Brickyard 400, ten years old, NASCAR'S biggest race

It is almost considered sacrilege around the NASCAR garage to even imply that anything or any event could over shadow the prestige of the Daytona 500. "The Great American Race" has been around since 1959, and is truly one of the greatest...

It is almost considered sacrilege around the NASCAR garage to even imply that anything or any event could over shadow the prestige of the Daytona 500. "The Great American Race" has been around since 1959, and is truly one of the greatest spectacles in motorsports.

Considered hallowed ground by the stock car faithful, the importance of the Florida landmark could never be diminished.

Without taking away from the Daytona mystic, in ten short years, the Brickyard 400 has become unquestionably as significant as the season opener.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the only other racing venue in North America that can claim to be more sacred than Daytona was built in 1909. It's rich heritage and tradition makes it the foundation of the legacy that has become American motorsports.

It is beyond description to even attempt to describe the rich fabric of history associated with track.

To the NASCAR brethren, Indy was respected, and admired, but it was also another world.

A world that collide with NASCAR in early 1993 when it was announced that Tony George, president of IMS, and the France family, owners of NASCAR, stuck a deal, and that an August tradition would follow in which NASCAR's best would compete at the elite facility.

Since the first race won by Jeff Gordon was run in 1994, the prestige of "kissing the Bricks", has grown at a staggering rate. In the nine previous running, it rivals Daytona as a career-defining win, and rivals and exceeds it in attendance.

Six men have claimed victory in the event, all but the late Dale Earnhardt are competing in the 2003 running and all feel that achieving victory at IMS is a career highlight.

Dale Jarrett, who scored wins in 1996 and 1999, started the tradition of kissing the start finish line to commutate the achievement.

"Everybody has their thing. We know Helio Castroneves and his crowd climb the fences, but we wanted to do something that we could really remember, so to get the photo opportunity for us to be out on the front straightaway kissing the bricks, just to let everybody know how special this place is", said Jarrett.

Four time Winston Cup champion, and adopted Indiana native, Jeff Gordon, who holds the series record for most wins (1994,1998,2001) has difficulty addressing the fact that another win at the speedway will put him in the company of such legends are Foyt, Unser and Mears with four illusive victories.

"I cannot even think of comparing myself with those guys, as a kid I always dreamed of winning here, of course I thought it would be in an open wheel car, because nothing else ever raced here, said Gordon.

"All my dreams came true, it started in 94, and then the other two victories. I am really grateful that Tony George and NASCAR got together to bring Winston Cup racing here".

2000 winner, Bobby Labonte, puts his win in perspective. "I do not have many trophies at my house, we have a race shop for that. I have only two; one of them is the brickyard 400.

Bill Elliott, and Ricky Rudd, who took the checkers in 2002, and 1997 respectively also lamented on the importance of wins here. "It doesn't hit you at first, but looking back, it was one of the biggest things in my career, said Rudd. An impressive comment considering Rudd, leads the all time record for 700 consecutive starts, and he believes that the one win in 97 was a highlight above the other 699.

As Nascar continues to evolve, many long-standing traditions are beginning to evaporate under the strain of becoming national phenomena.

Ten years ago, no could have imagined that Winston would be leaving the sport, North Wilkesboro would shut down, or that Labor day would be spent at any other track than Darlington, and certainly, no one would have dreamed that the summer race in Indianapolis would rival Daytona as the most prestigious event in American stock car racing.

-thomas chemris-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Helio Castroneves , Tony George