Brickyard 400 Thursday notes

By Ken Plotkin - motorsport.com Indianapolis, IN, August 2, 2000 - NASCAR transporters rolled into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at 5 am today for the seventh running of the Brickyard 400. They joined their IROC cousins, who practiced ...

By Ken Plotkin - motorsport.com

Indianapolis, IN, August 2, 2000 - NASCAR transporters rolled into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at 5 am today for the seventh running of the Brickyard 400. They joined their IROC cousins, who practiced yesterday for their third run on the bricks.

IROC was born in 1974 with drivers from four major divisions of racing - NASCAR, Indianapolis, sports cars and Grand Prix - and for many years ran on a mix of road courses and ovals. Over the past decade, IROC has become an oval-only series, with increasing NASCAR involvement. This year's series has nine drivers from NASCAR and three from the Indy Racing Northern Light Series. While the final race of this year's IROC 24 is at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indy 500 winner Eddie Cheever points out "I am racing on the NASCAR drivers' turf, and I understand that."

Both prior IROC races at Indianapolis were won by Mark Martin. Martin starts tomorrow's race eleventh in the twelve-car field. He started eleventh and tenth in his two wins, so his starting position tomorrow is not expected to be a problem.

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Fifty-one cars are entered in this year's Brickyard 400. Forty-three cars are expected to make the race. Thirty-six will qualify on time. Six provisionals are available, based on current owner's points. The 43rd spot, sometimes called the "Petty Rule", is for a past Winston Cup champion who does not qualify. If it is not used by a past champion, it will be filled according to owners points. If the full complement of 43 runs, this will be the fifth time the Brickyard 400's starting field has exceeded the Indianapolis 500 record field of 42 set in 1933.

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Terry Labonte's #5 Kellog's Chevrolet Monte Carlo was qualified today by Todd Bodine. According to Hendrick Motorsports President John Hendrick, Labonte visited his own doctors after feeling sick early on Thursday. It is not known whether or not Labonte will appear in Saturday's race.

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Three of the entries in this year's Brickyard 400 are former Indianapolis 500 racers. Tony Stewart and John Andretti first hit the big time in open wheelers, and are now established Winston Cup stars. Andretti has run in all six Brickyard 400s, and in 1994 became the first driver to make the 500 and 400 lineups in the same year. Robby Gordon has competed in both Indianapolis cars and NASCAR, and is now concentrating on Winston Cup.

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Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J.Foyt is back as owner of the No. 14 Conseco Pontiac. The history of the track and event is not lost on driver Rick Mast. "I don't care what anybody says about this just being another race and all. How can they ignore all the history that surrounds us here? This is Indy. You know, the 500, A.J. Foyt and all. We are adding another age to that history with the Brickyard 400. I don't know about the rest of them, but this race means something to Rick Mast." It obviously means something to the entire team. Team Conseco tested here twice, and have arrived with a brand new race car.

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Robby Gordon, one of those crossover Indianapolis to Winston Cup drivers, emerges from a low profile this weekend. His last race was at Sears Point back in June. Team Gordon is on a limited schedule, picking and choosing races this season that will best serve their future. The Brickyard 400 is one of those races. "It's been a long month without any racing," said Gordon. "It'll be good to get back on the track, hopefully to perform well and also erase some of the rumors going around. Just so everyone knows, Team Gordon is alive and kicking. We've just chosen to be quiet lately and focus on internal issues to make our team better." Team Gordon will also enter Winston Cup races at Watkins Glen, Michigan and Bristol in August.

If Robby Gordon makes the field this weekend, he will be the only driver to have made both the 500 and 400 this year.

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A Hoosier everyone thinks about these days is Tony Stewart, former national champion in Midgets, Sprints, Silver Crown and Indy Racing League and now a Winston Cup star in his sophomore year. He'd love a Brickyard 400 win, but the 500 looms high. "These are two different things. Trust me, I want to win the Brickyard 400 really bad, but it won't take the place of winning the 500. It probably would if I never ran an Indy car there, but the fact that I've had good cars there and I've never won – I don't think anything's going to make up for that, other than one day finally winning that race. But it still would feel awfully good to win the Brickyard 400."

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Mike Bliss, whose roots, like Stewart's, are in open wheel cars thought that some day he would be here in an Indianapolis car. This weekend he'll be doing his first race on the bricks in a stock car. "It just didn't work out that way…[but]…now I've got the chance to race there in the stock cars, and I'm eager to try to do the best I can."

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Rusty Wallace is both hot and relaxed. He has seven poles and two wins this season, his latest win coming at Pocono two weeks ago. With no race last weekend, he took some R&R with a vacation to Italy. This week, he brings car PSR-025 to the Brickyard. That's the car with which he set fastest Ford speed of 181.217 mph during testing here in June.

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Ward Burton spent his weekend off at the beach with his family. Then he went to Philadelphia to attend the Republican National Convention. No word on which was hotter or which was more relaxing.

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Tomorrow, broadcaster Bob Jenkins will be honored with the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America "Caring Hands" award. This award acknowledges his contributions in helping raise awareness for BBBSA and its mentoring program. In the past 17 months, Valvoline's NASCAR team-related effort has raised $527,025 for BBBSA.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers John Andretti , Ward Burton , Terry Labonte , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Todd Bodine , Robby Gordon , Eddie Cheever , Rick Mast , Mike Bliss , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports