DAY 1 -- WEDNESDAY, JULY 30, 1997 96 Page 1 Welcome to the fourth Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the 19th race of the 1997 NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Notes, quotes, trivia, historical information and other items will appear...
DAY 1 -- WEDNESDAY, JULY 30, 1997 96 Page 1
Welcome to the fourth Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the 19th race of the 1997 NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Notes, quotes, trivia, historical information and other items will appear on these pages through Sunday, Aug. 3.
Brickyard 400 information will be available on the Internet this week, starting Wednesday. The Web address is: http:/www.brickyard.com. The Speedway became the first in the country to provide this service at the 1995 Brickyard 400. Included in the information will be practice summaries and performance histories, qualifying results, daily Trackside Reports, driver quotes, race lineups and results.
The Winston Welcome Lunch for the media is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday in the Brickyard Pavilion near the Brickyard Crossing Lake (Hulman and Seventh Street).
The NASCAR Winston Cup transporters will roll into the transporter parking area behind Gasoline Alley at 6 a.m. Wednesday. The trucks will open up and the garage gates will open at 7 a.m.
Brickyard 400 qualifying procedure for Busch Pole and positions in the field: Qualifying draw for order at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday. One lap qualifying Thursday to determine positions 1-25 (fastest 25 locked into the field). One-lap qualifying Friday for remaining cars to determine positions 26-38 (bumping to occur within those positions). Those posting unsuccessful qualifying runs Thursday may elect to "stand" on their Thursday times for Friday's session.
Four provisional spots are available for positions 39-42. They're available to the top 40 teams in current 1997 NASCAR Winston Cup car owner points, in order, from the most to the least, to those who don't make the field through qualifying. This guarantees spots in the field for Jeff Gordon (car owner Hendrick Motorsports), Mark Martin (Roush Racing), Terry Labonte (Hendrick Motorsports) and Dale Jarrett (Robert Yates), the current top four in points.
One additional provisional spot (no. 43) is available for a past Winston Cup champion who fails to make the field through qualifying, starting with the most recent. This guarantees a spot in the field for defending NASCAR Winston Cup champion Terry Labonte and car owner Hendrick Motorsports. If Labonte fails to make the field through qualifying and elects to take a "champions" provisional instead of a regular provisional, it would guarantee a spot in the field for Jeff Burton (Roush Racing), who is fifth in current NASCAR Winston Cup points.
Preliminary Press Conference Schedule: 8:30 a.m. Thursday Shell press conference, Shell chalet outside Turn 4. ` 11 a.m. Thursday Ford press conference, Trackside Conference Room 12:15 p.m. Thursday QVC press conference, Trackside Conference Room 8:30 a.m. Friday Texaco breakfast, Brickyard Crossing Golf Resort and Inn 11 a.m. Friday Tabasco press conference, Trackside Conference Room
Chevrolet held a media luncheon and golf outing at Brickyard Crossing Golf Resort today prior to Wednesday's opening of Brickyard 400 practice. Darrell Waltrip was among the Winston Cup drivers who participated. DARRELL WALTRIP: "This is a fun day it sets the stage for the whole weekend. Last year, I won the golf tournament and didn't win the race. This year, I'm going to lose the golf tournament and win the race." (about it being "special" to come to the Speedway): "To me, especially, having raced in this area as a kid. I remember driving down 16th Street, hearing the cars running and thinking, "Man! What would it be like to be in there?' I remember Les Richter (longtime NASCAR executive) called me and asked me if I wanted to run Indy. I told him, "No, I'm too old.' He said, "No, dummy, in a stock car.' To do that the first time at that test to see what our cars would do; boy, was that exciting. Then when I qualified for that first race, I could see the fans throwing hats and yelling. To them, making the race is a big deal because they're used to Bubble Day, that mentality, that drama. They were just excited that I made the race. I thought I must've won the pole and I came around and looked at the pylon and I was 28th. It hasn't worn off to me and I hope it hasn't worn off with the fans. It's not just another race."
