EARNHARDT LEADS FIRST DAY OF NEXTEL CUP TESTING AT INDIANAPOLIS Stewart begins title defense with second-fastest speed INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, July 10, 2006 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. topped the speed chart July 10 on the first day of 2006 NASCAR...
EARNHARDT LEADS FIRST DAY OF NEXTEL CUP TESTING AT INDIANAPOLIS
Stewart begins title defense with second-fastest speed
INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, July 10, 2006 -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. topped the speed chart July 10 on the first day of 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series testing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, posting a lap of 177.518 mph in the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet.
"We've just been good since we got off the trailer, really," Earnhardt said. "We got some great ideas how to improve the car, make it turn better if the track tightens up. We didn't make any qualifying runs today, just practiced race stuff.
"I'm really happy with how my car was. This is definitely the best we've been at testing here. Our team's improved, and it's starting to show when we go to racetracks like this and run like we're running."
Earnhardt and 50 other NEXTEL Cup Series drivers are scheduled to test at the 2.5-mile oval July 10-12.
Among the other drivers testing July 10 were defending Allstate 400 at the Brickyard champion Tony Stewart, who was second fastest of the day at 177.319 in the No. 20 The Home Depot Chevrolet. Robby Gordon was third at 177.204 in the No. 7 Menards Chevrolet. Ken Schrader was fourth in the No. 21 Little Debbie Ford and Jeff Burton fifth in the No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet.
Earnhardt said the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard is "on his list" of races he wants to win in his career, and despite the intense competition expected from defending winner Stewart, four-time Allstate 400 at the Brickyard champion Jeff Gordon and others, he is more confident this year than in the past that his No. 8 Dale Earnhardt, Inc., team can win at Indianapolis.
"We're going to bring a little extra horsepower, something we haven't had here, and I think we'll be able to compete with those guys," Earnhardt said. "My car's driving good and handling good. It's about time we come up here and get us a win."
Earnhardt's best finish at the Speedway was 10th in 2001, and he struggled in three of the past four years with finishes outside the top 20, including a last-place finish in 2005 after being caught up in a multi-car accident early in the race.
Stewart, by contrast, had a dream season in 2005 by winning the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, fulfilling his lifelong dream of winning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is located less than an hour from his home in Columbus, Ind. He followed that accomplishment with a second NEXTEL Cup Series season championship.
Stewart was pleased with his Joe Gibbs Racing team's efforts on the first day of testing, but said their accomplishments had little to do with his place on the speed chart.
"Just trying a lot of things, really," Stewart said. "You don't set your benchmark strictly on the test itself and speeds you run. You set it more on what you're trying to accomplish and trying new things is what we're here for."
Thirty-nine drivers turned laps July 10. The only serious incident of the day involved Sterling Marlin, when he made heavy contact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 2, causing heavy damage to his No. 14 Waste Management Chevrolet. Marlin was unhurt and cleared to drive.
Stewart and JGR teammates Denny Hamlin and J.J. Yeley will have the day off July 11, as the team is scheduled to return for a final day of testing July 12.
Roush Racing, DEI, Petty Enterprises, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, MB2 Motorsports and Robert Yates Racing are among the teams that are scheduled to test for a second day July 11.
The Hendrick Motorsports stable of Gordon, NEXTEL Cup points leader Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers, Penske Racing teammates Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch and Evernham Motorsports drivers Scott Riggs and Jeremy Mayfield are among the drivers scheduled to begin testing July 11. Evernham driver Kasey Kahne tested July 10.
NASCAR NEXTEL CUP SERIES TESTING QUOTES:
DALE EARNHARDT JR. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet): "Trying to learn what we can with the time we got, the car seems to be driving OK. We've got a couple areas we need to improve on as far as handling. Track's in great condition; it's great weather, everything's good." (You came into this race last year struggling a little and then had a tough race, is it for you to bounce back here more so than other tracks?): "Yeah, absolutely, this is one of the tracks where you put it on your list as far as where you want to win throughout your career. There's some you could probably live without, but this up at the top of list as far as ones you'd like to get under your belt. It's a real pleasure to be back working with Tony (Eury) Jr. The car seems to be driving good, and we'll have an opportunity to be competitive like we have been most of the year."
KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 UAW Dodge Dealers Dodge): (Why Allstate 400 at the Brickyard is so important?): "I look forward to it. Allstate is one of our really good sponsors. Coming to the Brickyard is obviously a track that I would really -- really enjoyed, would love to win it at some point. We came close two years in a row. I'm just looking forward to it, hoping to have a really good test this weekend. By the time we come back, hopefully, I'll have a shot at it."
MARK MARTIN (No. 6 AAA Ford): (About how important it is to have a good test to carry over to the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard): "Well, I've seen guys come here and have a bad test and come back and run good. But we sure don't want to do that. We don't want to hope for that. I think we're off to a good start. You know, we seem to have respectable speed, much better than we've had in these three disappointing races. If we've got speed, I can -- my team and I can easily adjust our race car to suit my liking. But when you don't have speed, you can adjust it to your liking, but you're still going to take a whipping on the racetrack. For some reason, we seemed to hit the track running today, and I feel good about it. You know, I think it will be -- it's a good time for us to test after taking a whooping the last three races."
JEFF BURTON (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet): "This is a big race for a lot of reasons, as close as the points thing is and just Indy being Indy. It's going to be a real big weekend. Looking forward to it. Test has gone pretty well; we were reasonably fast, kind of hard to learn a lot today. The track's not rubbered up yet, so the tires wear out so quickly that it's hard to learn a whole lot, so I kind of feel like we're wasting our time today. But it's always cool to be at Indy."
MATT KENSETH (No. 17 DeWalt Ford): (Your assessment of first test session at Indy?): "We really didn't get too much accomplished. On the way to the racetrack, I got ran into by a student driver. That was the start of my morning. I was at a stoplight. Biffle was following me from the airport. He always runs into me, so I thought it was him joking. It wasn't. It was a student driver and instructor just pile-drove into the back of me. That was exciting. Got here, ran a couple laps, didn't run too good. Took a second car out -- I wrecked that right away. It's been an eventful 24 hours. The beginning of our test hasn't been very good, to answer your question."
CARL EDWARDS (No. 99 Office Depot Ford): (About the test and preparing for other races at this test): "This test is perfect for all the downforce tracks because it's almost like a big skid pad. It is really easy to repeat laps here. The track is really smooth, and you can really feel the changes. We can make the smallest change here and really feel the difference." (About the change in tire compared to last year): "We are a lot tighter than we were last year. We've freed the car up a little bit, but it is still way too tight. We're having to work though that, and hopefully by the end of today we'll have that ironed out." (About the Indianapolis Motor Speedway): "There are so many things to like about this place. Indianapolis is a fun town, first of all. It's a great place. The history here is second to none. The first time I came here I was helping out Kenny Schrader's Budweiser team when he drove for Hendrick. I sat and polished wheels on the trailer watching guys like Jeff Gordon and all these guys drive in and out of the test session. It is so cool to be here and be one of the drivers who gets to drive on this racetrack." (About the unique surface): "It is definitely flatter, and the shape of the racetrack is unique. To be able to go out there and run so fast without feeling any bumps is amazing."
TONY STEWART (No. 20 The Home Depot Chevrolet): "We learned a lot here at the Goodyear test a couple months ago, and we are just trying to build off of that. We are getting a little bit of a slow start today because we're trying to let the track get a little bit of rubber on it before we really start hitting it hard this afternoon. I'm having fun, and I'm definitely glad to be back here."
J.J. YELEY (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet): "It is cool to come back to the Speedway with NASCAR driving a NEXTEL Cup car. I came here a couple of months ago to do a tire test for Tony (Stewart) and Goodyear. The tire that they brought back, I don't know if it is the same tire or not, but I can't seem to get into the same groove that I was a couple of months ago. We're decent right now. I guess it's just really different being at this track in a stock car because you have to drive it so differently. We're trying to sneak up on it as I know a couple of guys have already gotten in trouble. So far, it's going pretty good."
