INDIANAPOLIS, Aug. 2, 1999 -- Terry Labonte grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas, and is a die-hard Lone Star State guy. So, when Labonte won the Primestar 500 in March at Texas Motor Speedway, the victory went straight to the top of his ...
INDIANAPOLIS, Aug. 2, 1999 -- Terry Labonte grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas, and is a die-hard Lone Star State guy. So, when Labonte won the Primestar 500 in March at Texas Motor Speedway, the victory went straight to the top of his favorite NASCAR Winston Cup Series wins. He has 21 during his career. But that could change Aug. 7. Winning the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway would top his list of biggest victories, said Labonte, 42. "That's definitely one of the biggest races you can win, it would be for me," said Labonte, who drives a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. "Of all the races I've won up until this point, that would be the one. It would bump Texas." Hendrick Motorsports has two Brickyard 400 wins with Jeff Gordon, who captured the inaugural in 1994 and returns this year at the defending race champion. Labonte would like to get in on the act. "I like Indy," said Labonte. "It's a pretty neat place. That would be an important win for anybody. That's such an awesome place up there because of all the history and tradition there at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and all the fans that come to that race." The Indianapolis Motor Speedway draws the largest Winston Cup Series crowd of the season for the Brickyard 400.
Hoosier homecoming: The Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is becoming a homecoming for more and more Winston Cup drivers. Four drivers entered into the 400 have ties to the Indianapolis area. Tony Stewart is the latest addition to the Indy-NASCAR group. Stewart, a former Pep Boys Indy Racing League champion, grew up in Indiana and competed in four Indianapolis 500's. He finished a career-best fifth in 1997 and ninth this year. He's joined by Jeff Gordon, John Andretti and Kenny Irwin, who all lived in the Indianapolis area at one time or another. This group of Hoosiers is doing just fine in Winston Cup competition. Stewart, a Winston Cup rookie, tops the list by sitting fifth in the point standings. Gordon, with four wins this season, is ranked sixth in points. Andretti, who won at Martinsville, Va., this season, is 13th while Irwin is 20th.
Irvan aims for pole history: Ernie Irvan has come mighty close to winning the Brickyard 400 twice. He battled Jeff Gordon for the lead in the closing laps of the 1994 inaugural when one of his tires cut. In 1996 Dale Jarrett, then Irvan's teammate at Robert Yates Racing, got the better of him in the final laps. Still, Irvan can make Indy history on Aug. 5 in qualifying. Irvan enters the competition boasting back-to-back Brickyard 400 poles, tying him in that category with Gordon, who won the pole in 1995-96 at Indy. "I can't say that we are going to put any extra effort into qualifying, because we put a lot of effort into qualifying every week," said Irvan, who wheels the MB2 Pontiac. "Last year when we were testing the M&M's Pontiac for Indy, all we did was test for qualifying runs. It was the same thing this year. All we did was qualifying runs to put us in the position to have a good lap in. "If you can qualify first round, in the top 10, that starting position makes it a little easier for the next 400 miles." As for his close-but-no-cigar finishes in the Brickyard 400, Irvan was philosophical. "I really don't believe that anyone or anything owes me," he said. "We have been in contention to win at least two of those Indy races, and we were competitive in many others, as well. There is no doubt that I would love to win at Indy. The Brickyard would be an awesome start." *** Double duty: Seven NASCAR Winston Cup Series drivers will be pulling double duty during the Brickyard 400 weekend. In addition to competing in the 160-lap NASCAR major on Aug. 7, the "Sensational Seven" will run in the IROC at Indy race Aug. 6. The group includes four-time IROC champ Mark Martin, IROC points leader Dale Earnhardt, plus Bobby Labonte, Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett, Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who captured the 1998 championship, will represent the NASCAR Busch Grand National Series. Eddie Cheever Jr. and Kenny Brack will represent the Pep Boys Indy Racing League, while CART drivers Greg Moore and Adrian Fernandez round out the 12-driver field.
Park Avenue: Steve Park is pumped about the Brickyard 400 after his eighth-place finish in the Pennsylvania 500 on July 18 at Pocono Raceway. Drivers say chassis setups for Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Pocono are nearly identical. "We ran well at Indy last year, and (our run at Pocono) definitely helped us build some momentum for Indy," said Park, who wheels the Dale Earnhardt, Inc., Chevrolet. "This is the momentum we needed to put back in this team." Park even impressed his boss by his Pocono run. Earnhardt finished ninth on Park's rear bumper. "That was a good run for Steve," said Earnhardt. "It was good to see him running up front. They need some good luck on that team." *** New car gone: Many Winston Cup teams use the same stock car at Pocono and Indianapolis. John Andretti had planned to do just that, but he wrecked his primary Petty Enterprises Pontiac at Pocono and must go to a backup car. "It was a brand-new car," said Andretti. "Now it's a no car. It was one that we had tested at Indy. Fortunately, my team builds great cars."
Schrader's Indiana tour: Ken Schrader, driver of the Petree Racing Monte Carlo, is no stranger around the state of Indiana. He has competed on 18 different active tracks in the Hoosier State. The tracks range from the small, semi-banked, clay oval of Kokomo Speedway to the 2.5-mile paved oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Schrader has won on 12 Indiana tracks. Now he wants to add IMS to that impressive list. "I've spent most of my life racing around the state of Indiana, mostly on the short tracks in open-wheel cars," said Schrader. "I can remember going to a lot of tracks with my daddy. I'd go with him and watch him race. He was always a good racer." In 1980, Schrader got his start in the USAC Sprint Car series at the Terre Haute Action Track. "My first time ever in a Silver Crown car was at Terre Haute," said Schrader. "I wrecked my car in practice, so I asked Gary Bettenhausen if I could borrow his backup car. He was running for the championship, and I just wanted a chance to race. "Hot laps were over, which meant I didn't get a chance to get in his car before I went out to qualify. I went out to qualify, sat on the pole and finished third. Gary went on to win the championship."
Event schedule: The sixth annual Brickyard 400 starts at 12:15 p.m. (CDT) Aug. 7. Pole qualifying starts at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 5. Qualifying for starting positions 26-36 begins at noon Aug. 6. The first practice session will take place from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (CDT) Aug. 5. Practice continues from 4-4:45 p.m. Aug. 5 and 9-11 a.m. Aug. 6. Final practice takes place from 1:45-2:45 p.m. Aug. 6.
Broadcast schedule: The Brickyard 400 will be broadcast live on ABC and the Indy Racing Radio Network at 1 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 7. ESPN's prerace show starts at noon Aug. 7, while the Indy Racing Radio Network prerace show starts at 12:30 p.m. Aug. 7. ESPN will televise pole qualifying live from 2:30-4 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 5. ESPN2 will offer live pole qualifying coverage from 4-5 p.m. Aug. 5 and live second-day qualifying from 1-2 p.m. Aug. 6. The Indy Racing Radio Network will broadcast live pole qualifying coverage from 2-4 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 5. Qualification wrap-up shows will be broadcast from 6-6:30 p.m. Aug. 5-6. The "Brickyard Live" talk show will be broadcast from 9-10 p.m. Aug. 4-5. ESPN and ESPN2 also will provide thorough coverage of Brickyard 400 practice and race previews Aug. 6. Highlights of "Happy Hour" practice will be shown on ESPN2 from 6-7 p.m., while the "Before They Go Green" preview will be shown on ESPN from 7:30-8:30 p.m. "RPM2Night" will be broadcast live from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from Aug. 2-7 on ESPN2. The program will be shown nightly at 7 p.m. (EDT).