INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series rookie Brian Vickers was fastest among 22 drivers participating in the two- day NASCAR test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 12-13, turning an unofficial lap of 49.5721 ...
INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series rookie Brian Vickers was fastest among 22 drivers participating in the two- day NASCAR test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 12-13, turning an unofficial lap of 49.5721 seconds, 181.554 mph July 13 in the No. 25 GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet.
Teams are at Indianapolis preparing for the 11th Brickyard 400, scheduled for a 1:30 p.m. (EST, local time) start on Sunday, Aug. 8.
Vickers' time, in the first test of his career at Indy's historic 2.5- mile oval, was only seven-tenths of a second slower than the official event record of 48.822, 184.343 set by Kevin Harvick during qualifications for the 2003 race. Jimmy Spencer recorded the fastest lap of practice July 12 at 178.517, and Jeff Green was fastest in the first round of private testing, on July 6-7, with a lap of 181.641 on the second day.
"The test went really well, (and) I tell you what, I love this place," Vickers said. "It's a lot of fun, it's very unique and just the energy. It just has that energy about it - the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I've always admired this racetrack and respected it and to finally be out here and be on it is pretty neat.
"You make that first lap . I just about missed Turn 1, just taking in the scene, the grandstands and the frontstretch. To leave here the fastest is a pretty neat experience."
Running second to Vickers in the two-day test was Jason Leffler in the No. 60 Haas CNC Racing Chevrolet at 180.787. Mark Martin was third at 179.690 in the No. 6 Viagra Ford, Elliott Sadler was fourth at 179.587 in the No. 38 M&M's Ford and three-time Brickyard winner Jeff Gordon was fifth at 179.456 in the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet.
The total lap count for the two-day test was 3,455 laps, and Mark Martin turned the most of any driver, with 316. Twenty-two drivers combined to turn 1,734 laps Monday, while 21 drivers combined to turn 1,721 Tuesday. Jeff Burton only tested Monday.
Vickers said the Speedway's unique layout, with long straightaways and tight, flat turns that many stock car drivers find extremely challenging, suits his style.
"I have always like the unique places," he said. "I like Darlington; it's one of my favorite places, and it's tricky. It (Indianapolis) has four distinct corners that you can't trim the same. There are so many different ways to get around the place. I know it's a one-groove racetrack, but you can take so many different lines.
"I don't have it figured out. I'll probably learn something when I come back. I'll probably learn something new 10 years from now, if I have that opportunity, but I have enjoyed the time I've spent here so far."
Vickers has one of the best driving mentors for Indianapolis in the business, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Gordon, who is the only three- time Brickyard 400 winner and a four-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series season champion.
The first day of the three-day 2004 Brickyard 400 weekend is August 6 - exactly 10 years to the day that Gordon won the inaugural Brickyard 400. While many of the top-tier drivers from that first race are still competitors in the NEXTEL Cup Series, along with a new crop of superstar drivers, Gordon said the tools necessary to win have changed tremendously.
"It's all about the competition, the competition just gets tougher," Gordon said. "That first year we had great horsepower, and we had a decent- handling race car. The horsepower made up for it. Nowadays you have to have both, for sure. And you've got to have everything right, pit stops, pit strategy.
"This is a race where everybody brings their best stuff, puts their best effort forward. If you don't, you're certainly not going to have a chance of winning, and even if you do, it doesn't secure anything."
Rusty Wallace, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge for Penske Racing, echoed Gordon's sentiment that any opportunity to win at Indianapolis is special. While Gordon has managed to win the event three times, Wallace, the 1989 NASCAR champion, has faced the extreme disappointment of finishing second at the Brickyard in 1995, 2000 and 2002, the most runner-up finishes of any driver.
"It just seems like yesterday that we came to the Brickyard (the first time)," Wallace said. "I've had a lot of great runs here, three second places, honestly I really thought I've won this place three times, but I haven't.
"It's definitely one of the top-three tracks of the year to win. It's a tough one because everybody's testing, the entire NASCAR circuit comes here. Everybody raises the bar; it's a real pressure-packed weekend.
"It still gets down to handling. It's one of the toughest tracks (where) we go to get the front of the stuck to turn real well. It's one of the toughest to pass on, but it's also the most historical, and that makes it a lot of fun. I've run real good here so I enjoy it a lot."
Nine additional teams are scheduled to participate in private testing on July 19-20. The drivers tentatively scheduled to participate are: former Brickyard 400 winners Dale Jarrett (1996, 1999) and Bill Elliott (2002), Dave Blaney, Ward Burton, Robby Gordon, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart and Kenny Wallace.
Reserved-seat Race Day tickets for the Brickyard 400 remain available. Tickets, parking and camping reservations can be purchased on the World Wide Web at www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com or by calling the IMS Ticket Office at (800) 822-INDY or (317) 492-6700.