IRVAN: BRICKYARD POLE WINNER COULD BREAK 180-MPH BARRIER INDIANAPOLIS, July 20, 1999 - The magic speed is 180 mph for NASCAR Winston Cup Series stock cars at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Two-time Brickyard 400 pole sitter ...
IRVAN: BRICKYARD POLE WINNER COULD BREAK 180-MPH BARRIER
INDIANAPOLIS, July 20, 1999 - The magic speed is 180 mph for NASCAR Winston Cup Series stock cars at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Two-time Brickyard 400 pole sitter Ernie Irvan thinks it can be reached by the pole winner for this year's race Aug. 7. "I think so," Irvan said during a break in General Motors testing Tuesday at the Speedway, less then three weeks before the race. But, of course, there is a but. "It depends on the weather a lot," said Irvan, driver of the M & M's Pontiac. "Last year I was the first one to qualify after it started to rain, and the racetrack was really grippy. And I ended up on the pole by about two-tenths." Irvan put his Skittles Pontiac in the coveted front row, inside starting spot with a record speed of 179.394. "I think they're going to run faster than that," he said. "It depends on the weather. If it's blazing hot, they probably won't even break that track record. But if we get a day that's got a lot of cloud cover, I venture to say they're going to get in the 180's." Drivers such as past Brickyard winners Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt faced hot, sticky conditions in their two days of testing this week. They failed to reach Irvan's record speed, the top lap being 178.402 mph by Buckshot Jones. The Fords practiced the week before under less humid conditions, and Winston Cup points leader Dale Jarrett record the best speed of 179.154. Virginian Rick Mast was the surprise winner of the first Brickyard pole in 1994 at a speed of 172.414. It was a career first, and he's only won three poles on the circuit since. Gordon, winner of the inaugural Brickyard, captured the pole the next two years with speeds of 172.536 and 176.419, respectively. Irvan has been the man in qualifying in Brickyards IV and V, pushing the speeds upward to 177.736 and, last year, to the current mark a tick of the speedometer under 180. When the first Indianapolis 500 occurred in 1911, the magic speed to attain was 100 mph. Since the first race had no pre-event top speeds listed, the 100-mph mark was officially recorded in the sixth race thereafter, in 1919, at 104.78 by Frenchman Rene Thomas. The 180 barrier by Indy cars became a reality in 1972 with a lap of 185.757 by Billy Vukovich Jr. "It seems like it makes your whole weekend," Irvan said about getting a high qualifying position. "If you can qualify in the top 10, that just makes it where when they throw the green flag you're not automatically a half-a-lap behind. And it just seems to carry on. Again, we qualified on the pole last year and ended up sixth in the race. "If we hadn't qualified on the pole, we probably wouldn't have ended up sixth in the race. We weren't very capable of passing a lot of cars. I feel like our qualifying effort really paid off." Irvan has finished 17th, 2nd, 10th and 6th in four Brickyards. He missed the 1995 Brickyard as he continued to recover from near-fatal injuries suffered in a practice crash at Michigan Speedway a couple weeks after the first Speedway stock-car event in 1994. Gordon won the inaugural Brickyard, but for some tire woes that sent him to the pits with the checkered flag 15 miles away Irvan today would be celebrated as the Ray Harroun of NASCAR. He took the lead from Gordon on Lap 150, but then began to fade on Lap 155 and had to spend an excruciating 12 seconds in the pits while the hometown boy charged on to victory. "Well, I can always say I had it won," Irvan said, "and had a good shot at winning it anyway. And again, when I got hurt at Michigan, I can always say I was going to win the championship (he was in the lead). "I pretty much don't try to say that, because there's just a lot of things that could happen. I know that Jeff's a tough competitor. We can't take anything away from him. Again, that year I think I had the upper hand, but again there were five or six more laps to go." In 1996, he finished second behind Jarrett by .936 thousandths of a second, but he never got a chance that year to make a final charge because Robert Pressley hit the wall on Lap 159, ending the race under caution. So Irvan, now 40, returns for his fifth try at Indy hoping good fortune will smile on him at last. His seasons since recovering from his injuries haven't been the best. He finished 10th in the final 1996 standings, but slipped to 14th the next year and 19th in 1998. This year he is a lowly 25th after 18 races with only five finishes in the top 10. His winnings total $889,155. "Obviously, everybody's coming here thinking they've got a shot at winning," said Irvan, the 1991 Daytona 500 winner. "Any of the teams I've been with, the 28 car when the Brickyard originated and now the 36 car and M&M Mars, I've sat on the pole in the 28 car and also sat on the pole with the M&M's car. So obviously coming here and having a shot at winning the race, it's a pretty exciting feeling." It would be even more exciting if he could actually turn that "shot" into reality and be first at the end of 160 racing laps instead of two qualifying laps. It pays a whole lot more.