At 6 a.m., the Winston Cup transporters rolled into the garage parking lot, led by the #5 Hendrick Motorsports hauler driven by Bob Holt of Denver, N.C. by virtue of Terry Labonte and the team winning the 1996 Winston Cup championship. "We took off about one o'clock yesterday and rolled into town around midnight," Holt said. "I stopped at a local truck stop to doll up the truck. We want it to look nice for the sponsors, Mr. Hendrick and ourselves because the fans can see the truck from their seats. Having that first parking position is the highest honor in Winston Cup. It has a lot of benefits." Holt has been the transporter driver for the Hendrick for the last six years of an 18-year racing career. He's no stranger to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, having served as transporter driver and fueler for drivers Teo Fabi and John Andretti for a team fielded by the late Al Holbert in the ‘80s. "With these fellows, I do the windshield," Holt said. "It's a lot easier." As the first driver into position for the Brickyard 400, Holt joins the list of "Mountain Man" Jim Baldwin of Lansing, N.C., who led the haulers in 1994 and 1995 by virtue of Dale Earnhardt's Winston Cup titles, and Mike Belden of Concord, N.C., who led the way in 1996 via Jeff Gordon's title the previous year.
As the haulers unloaded at 7 a.m., some were watching to see whose car would be first into Gasoline Alley. "It'll be the #24 car," said a representative from another team. "It's the first one in every week." At 7:03 a.m., the #24 entry of Jeff Gordon was the first to be pushed into the garage area.
>From Bob Latford's "The Inside Line": --26 different drivers have led the Brickyard 400 but only three Dale Earnhardt, Bill Elliott and Jeff Gordon have led all three years. Earnhardt's streak was kept alive in 1996 when relief driver Mike Skinner led Lap 25. --Of 62 drivers who have started at least one 1997 Winston Cup race, 26 have started all of them. --38 different drivers have led a 1997 Winston Cup event and 33 have posted at least one top-10 finish. 23 different drivers have a top-five finish. --The Brickyard 400 pays a minimum $53,830 to each starter. That's more than Lee Petty earned in all of 1959 when he won the inaugural Daytona 500, ten other races and the title. --The UNOCAL Bonus the sport's "skins game" has grown to $60,800 if this year's pole winner can go on to win the Brickyard 400, a feat that hasn't been done. --The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the 17th different facility to host a Winston Cup event in '97. --Seven drivers are credited with completing all 1,200 miles of Brickyard competition Rusty Wallace, Terry Labonte, Bill Elliott, Dale Earnhardt, Morgan Shepherd, Ken Schrader and Ted Musgrave. --Although sixth in points, Dale Earnhardt has completed all but 21 miles of a possible 7,433 this season. Dale Jarrett has completed all but 57 miles. --Of the 18 Winston Cup races to date in '97, 17 have finished under the green. The total margin of victory in those 17 races over 7,433 miles of racing is 25.37 seconds. The widest margin of victory was Jeff Burton's 5.392-second win over Dale Earnhardt at New Hampshire. The closest finish has been John Andretti's win over Terry Labonte at Daytona by just .029 of a second. --The most cars running at the finish this season was 40 at Martinsville. The fewest was 28 at Atlanta. --The most drivers leading a race so far this season has been 15 at the first Pocono event. The fewest has been three at Martinsville. --The most lead changes has been 27 at Charlotte. The fewest has been four at Martinsville. --The most cars on the lead lap so far has been 26 at Sears Point. The fewest has been three at Richmond. --The fewest cautions in a race has been none at Talladega. The most has been 20 at Bristol. --Busch Pole winners have won only three races this season Dale Jarrett at Darlington, Mark Martin at Sears Point and Jeff Gordon at Charlotte.
At today's Winston Welcome Lunch at the Brickyard Pavilion, Speedway President Tony George presented original bricks from the track to Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt and Dale Jarrett, the first three winners of the Brickyard 400.
