INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2000 -- Veterans Ricky Rudd and Darrell Waltrip, who have driven in a combined 1,477 NASCAR Winston Cup races, will comprise the front row for Saturday's Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. ...
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2000 -- Veterans Ricky Rudd and Darrell Waltrip, who have driven in a combined 1,477 NASCAR Winston Cup races, will comprise the front row for Saturday's Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Rudd captured the pole for the seventh annual Brickyard 400 with a record-setting speed of 181.068 mph in his Robert Yates-owned Texaco/Havoline Ford. Rudd's pole run was not totally unexpected since he has had one pole and five second-place starts this season. But Waltrip's speed of 180.923 mph - the one Rudd beat for the pole - was stunning because the three-time Winston Cup champion competing in his final season had only two top-20 qualifying runs in 16 races this season. The huge crowd stood and cheered wildly when he pulled his Route 66/Big Kmart Ford into the pits. A year ago at this race, Waltrip announced he would end his illustrious career in the 2000 in what he termed his "Victory Tour." His best finish has been a 22nd in the Pennsylvania 500 two weeks ago at Pocono International Raceway. Waltrip climbed out of his car, hugged his celebrating brother Michael and then gave an impromptu revival of the "Ickey Shuffle" that he did after winning the Daytona 500 in 1989. "I hurried as fast I could to get here before somebody beats me," Darrell Waltrip jested as he stepped to the mike in the media interview room. Unfortunately, he was 20 seconds too late. Just before he bounced through the door, 1997 Brickyard 400 winner Rudd knocked him down to second place. Rudd became the fourth driver of the day to set a record. Veteran Bill Elliott started by eclipsing Jeff Gordon's 1999 mark of 179.612 mph with a 180.448 clocking in his McDonald's Ford. Bobby Labonte pushed him back to second with a 180.857 run in the Interstate Batteries Pontiac, but then Waltrip and Rudd shoved both of them into the second row. A total of 14 drivers surpassed Gordon's 1999 speed. Gordon wasn't one of them. Gordon, the two-time Brickyard race winner and three-time pole winner formerly from nearby Pittsboro, Ind., was only 27th fastest in his DuPont Automotive Chevrolet with a lap at 178.557 mph. Only speeds of the top 25 qualifiers are locked in for Saturday's race. Another who produced a disappointing run was seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt, driver of the GM Goodwrench Chevrolet. He had topped the morning practice with a lap slightly above 182 mph, but he could only coax a 180.393 lap out of the car as the eighth-from-last qualifier. This put him on the outside of the fourth row right behind his son, rookie Dale Earnhardt Jr. Defending Brickyard champion Dale Jarrett topped Gordon's old speed, but his 180.697 was good for only fifth in the lineup. Rudd was apologetic when he addressed the media. He was part of NASCAR when Waltrip was at the height of his career and understands what it means to Hall of Famer Waltrip to enjoy one more moment in the limelight. "I kind of hated to do that," Rudd said about bumping Waltrip off the pole. "Well, of all the guys to bump off, Darrell Waltrip ... well, maybe someone will bump us off, and it will be a little bit easier to forget." Losing the pole didn't dampen Waltrip's spirits. He said he would be happy just to start in the front. "I ran good in practice," he said. "I watched the clouds. It came down to one guy, and that one guy was me. I was pumped. It was fun for a little while. It put me in a position so I can win. This is my favorite racetrack, has been since I was a kid. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the Holy Land. I like to walk around here." Last week Waltrip dug out his old dirt car and ran in a race in his hometown of Owensboro, Ky. He won. Veteran Terry Labonte has a string of 660 consecutive starts, a NASCAR record. However he wasn't feeling well Thursday and didn't qualify his Kellogg's Chevrolet. Todd Bodine drove the car in qualifying, turning a lap of 178.770.
It's uncertain whether two-time Winston Cup champion Labonte will practice Friday and race Saturday.