ELLIOTT SADLER (No. 38 M&M's Ford): "We're just trying to work on our race trim today. Indy's always been special to me, and to come here, sit on the pole and lead some laps the last couple years has been a lot of fun, finishing the top five two years ago. It's a cool place to come race, so we're working on race trim right now and get it good and comfortable. Got a brand-new car here, and we want to get it as fast as we can and come back because everybody brings their best stuff (to IMS) that they got at home, and hopefully we'll bring our best stuff, too." (Last year you had that tire problem right at the end of the race. Do you feel better about the tires in the wake of the Goodyear tests earlier this year?): "We'll see, I think we'll be able to tell -- more tomorrow and Wednesday, when we get some more rubber on the track -- what the Goodyear tires feel like. So far, so good, and we haven't had any problems with them. We'll be able to tell more when the track's good and hot. We did have some problems last year that took us out of a top-five two years in a row, but that's OK, we'll come back. We usually run good here. We're usually fast, and Robert Yates always brings a lot of motor, so we'll see what happens."
DENNY HAMLIN (No. 11 FedEx Kinko's Chevrolet: (About IMS. It's pretty unique for NASCAR, and for racing, in general): "It's been great. Seems like every run I'm feeling a little bit more comfortable so it's a lot of fun, and once we get this thing dialed in a little better it's going to be a fun racetrack. It seems like with a flat track like this, handling's going to be a premium so we definitely have those setup notes from Pocono we're bringing here, and it's working out great so far." (Tony Stewart and J.J. Yeley have experience at this track. How much are you leaning on them for this race?): "A lot. Definitely comparing a lot of data between Tony and J.J. and myself. We're all three very, very close right now so I feel (when) the second day comes around, we'll be in great shape." (How much of a leadership role has Tony taken with this team?): "He's definitely taken the leadership role, whether he wants it or not. He's always coming to us after races, telling us things he saw that he thinks we could do better, whether we ask for it or not. It's good that he does care because he could just say, 'To heck with it,' and let us learn the hard way. Be he chooses to try to steer us away from the things he did wrong." (He has about one-fifth of the Hall of Fame Museum right now. Have you checked out the new display?): "I have not, but I saw it yesterday on a local TV station. We have tomorrow off, which is good. We decided to do Monday-Wednesday, use Tuesday to relax, learn this and have a better game plan for the second (test) day. I'll use the second day (Tuesday) to try to play golf here and check out the Museum."
DALE JARRETT (No. 88 UPS Ford): "It's a special feeling just to come here whether you're practicing or racing, whatever the case may be." (You've got a new opportunity coming up next year that you're excited about; how do you juggle that with what you want to accomplish here this year?): "It's easy, I'm just doing my job, that part hasn't changed. (For) 2006 nothing's changed about it. We have to work hard to make this team work better. We're not a very good team right now we have to improve for Robert, and Doug and Carolyn Yates so they can get drivers that want to come here and sponsors that want to be a part of this. When I signed up for this at the beginning of the year, we weren't thinking about 2007, we are at 2006 and that commitment hasn't changed our perspective."
DAVID STREMME (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge): (About racing near his hometown of South Bend, Ind.): "It is cool coming back to Indiana. It's close to home, so anytime we get to do that, it's a lot of fun. We struggled here a little bit the first run out, I just got loose with a brand-new car, but it seems to be pretty good, so we're just going to run some laps and get better." (Initial impressions?): "It's a really cool place. It's real fast, but it's like you're running a road course in a way, so many corners. It's just cool coming to town, there's so much history here at Indianapolis, and getting to run. It's a lot of fun." (You're getting a world-famous teammate in Juan Pablo Montoya. Your thoughts?): "I'm real excited. Juan is a really great guy, I've heard a lot of stories from Andy Graves; he got to work with him and they won the '500' here. He might struggle a little bit, like he told us yesterday, he's going to be leaning on Reed (Sorenson) and myself, but he'll be able to help us out, too. Speed is irrelevant to him, and the guy can drive anything so I think after a few races he'll be just fine." (What's your goal for this race?): "A top 15. We just need to get back in the top 35. We're in such a restructuring stage right now of getting our cars better, our team better, and its showing. I told my guys I'll pay them a lot of money if we run well here."