BRICKYARD 400 NOTEBOOK
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 2:15-3:15 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. *** POST-GENERAL MOTORS TEST QUOTES:
BUCKSHOT JONES: "We thought we would get down to 51 seconds flat. We kept working and working on the setup and finally found it. We weren't good enough to run any qualifying laps until this morning, once we got a good race setup laid down." (About racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway): "It's a big deal to race here. Last year we had a good car in qualifying. The car was way tight in the race, and we never got the car right. The place is unique. It's like how Homestead used to be. It surprises me how fast you can go here through the turns. It's really deceiving at first. I didn't realize until a couple years ago that this place was all brick. I can't imagine what it must've been like to run on that ... it would've taken some muscle. You've got to love the fans here. This is racing country."
JOHN ANDRETTI: "We were working on different things that we normally wouldn't have a chance to do and found some speed in the meantime. We learned things that were positive but not enough. I'd rate the test about a seven out of 10, but then again I'm really critical of our testing. It depends on how much positive stuff you learn." (Asked if this is his year to win the Brickyard 400): "Our year would be a year like Dale Jarrett and Jeff Burton are having. That's a year when you have no DNF's, which we have had. We need to gain consistency in finishing at every track and winning more consistently. We have had cars at tracks that were capable of winning. When put all that together, I'll consider it our year."
WARD BURTON: "The test went real well. I was real proud of the CAT team yesterday when we set that fast lap. All we did today was race setup, and we learned some good things. We've had a good year. We know we've got to get more consistency throughout the season. But we're good for a first-year team. If we can keep the team together, we'll be really good in the future."
JEFF GORDON: "The test was pretty good. I'm happy with the new car we brought. I don't know that we built it just for here, but for the last couple weeks we've really been working hard to prepare it for this test and this race. I'm happy with the results."
TOP SPEEDS FOR GENERAL MOTORS NASCAR WINSTON CUP TESTING INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY, JULY 19-20, 1999
Pos Car # Driver Car Time Speed Day 1 00 Buckshot Jones Chevrolet 50.448 sec. 178.402 mph 7-20 2 22 Ward Burton Pontiac 50.535 178.094 7-19 3 43 John Andretti Pontiac 50.598 177.873 7-19 4 45 Rich Bickle Pontiac 50.604 177.852 7-19 5 60 Geoffrey Bodine Chevrolet 50.622 177.788 7-20 6 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 50.627 177.771 7-19 7 41 David Green Chevrolet 50.685 177.567 7-20 8 36 Ernie Irvan Pontiac 50.699 177.518 7-20 9 42 Joe Nemechek Chevrolet 50.729 177.413 7-20 10 40 Sterling Marlin Chevrolet 50.738 177.382 7-20 11 31 Mike Skinner Chevrolet 50.855 176.974 7-20 12 18 Bobby Labonte Pontiac 50.872 176.915 7-20 13 1 Steve Park Chevrolet 50.925 176.730 7-19 14 3 Dale Earnhardt Chevrolet 51.033 176.356 7-20 15 25 Wally Dallenbach Chevrolet 51.037 176.343 7-20 16 7 Michael Waltrip Chevrolet 51.085 176.177 7-20 17 33 Ken Schrader Chevrolet 51.106 176.105 7-20 18 5 Terry Labonte Chevrolet 51.123 176.046 7-20 19 44 Kyle Petty Pontiac 51.138 175.994 7-19 20 4 Bobby Hamilton Chevrolet 51.148 175.960 7-20 21 30 Derrike Cope Pontiac 51.194 175.802 7-20 22 20 Tony Stewart Pontiac 51.209 175.750 7-20 23 71 Dave Marcis Chevrolet 51.326 175.350 7-20 24 55 Kenny Wallace Chevrolet 51.458 174.900 7-20 25 93 Dave Blaney Pontiac 51.697 174.091 7-20 26 05 Morgan Shepherd Pontiac 51.740 173.947 7-20 27 01 Jeff Green Chevrolet 51.745 173.930 7-20 28 91 Dick Trickle Chevrolet 51.792 173.772 7-19 29 50 Ricky Craven Chevrolet 51.843 173.601 7-20