Indianapolis: Qualifying report

Mears Continues Family Legacy of Speed at Indy With Brickyard Pole INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, Aug. 7, 2004 -- Casey Mears earned the pole Aug. 7 for the 11th annual Brickyard 400 by recording the fastest lap ever in a stock car at the Indianapolis...

Mears Continues Family Legacy of Speed at Indy With Brickyard Pole

INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, Aug. 7, 2004 -- Casey Mears earned the pole Aug. 7 for the 11th annual Brickyard 400 by recording the fastest lap ever in a stock car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Mears' lap of 186.293 mph in the No. 41 Target Dodge was nearly 2 mph faster than the previous mark of 184.343 set by Kevin Harvick in 2003 Brickyard 400 qualifications. Mears also was almost 1 mph faster than Ward Burton, who will start second in the No. 0 NetZero Hi-Speed Chevrolet after posting a lap of 185.391.

It was Mears' second career pole and second consecutive pole in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competition, as he earned the pole last week at Pocono Raceway for the Pennsylvania 500. Mears started 28th in his first Brickyard 400 in 2003.

"We knew we had a really good car in practice and a shot at the pole," Mears said. "But when those guys started running those real fast times right out of the gate, Dale Earnhardt Jr. put a pretty good number on the board, I went, 'We're going to have to step up to the plate.'

"The guys did an awesome job. We never changed one thing on the car from the time we unloaded it. All we did was wipe it down, put tape on it (and) go qualify with new tires."

The Mears family has a rich history of speed at IMS, as Mears' uncle Rick Mears, a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, won a record six poles for the "500" and is tied with Mario Andretti for the most times setting the track record in Indy 500 qualifying, at five.

The younger Mears had a conversation with Rick Mears, who today is a consultant for Marlboro Team Penske in the Indy Racing League® IndyCar® Series and driver coach for the IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series^Ù, just after scoring the Brickyard 400 pole. The elder Mears' advice sounded much like the philosophy that made him one of only three four-time Indy 500 winners.

"He said just be patient and do the best you can," Casey Mears said. "If things aren't right right off the bat, just remember it's a long race, and get your car right and think about where the track is going."

Burton's second-place start is his career-best starting position at Indianapolis. After starting no better than 12th in his first nine Brickyard 400s, Burton qualified fourth in 2003.

This year, he went from struggling in Friday's lone practice session to sitting on the front row for Sunday's race, which starts at 1:30 p.m. (local time).

"It means a lot," Burton said. "(It) comes at a good time for all of us with the NetZero team. We're trying to build for the future. We made some changes in the last couple weeks that's definitely getting the light brighter at the end of the tunnel. This is another example of that."

Elliott Sadler will start third in the No. 38 M&M's Ford after qualifying at 185.162. Joe Nemechek qualified fourth at 184.976 in the No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start fifth after qualifying at 184.968 in the No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet.

Earnhardt was the first driver to make a qualification attempt, and he immediately created a stir in the crowd by setting the event qualifying record. A total of six drivers eclipsed Harvick's year-old qualifying record of 184.343, as sixth-place starter Brian Vickers posted a lap of 184.665 in the No. 25 GMAC Chevrolet.

Earnhardt said he plans to compete in all 160 laps of the Brickyard 400 despite burns suffered in a sports-car race three weeks ago at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

"I shouldn't have any problem doing it," Earnhardt said. "I'm really looking forward to this whole weekend. We got a brand-new car. We got a lot of excitement about this car. We're looking forward to see how it does this weekend."

Series points leader Jimmie Johnson qualified ninth at 184.090 in the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet. Three-time Brickyard 400 winner Jeff Gordon, Johnson's teammate, will start 11th in the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet.

Defending Brickyard 400 champion Kevin Harvick had a tough qualifying run in the No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet, taking the 32nd spot at 181.408.

The 11th Brickyard 400 is scheduled to get underway at 1:30 p.m. (EST, Indianapolis time) on Aug. 8. Pre-race festivities are highlighted by the "Buckle Up Bash starring Vince Gill" concert at 11 a.m. (EST). MCA Nashville recording artist Gill is a two-time winner of the CMA Entertainer of the Year award, the highest honor in country music. Mercury Nashville recording artist Julie Roberts will open the concert at 9 a.m.

The "Buckle Up Bash" is free to all Brickyard 400 Race Day ticket holders.

Rascal Flatts, Lyric Street Records country music recording artists, will sing the national anthem before the start of the Brickyard 400. Driver introductions for the 43 drivers competing in the Brickyard 400 will take place at 1 p.m.

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Brickyard 400 tickets: Tickets for the 11th annual Brickyard 400 on Aug. 8 are on sale.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com or by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700 or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area. Parking and camping information also can be obtained through the ticket office.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Ward Burton , Jeff Gordon , Kevin Harvick , Joe Nemechek , Casey Mears , Jimmie Johnson , Mario Andretti , Rick Mears , Brian Vickers , Elliott Sadler
Teams Team Penske