Scott Wimmer hopes for fortuitous Indy-double with addition Of Brickyard 400 attempt to regular NASCAR Busch Series agenda. HIGH POINT, N.C. -- When he and his ...
Scott Wimmer hopes for fortuitous Indy-double with addition Of Brickyard 400 attempt to regular NASCAR Busch Series agenda.
HIGH POINT, N.C. -- When he and his #27 Siemens Dodge team enter Indianapolis Motor Speedway for this weekend's Brickyard 400, a favorable historical precedent from the Bill Davis Racing archives will be working to Scott Wimmer's advantage as he attempts to qualify for his second career NASCAR Winston Cup Series event.
Wimmer--currently fifth in the Busch Series standings after a sixth-place finish last weekend in Colorado Springs--will attempt to do what Dave Blaney, his former BDR teammate, did during the 1999 season. Like Blaney and his #93 BDR team, Wimmer and his #23 Siemens Busch Series team will qualify for and race in their regular event at Indianapolis Raceway Park on Friday night of Brickyard 400 weekend, while--with the help of additional BDR crew members--try to earn a spot in arguably the second most important Winston Cup race on the schedule.
It's a difficult challenge for any team--even the regular WC entries--to overcome the awe-inspiring setting which confronts even the most weathered motorsports veterans at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But for team's like Wimmer's--operating in NASCAR's second racing tier with smaller rosters and budgets--the daunting task of racing twice in a weekend in any race market in NASCAR's top divisions is an uncommon challenge in unfamiliar territory.
"I grew up racing stock cars in Wisconsin, but--just like most everybody in America--I always watched the Indianapolis 500, and dreamed of racing at the Brickyard someday," said Wimmer. "When we went there to test earlier this month, it was really the first time I had been inside to look around and see just how big the whole place is. I walked pit road, looked at all the empty grandstands, and I thought about all the legendary drivers who had driven there. It was unbelievable to think we were going to race at Indianapolis.
"But I'm glad I got some of that out of the way when we tested, because you can't really approach it with a lot of wonder. You have to go and qualify and make the race, and race all day. It's also going to be a big challenge for us to race at both Indianapolis Raceway Park and at the Brickyard on the same weekend. There are huge differences between the tracks, and the cars, and we're not the biggest team--at least our Busch Series part of BDR--so just planning who's going to be at which track and making sure all your equipment is where it's supposed to be is a big deal."
Add to the obvious elements for the #27 Siemens/BDR team to overcome at Indy the fact that Wimmer has been a less-than-flashy qualifier in his 57-race NASCAR career. In 56 career NASCAR Busch Series starts, Wimmer has improved on his starting position in 44 of the 47 races he has finished, including all but one race in 2002, a statistic that masks the fact that the American Speed Association (ASA) standout has proven a much better racer than qualifier in his brief NASCAR experience.
"We have to make the race, so we're obviously going to throw an awful lot into our qualifying effort," said Wimmer. "In the Busch Series, we don't put a lot of emphasis on qualifying because we have a good point standings, we know we're always in the show, and we work on race set-ups a good portion of the practice time. But with the Brickyard 400, it will all be about practice in qualifying trim early, because we don't have provisional points to fall back on at all.
"One good things is that (Crew Chief) "Bootie" (Barker) has raced at Indy when he was the chassis specialist for both Ward Burton and Jeff Gordon (1999-finished third after starting first), and he knows what a challenge getting around Indy is. Our test did not go that well, but we did find 4-5 things that were just in the wrong direction on the car, so at least we had a good baseline to work from on what not to do. I think we're taking a better car back for this weekend, for sure."
Judging by the overall progress he has made in his NASCAR tenure at BDR so far, Wimmer would seem to be the sort of rising star that would be prime for the kind of prime-time showcase that the Brickyard 400 will provide a cross-over effort to a selected Winston Cup event from a Busch Series regular.