BILL ELLIOTT (No. 00 Burger King Chevrolet): "Very much so, I enjoy the racetrack, it's always been fun. I've enjoyed racing here. So much history to Indy Speedway, just to be back is great." (New team and sponsor at this race for you, is it a new learning curve?): "No, the race is still the same. The main thing is just getting everybody working together and going in a good direction. We just need to get all the little bugs worked out and get around the corner, that's all we need to do."
PAUL MENARD (No. 15 Menards Chevrolet): "I've been waiting for this day since the first time I was here in 1989. It's pretty awesome. We've still got some speed to find. We're not really happy with our speed so we're working on that, but just to get laps around here is pretty cool. Right now we're concerned about making the race; we're not locked in the field. We've got to work on qualifying quite a bit, but if we can do that it's going to be a good day." (On performance today): "It's decent, car is driving pretty good, but we've got to find about a second of speed. Such a big track, it's all spread out. But if we can find about a second, we'll be very happy."
Tickets: Tickets are on sale for the 2006 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 6 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Fans can order tickets online at www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com, by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700 or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area, or at the ticket office at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Parking and camping information also can be obtained through the ticket office.
Hours for phone orders and the ticket office are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday-Friday, while online orders can be made at any time.
Reserved seats start at just $35.
<pre> UNOFFICIAL SPEED REPORT, NASCAR NEXTEL CUP TESTING INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY, MONDAY, JULY 10, 2006
Rank Car No. Driver Speed (mph) Best Session 1. 8 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 177.518 Morning 2. 20 Tony Stewart 177.319 Morning 3. 7A Robby Gordon 177.204 Afternoon 4. 21 Ken Schrader 177.186 Morning 5. 31B Jeff Burton 177.103 Morning 6. 99B Carl Edwards 176.599 Morning 7. 6 Mark Martin 176.592 Morning 8. 4 Scott Wimmer 176.353 Afternoon 9. 42X Casey Mears 176.294 Morning 10. 29A Kevin Harvick 175.901 Morning 11. 9 Kasey Kahne 175.833 Morning 12. 11B Denny Hamlin 175.816 Morning 13. 14X Sterling Marlin 175.754 Morning 14. 38A Elliott Sadler 175.634 Morning 15. 43 Bobby Labonte 175.528 Morning 16. 16A Greg Biffle 175.517 Morning 17. 1A Martin Truex Jr. 175.490 Morning 18. 22A Dave Blaney 175.408 Morning 19. 17 Matt Kenseth 175.401 Morning 20. 90 Stephen Leicht 175.398 Afternoon 21. 18A J.J. Yeley 175.384 Morning 22. 45 Kyle Petty 175.244 Morning 23. 41 Reed Sorenson 175.104 Morning 24. 01A Joe Nemechek 174.432 Morning 25. 07A Clint Bowyer 174.419 Afternoon 26. 49A Kevin Lepage 174.402 Afternoon 27. 88A Dale Jarrett 173.655 Morning 28. 40X David Stremme 173.537 Morning 29. 37 Carl Long 173.407 Afternoon 30. 00B Bill Elliott 172.824 Afternoon 31. 34B Chad Chaffin 172.708 Afternoon 32. 26A Jamie McMurray 172.629 Afternoon 33. 47 Jon Wood 172.473 Morning 34. 55 Michael Waltrip 172.325 Morning 35. 32B Travis Kvapil 171.769 Afternoon 36. 72 Kertus Davis 171.533 Morning 37. 15B Paul Menard 171.354 Morning 38. 60A Boris Said 171.308 Afternoon 39. 70B Johnny Sauter 169.882 Afternoon