INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, July 29, 2003 - The hottest driver in NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing is coming back home again to Indiana to race in the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And his last name isn't Gordon or Stewart. Ryan...
INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, July 29, 2003 - The hottest driver in NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing is coming back home again to Indiana to race in the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
And his last name isn't Gordon or Stewart.
Ryan Newman, a native of South Bend, Ind., is one of the favorites to win the 10th Brickyard 400 on Sunday, Aug. 3 after winning two of the last three Winston Cup races in the No. 12 Alltel Dodge. Newman has recorded five poles and has four victories this season, both series bests.
The 10th Brickyard 400 is scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m. (EST, Indy time) on Sunday. The 160-lap race will be broadcast live on NBC Sports and the IMS Radio Network.
Newman, 2002 Winston Cup Rookie of the Year, won the Pennsylvania 500 from the pole on July 27 at Pocono Raceway and won the Tropicana 400 on July 13 at Chicagoland Speedway. He finished fourth in the New England 300 on July 20 at New Hampshire, as the recent hot streak helped him climb to ninth in the series standings.
"We're just going to try to do the best job we can, just like we did here," Newman said after winning at Pocono. "Hopefully we can run as good and be competitive."
Newman finished fourth in his second career Brickyard 400 start last season. If Newman wins the Brickyard 400, he would be in elite company, joining illustrious names like Earnhardt, Gordon, Jarrett, Labonte and Elliott.
Every winner of the nine previous Brickyard 400s has won at least one NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship except for 1997 winner Ricky Rudd. But Rudd is the most durable driver in NASCAR history, as he just extended his record of consecutive Winston Cup starts to 700 on July 27 at Pocono.
A Brickyard 400 victory also has been a springboard to a Winston Cup championship in the same season four times. Jeff Gordon won the Winston Cup in 1998 and 2001 after winning the Brickyard 400 those respective seasons. Dale Jarrett pulled off the same feat in 1999, as did Bobby Labonte in 2000.
The chances for Newman to win the Winston Cup are slim this season, as he is 614 points behind leader Matt Kenseth after 20 of 36 races. But Gordon is in contention for a historic fourth Brickyard 400 victory and a fifth Winston Cup championship this season.
Gordon, who grew up in Pittsboro, Ind., is third in the Winston Cup standings, 308 points behind Kenseth. Gordon finished 36th on July 27 at Pocono after a crash, and he will look to rebound at Indianapolis in the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet.
And there's no better spot for Gordon to bounce back than the historic 2.5-mile oval. He has a record three victories in this event - the inaugural in 1994, 1998 and 2001 - and also has won the pole a record three times.
Another Indiana native who needs to bounce back at the Brickyard 400 is defending Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart. He finished 37th in the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet last weekend at Pocono and fell to 14th in the series standings.
Stewart, who grew up in Columbus, Ind., never has won at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in four Brickyard 400 starts or five Indianapolis 500 starts. But he has shown plenty of recent speed at the track, winning the pole for the 2002 Brickyard 400 with a record lap of 182.960 mph.
"Take the one thing in your life that you're the most passionate about, and you'll have a good understanding of what Indy means to me," Stewart said. "There's at least something in everybody's life that they're very passionate about, and for me that's winning at the Brickyard.
"The fact that it comes around only once a year is the hard part. It's not like everyday you can work to accomplish that goal. I only have one chance out of every 365 days to win at Indy."
Other Indiana drivers entered in the Brickyard 400 are John Andretti in the No. 81 Kraft 100th Anniversary Chevrolet and rookie Tony Raines in the No. 74 BACE Motorsports Chevrolet.
Andretti, who grew up in Indianapolis, was second fastest overall during Brickyard 400 testing in July with a lap of 181.246 mph in the No. 81 car fielded by Dale Earnhardt Inc.
Jimmie Johnson was the fastest during July testing at 182.028 in the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet, marking him as a prime contender for victory in this race.
Bobby Labonte and Rusty Wallace also are prime contenders for Brickyard 400 victory, based on past results.