JEFF GORDON: "Before you redid your golf course over there, I found one, so I DO have one. It's a real honor for me to have won the inaugural race and it'll certainly go down in MY history as (special)."
DALE EARNHARDT: "Since I haven't won the biggest race in our series, the Daytona 500, this is the biggest win of my career."
DALE JARRETT: "I'd like to thank Bill France and Tony George for getting together a few years ago and give us the opportunity to race at this great facility. This is something I'll always cherish."
Glenn Jarrett will substitute for his father, Ned, in the broadcast booth with anchor Mike Joy for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network broadcast of the Brickyard 400. The elder Jarrett is recovering from hernia surgery. The rest of the network's broadcast team will be Jerry Baker in Turn 1, Gary Lee in Turn 2, Mike King in Turn 3, Dave DeSpain in Turn 4, Vince Welch, Randy Pemberton and Doug Rice on pit road and Chris Economaki as a special pit commentator. Joy will host the network's one-hour "Brickyard Live" show at 8 tonight from Brickyard Crossing Golf Resort and Inn.
First Brickyard 400 Practice Notes (all speeds unofficial):
Track Record: 176.419 by Jeff Gordon, Aug. 1, 1996.
1 p.m. -- #94 Bill Elliott was first out, followed by #16 Ted Musgrave, #37 Jeremy Mayfield, 1:13 p.m. -- #16 Musgrave completed the first lap of practice. 1:04 p.m. -- #33 Schrader turned a lap at 170.036 miles an hour, fastest of session. 1:07 p.m. -- #81 K. Wallace turned a lap at 170.862, fastest of session. 1:08 p.m. -- #81 K. Wallace turned a lap at 171.393, fastest of session. 1:09 p.m. -- #43 Hamilton turned a lap at 171.661, fastest of session. 1:13 p.m. -- #27 Wilson turned a lap at 171.887, fastest of session. 1:14 p.m. -- #98 Andretti turned a lap at 172.302, fastest of session. 1:15 p.m. -- #37 Mayfield turned a lap at 172.361, fastest of session. #88 Jarrett turned a lap at 172.632, fastest of session. 1:16 p.m. -- #42 Nemechek turned a lap at 172.990, fastest of session. 1:20 p.m. -- #9 Speed turned a lap at 173.521, fastest of session. 1:25 p.m. -- #75 Mast turned a lap at 173.977, fastest of session. 1:31 p.m. -- #33 Schrader turned a lap at 174.189, fastest of session. 1:54 p.m. -- #16 Musgrave turned a lap at 175.002, fastest of session. 1:55 p.m. -- #28 Irvan turned a lap at 175.067, fastest of session. 1:57 p.m. -- #9 Speed turned a lap at 176.142, fastest of session. 2:05 p.m. -- #33 Schrader turned a lap at 175.326, second fastest of session. 2:24 p.m. -- #17 D. Waltrip lodged cone under front end in warmup lane. Officials removed it. 2:40 p.m. -- #5 T. Labonte became the last driver to take the track for practice. 2:41 p.m. -- #9 Speed turned a lap at 176.706 with a trap speed of 196, fastest of session and first to unofficially break the track record. 3 p.m. - Track temperature was 130 degrees, according to Goodyear tire engineers. 3:11 p.m. -- #28 Irvan turned a lap at 175.510 with a trap speed of 196, second fastest of session. 3:19 p.m. -- #10 Rudd turned a lap at 175.353 with a trap speed of 195, third fastest of session. 3:22 p.m. -- #33 Schrader turned a lap at 175.493 with a trap speed of 196, third fastest of session. 3:27 p.m. - YELLOW, debris on front stretch. 3:32 p.m. - GREEN. 3:37 p.m. - #42 Nemechek turned a lap at 176.036 with a trap speed of 196, second fastest of session. YELLOW, debris. 3:41 p.m. - GREEN. 3:47 p.m. - YELLOW, #31 Skinner slid off Turn 3 and hit the outside wall backwards in the north short chute. Skinner was uninjured. At the same time, #94 Elliott had an oil leak into Turn 1. The backup #31 car was offloaded from the transporter at 3:55 p.m. with car owner Richard Childress supervising.