After finishing 11th in the final NASCAR Busch Series standings his rookie year, Wimmer continues to enjoy an outstanding sophomore Busch season, only 32 points behind fourth-place Scott Riggs in the tight battle for positions 4-8 in the 2002 Busch Series standings. Included among his seven top-ten finishes in 2002 are best-finishes for Wimmer and the #23 Siemens entry of third (Bristol, Milwaukee), fourth (Nashville, Dover) and fifth (Kentucky).
Wimmer has also made dramatic improvement in 2002 from his rookie Busch Series season in every significant statistical category, including average-finish (13.9-16.9) and average-start (23.0-24.4), and has completed 95.7% of his total miles in 20 starts this season. In 2001, Wimmer finished 11th in the NASCAR Busch Series standings, only 26 points behind tenth-place Kenny Wallace and registered eight top-ten finishes including season-best results at Nashville (third) and Miami (fourth).
Wimmer will be entering his second NASCAR Winston Cup race of the 2002 season at Indianapolis this weekend, but in his first career WC start, Wimmer finished 22nd (and led nine laps) in his unexpected debut at Atlanta in November, 2000, having gone to AMS to enter the ARCA Division race. When ARCA qualifying was rained out, Car Owner Davis decided to have Wimmer attempt to qualify for the Winston Cup race. His eventual second-round qualifying speed was only .03-seconds behind BDR teammate Ward Burton's Day 1 time, at 12th-place speed overall.
While attemping the team's first two-race weekend of the season, Wimmer failed to qualify for the Winston Cup race at Chicagoland Speedway three weeks ago in his first WC effort of 2002. Qualifying for any of the six additional Winston Cup races, which Wimmer will attempt to qualify the #27 Siemens Dodge, will represent a huge step forward for the young Wisconsin native with aspirations for a move to NASCAR's top competitive level.
But successfully earning a starting position for the 2002 Brickyard 400 will represent an achievement for Wimmer and his BDR team of a much deeper significance, one his BDR predecessors still savor long after the moment.
For former Bill Davis Racing Crew Chief Gil Martin, the revelation of exceptional accomplishment came during an emotional pre-race prior to the 1999 Brickyard 400 at IMS. As his #93 team stood at attention adjacent to their pit during the invocation and national anthem, Martin looked at the eight crew members who had helped then-Busch Series regular Dave Blaney defy predictions and become a promising performer at stock car racing's highest levels.
Lined up shoulder-to-shoulder, the #93 Busch team crew--the same abbreviated lineup that Martin had brought to Bill Davis Racing four years ago this month--barely reached the second lane of asphalt. The #12 Penske-Kranefuss team in front of them stretched from pit wall to the race track, some 20 members. The #5 Kellogg's team behind them were double-file, over 25 in their group.The BDR team was easily the smallest contingent on pit-road.
Martin, now crew chief of the #29 Goodwrench/RCR team and a veteran of almost over 400 NASCAR starts including 100-plus Winston Cup races, realized how huge the odds were his team had overcome to be a first-day qualifier (20th) for the second most-significant Winston Cup race of any NASCAR season at the most storied American racing facility in front of over 300,000 ticket holders and a massive television audience.
"I remember that pretty clearly as an extremely emotional moment, but we'd been so busy that weekend racing both tracks that the Brickyard 400 pre-race was the first time we'd all been able to stop and realize the immensity of how far we had come as a team," said Martin, whose team also had raced 16 hours earlier at Indianapolis Raceway Park in the regular NASCAR Busch Series event.
"Our Indy race may still be the most overwhelming event we have each year. I wanted to make sure my guys stepped back and took a look at how far they had come, where the long hours had gotten them and that they knew how proud I was of what they'd accomplished.
"Sometimes, all of us in this industry get so wrapped up in what happens next on our schedule that we don't stop to enjoy the moment. It was a huge moment and an accurate measure of what we've got ahead for this team and this driver. It will be the same for Scott and his whole team when they're standing there on race-morning and they're getting ready to drop the flag."