Labonte has finished in the top 10 in five of his last six Brickyard 400 starts, including a victory in 2000. He is fifth in the Winston Cup point standings in the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet as a teammate to Stewart with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Wallace is 11th in the series standings with no victories in the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge fielded by Penske Racing, which has won a record 13 Indianapolis 500s. But like Penske drivers in the Indy 500, Wallace always is competitive at the Brickyard.
He finished second to Bill Elliott last season, his third runner-up finish in this event. Wallace has finished outside of the top eight only once in nine previous Brickyard 400 starts, 38th in 1997. Otherwise, he has been a model of excellence at Indy, with finishes of fourth in 1994, second in 1995, seventh in 1996, eighth in 1998 and 1999, second in 2000 and fourth in 2001.
Defending event winner Elliott also can't be ruled out to become the first repeat winner in the race's history in the No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge. He has the best average finish at Indianapolis, eighth, of any active Winston Cup driver with two or more Brickyard 400 starts.
"There's just something about it," Elliott said of the Brickyard 400 "I just think it adds to how special it is when you do well there. There's a lot of racing history at that track, and it just means so much to be a part of that now.
"I can't describe what it was like to kiss those bricks. It's a day I'll never forget."
Series points leader Kenseth has used consistency in the No. 17 DeWalt Power Tools Ford to produce a 232-point lead over second-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. Kenseth finished third last season in the Brickyard 400, his only top-20 finish in three starts in the event.
Earnhardt is second in the standings in the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet, 232 points behind Kenseth. His best finish in three prior Brickyard 400 starts is 10th in 2001. A victory for Earnhardt would be historic, as it would mark the only time a father and son have won the Brickyard 400. Earnhardt's late father, seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt, won this race in 1995.
Many top NASCAR stars will join drivers from the IRL IndyCar( Series and the O'Reilly World of Outlaws for the IROC at Indy race at 1 p.m. (EST, Indy time) Saturday, Aug. 2. It's the season finale of the four-round True Value International Race of Champions series, racing's "all star game."
Drivers race in identically prepared stock cars for 40 laps around the Indy oval. ESPN will televise the race at 1 p.m. (EDT) Sunday, Aug. 3.
NASCAR Winston Cup star Kurt Busch leads the IROC standings with 57 points after three races as he aims for a $250,000 prize for winning his first IROC season title. NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Mike Bliss, a former USAC short-track standout, is second at 49.
Winston Cup star Mark Martin is third with 48 points. Martin is a four-time IROC champion and won the first three IROC at Indy races, from 1998-2000.
The series standings are inverted to determine the IROC starting grid, so IndyCar Series star Helio Castroneves will start from the pole in an attempt to continue his run of success at Indianapolis.
Castroneves won his first two Indianapolis 500 starts, in 2001 and 2002, and finished runner-up to teammate Gil de Ferran in the 2003 Indianapolis 500. Castroneves also finished second to Dale Jarrett in the 2002 IROC at Indy race.
The top six drivers in the series - Busch, Bliss, Martin and NASCAR Winston Cup drivers Newman, Greg Biffle and Kevin Harvick, the 2002 IROC series champion - are mathematically eligible to win the series title at Indy.
10th Brickyard 400 Event Schedule (All times local, subject to change)
Friday, Aug. 1
9 a.m. Public gates open
10:30-11:30 a.m. True Value IROC Series practice
12:30-1:50 p.m. True Value IROC Series practice
2-4 p.m. NASCAR Winston Cup Series practice
4:05-5 p.m. True Value IROC Series final practice
Saturday, Aug. 2
7 a.m. Public gates open
10:05 a.m. NASCAR qualifying (two laps, all positions)
1 p.m. IROC at Indy race (40 laps, 100 miles)
2-2:45 p.m. NASCAR Winston Cup practice
3:45-4:30 p.m. NASCAR Winston Cup final practice
Sunday, Aug. 3
7 a.m. Public gates open
1 p.m. NASCAR driver introductions
1:30 p.m. Brickyard 400 (160 laps/400 miles)
Tickets: Reserved-seat Race Day tickets for the Brickyard 400 remain available. Tickets and parking can be purchased on the World Wide Web via www.imstix.com or by calling the IMS Ticket Office at (800) 822-INDY or (317) 492-6700.