MIKE SKINNER: "I'm not really sure what happened. They radioed to me that they were about to throw a yellow for oil on the track. I don't know if I got into that or what. It just got extremely loose."
4:08 p.m. - GREEN. 4:14 p.m. -- #33 Schrader turned a lap at 176.022 with a trap speed of 195, third fastest of session. 4:15 p.m. -- #28 Irvan turned a lap at 176.429 with a trap speed of 196, second fastest of the day and the second driver to unofficially break the track record. 4:18 p.m. -- #6 Martin turned a lap at 176.246 with a trap speed of 196, third fastest of the session. 4:25 p.m. -- #46 Dallenbach Jr., turned a lap at 177.144 with a trap speed of 198, the fastest stock-car lap ever run at the Speedway. 4:30 p.m. - Track temperature was 121 degrees, according to Goodyear tire engineers. 4:38 p.m. -- #16 Musgrave turned a lap at 176.908 with a trap speed of 198, second fastest of the session and fourth driver to unofficially break the track record. 4:43 p.m. - YELLOW, debris. 4:46 p.m. -- #28 Irvan turned a lap at 177.943, fastest stock-car lap ever run at the Speedway. 4:48 p.m. -- #88 Jarrett turned a lap at 178.980, fastest stock-car lap ever run at the Speedway. 4:52 p.m. - YELLOW, #9 Speed hit the outside wall in Turn 4. END OF SESSION.
The Winston Leader Bonus continued to grow after the Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono and an extra $40,000 will be on the line for the Brickyard 400 for any driver who wins the race and leads the Winston Cup point standings at the conclusion of the event. The bonus, sponsored by R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., begins at $10,000 and increases by that same amount each race until there is a winner. A total of $150,000 of the $320,000 season jackpot has been awarded this season with Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett being the only two winners. Gordon has won $120,000 this season, including the second-highest payout in Winston Leader Bonus history. He claimed $80,000 after his win in the Pocono 500, but that was only half the record $160,000 he collected in 1996 after winning the DieHard 500.
The QVC press conference originally scheduled for 12:15 p.m. Thursday has been canceled. STP announced today that a second "Paint The King's Car" contest will be held for U.S. high school students in grades 9 through 12. The first, conducted last year, drew more than 6,000 entries from all 50 states and nine foreign countries. The winning entry came from Lars Ericksson, a Swedish NASCAR fan and his color scheme is being carried this season on the #43 STP/Petty car. Entry form and contest information will be available next month and be sent to instructors of more than 24,000 high school art classes. The contest will run until Oct. 31.
Twelve drivers have made all three Brickyard 400 fields through the first round of Busch Pole qualifying. They are Brett Bodine, Dale Earnhardt, Bill Elliott, Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte, Sterling Marlin, Mark Martin, Rick Mast Greg Sacks, Hut Stricklin and Rusty Wallace. If second-round qualifying had not been rained out in 1995, Jarrett, Stricklin and Wallace would not have been first-round qualifiers and the list would shrink to nine.
