INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, July 28, 2000 - The rich could get even richer this year at the Brickyard 400, in more ways than one. NASCAR Winston Cup points leader Bobby Labonte and his closest pursuers in the points, second-place Dale...
INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, July 28, 2000 - The rich could get even richer this year at the Brickyard 400, in more ways than one. NASCAR Winston Cup points leader Bobby Labonte and his closest pursuers in the points, second-place Dale Jarrett and third-place Dale Earnhardt, have a strong history of success in the Brickyard 400 since its inception in 1994. And the race is one of the most lucrative in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, padding the wallet of the winner considerably. Those will be two of the interesting subplots surrounding the seventh annual Brickyard 400, which starts at 12:15 p.m. (EST) Aug. 5 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race, televised live on ABC, is the 20th of 34 events in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series this season. Consistency has helped Labonte forge a 53-point lead over defending Winston Cup champion Jarrett entering the Brickyard. He has only one victory, at Rockingham, N.C., but has parlayed nine top-five finishes into the points lead in his Interstate Batteries Pontiac. Labonte has shown the same steady performance at the Brickyard. He finished second last year and in 1997, and third in 1998. He also was ninth in 1995. He'll need a similar performance this year to hold off Jarrett, winner of the Brickyard 400 in 1996 and 1999. Jarrett has finished in the top 10 in each of the last 10 Winston Cup races this season, regaining the consistent touch that propelled him to a runaway championship season in 1999. The Brickyard has become one of Jarrett's personal playgrounds. Besides the two victories, he finished third in 1995 and 1997. Jarrett also held a healthy lead halfway through the 1998 race when his car ran out of gas. Jarrett also was fast during Ford testing July 17-18 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His best lap of 179.204 mph in the Quality Care/Ford Credit Ford was the fourth best by a Ford driver during the test. Earnhardt has enjoyed a renaissance this season in his GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet as he pursues his record eighth Winston Cup championship. He has 15 top-10 finishes in 19 starts. Like Jarrett, Earnhardt has a strong record at the Brickyard. He won in 1995, finished fifth in the inaugural in 1994 and 10th last year. Earnhardt also was second fastest among General Motors drivers in testing July 11-12 at the Speedway with a fast lap of 180.253 mph, faster than Jeff Gordon's track stock-car record of 179.612 mph set during qualifying last year. It's almost impossible to draw up a list of contenders for Brickyard victory without Gordon. He joins Jarrett as a two-time winner, taking the checkered flag in 1994 and 1998 in his DuPont Automotive Finishes Chevrolet. Gordon may be eighth in the Winston Cup standings, 307 points behind Labonte. But he's always a threat for victory at Indianapolis and is fast during testing, practice, qualifying and the race. He won the pole for the race in 1995, 1996 and last year. Speaking of fast, Rusty Wallace must be considered a contender for victory at the Brickyard based on his performance in testing July 17-18 at Indy. He posted a fast lap of 181.217 mph on the 2.5-mile oval in the Miller Lite Ford, the best of any driver in either the GM or Ford tests. Wallace also has won seven poles this season and enters Indianapolis with momentum after his victory in the Pennsylvania 500 on July 23 at Pocono, the last race before the Brickyard 400. Wallace has finished in the top 10 in six of his seven Brickyard 400 starts, so this could be the year he finds the way to the Winner's Circle. Mark Martin and Tony Stewart also are near the top of the long list of contenders for victory at the Brickyard. Martin has shown the consistency of a metronome at Indy, finishing in the top six in each of his last five starts in the Valvoline Ford. His best finish was second in 1998. Stewart, an Indiana native, finished seventh last year in his inaugural Brickyard 400 en route to NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year honors in the Home Depot Pontiac. Winning at Indianapolis would fulfill a dream for Stewart, who also has four Indianapolis 500 starts on his resume. While Stewart dominated the rookie crop last year, Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will continue their intense battle at Indianapolis for Rookie of the Year honors. Earnhardt has two victories in his Budweiser Chevrolet; Kenseth one in his DeWalt Tools Ford. But Kenseth is 12th in the series standings with 2,228 points. Earnhardt is 14th with 2,068.
BRICKYARD 400 NOTEBOOK
Schedule: The Brickyard 400 starts at 12:15 p.m. (EST) Aug. 5. Pole qualifying starts at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 3, with second-round qualifying at noon Aug. 4. Practice sessions will take place at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Aug. 3, and 9 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. Aug. 4.
*** On the air: ABC will televise the Brickyard 400 live Aug. 5, with the pre-race show starting at 1 p.m. (EDT). ESPN2 will broadcast pole qualifying live from 2:30-5:30 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 3. ESPN2 will televise second-round qualifying live from 1-2 p.m. Aug. 4. The final "Happy Hour" of practice will be televised from 7:30-8:30 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 4 on ESPN. The Indy Racing Radio Network will broadcast the race live Aug. 5, starting with a pre-race show at 12:30 p.m. (EDT). IRRN also will broadcast pole qualifying live from 2-4 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 3.