough and everything works out, then at least we have a shot at them."
Andretti led a 1-2-3 sweep by Monte Carlos in the only pre-qualifying practice. Michael Waltrip was fifth-quick in his Chevy, followed in sixth by Chevy-mounted Kevin Harvick. The Monte Carlos of Robby Gordon (eighth) and Tony Stewart (ninth) gave Chevrolet seven of the top 10 spots and 10 of the top 15.
For those who have attended the Indianapolis 500 here, it is well-known that weather plays an important role in determining how fast drivers go. The 2.5-mile true oval here is flat, with just nine degrees of banking in the turns, and the grandstands surrounding the speed palace play tricks with the track temperature. Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet Monte Carlo, says that Indy is the most weather-sensitive track the series races on. An early draw in Saturday’s qualifying lineup could mean the difference between the pole and a mid-pack starting spot. For the record, third-fastest Joe Nemechek drew No. 1, with three-time Brickyard 400 winner Jeff Gordon going out second and Waltrip drew No. 5. Andretti drew No. 37.
Brickyard Quick Shots
--In the nine Brickyard 400s run so far, only Jeff Gordon (1995, 1996 and 1999) and Ernie Irvan (1997 and 1998) have won more than one pole here. Gordon, a three-time winner of the Brickyard, is one of two repeat winners here.
--How important is track position here at Indy? Five of the nine races have been won from the top four starting spots and six races have been won by drivers starting in the top 10. On the other hand, Jeff Gordon won the 2001 Brickyard after starting 27th.
--The Goodyear tire used here is the same tire used at Pocono Raceway, the track closest to Indianapolis in terms of size, banking and straightaway length.
--Tony Stewart loves the Brickyard. He has finished in the top 10 in two of the four Brickyard 400s he has competed in, and earned top-10 results in three of the five Indy Racing League events he’s run here. He also won the pole here last year for the Brickyard 400, setting a track record in the process.
--Jeff Gordon will make his 350th consecutive Winston Cup start here Sunday. This is an all-time record for a driver having started every races since his Winston Cup debut.
--Chevrolet’s Gen IV Indy V-8 nearly won its maiden race last weekend at Michigan International Speedway. Sam Hornish Jr., the two-time defending Indy Racing League champion, finished second to winner Alex Barron by the slimmest of margins--.012 seconds. Team Cheever’s Buddy Rice tested the engine earlier this week at Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis and will use it in the IRL’s next event.
--Several Chevrolet drivers will pull double duty here this weekend. Hornish, Jr., Johnson, Harvick and Mike Bliss, who drives for Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Busch Series, will be competing the fourth and final International Race of Champions event today at IMS. Bliss has a shot at the overall title, trailing leader Kurt Busch by just eight points.