DALE JARRETT: "It's a brand-new car. It's the best I've had in a long time. The car sticks real well and that's the reason for the speed. Only three have won and when we leave, I hope it's still only three. I'm the first Ford winner and I hope I'm the first to repeat. The afternoon time, the track was cool. I hope that they would let me keep that time. We were just using today as a test day." (Explain why so many drivers broke speed records today) "The biggest difference is the repaving in the corners; that translates to people getting through the corners better. Our fast lap came very late in the day. We really didn't plan on even trying to take a qualifying-like lap. The track had cooled off quite a bit. Turn 1 was almost completely shaded and Turn 2 was quick. I don't forsee running that fast tomorrow. I think someone will definitely break the record tomorrow, but I don't think it'll be me. I think I'm 20th in the qualifying order. I just don't think I can do it in the heat of the day."(Why were Terry Labonte and Jeff Gordon not running fastest today?) "I wouldn't worry about those guys they're gonna be on top tomorrow. This is a day for testing. I wouldn't start feeling sorry for them yet." (About qualifying here) "All it takes (to not do well here) is not getting through Turn 2 or Turn 4. I had a great run last year, but I got so excited, I hit the wall coming off (Turn) 4. We went from having a car I thought would qualify in the top three and we ended up starting 20th." (Can you win starting from the back) "That's the fun and beauty of this place; it's trying to maneuver your way around someone else. It's following somebody and watching him, dogging him lap after lap." (About bringin a new car) "This is a brand new car. At home, I was talking to my friends and they'd say, ‘You're taking the Pocono car, right, since it's won three races?' When I tell them no, they look at me like I'm totally stupid. We think we know what we're doing. We wanted to bring a car that would do well on a flat track. From the first moment I drove it, I felt it was a car that could win here." (About the possibility of winning here again) "It'd be tremendous. That's our goal to become the first two-time champion here. But it gets tougher each year, because people learn a little more each year what it takes to do well here. On the other hand, there are only three people out there who know what it really takes to in at this place." (How did it feel coming back here as defending champion?) "I walked over from the hotel this morning, just to take it all in. And it was extremely special. Walking over, my determination to win became more intense."
ERNIE IRVAN: (About his mother who is hospitalized) "My mom's in the hospital. She had an ulcer and the ulcer erupted. Now she's in a coma. They have the ulcer fixed, but that's the least of the problems now. I was at the hospital with her this morning...I came here to do a job. That's what my mom would want me to do. There's nothing I can do there. The doctors are doing all they can. It's all in God's hands." (About the importance of track position here) "Track position is really important here. If you qualify up front, you can dictate your day. There's not a lot of cautions here -- This is a race that has long greens so track position is critical." (About his future) "There are lots of opportunities for Ernie Irvan now. I want to get in a position like I'm in now; to keep winning races. The team I'm with, they're big time racers. They're dedicated to winning. There is nothing they like more than winning a pole and winning races. That's what Ernie Irvan wants to do, too."
WALLY DALLENBACH, JR.: (About racing here, given the history of his father's experience here) "I've spent many months of May here. As a kid, every birthday that came around, you'd wish your dad would win the Indy 500. I always thought I'd be racing here at the Indianapolis 500, I just never dreamed as a kid that it'd be in a stock car. Maybe we can finally get the Dallenbach name on the trophy here." (About his chances here) "You've got to remember, this team is only 11 races old. It's a young team. A lot of the guys are younger than me. But it's a good team. It's the best equipment and the best opportunity Wally Dallenbach has ever had." (About qualifying) "I used to hate qualifying. I used to lay in bed at night worrying about qualifying. But when you have good equipment and a good team, qualifying becomes a lot more fun."
TED MUSGRAVE: "The track is real good and the speed was good. The track's holding together good and didn't affect the speeds. It's typical Indy...the track is faster when the temperatures go down. The car's running great and I feel pretty good right now."
ROBBY GORDON: "We're fairly happy. It's not quite as quick as we've been but we're in the top 10 right now. We had a problem unloading our car out of the trailer. It definitely made a difference in the way the car handled. We had to change some suspension points. Today, we chased a loose car most of the afternoon. At the end of the day, we were pretty happy where we ended up. Now we have to change motors, put our qualifying motor in and go at it tomorrow."
KEN SCHRADER: "We just got to get better. The car is not as good as when we tested. We got to get faster. We should though. The improvements to the track are really good. It does not seem to affect the car at all."
BOBBY HAMILTON: "The day went really good. The track was a little slick. I think they put some lime down on the track. After 30 minutes, it was back to normal. We worked real hard to get back where we were in testing. Tomorrow usually tells the tale. We have to wait till tomorrow and see where we're at. They did a good job. The different colors mess you up a little bit. Once you get used to it, it's fine."