CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Aug. 2, 1999) - With just 43 laps remaining in the July 25 Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway, Square D Chevrolet driver Kenny Wallace was in position to score another strong finish thanks to his team's pit strategy and his car's...
CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Aug. 2, 1999) - With just 43 laps remaining in the July 25 Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway, Square D Chevrolet driver Kenny Wallace was in position to score another strong finish thanks to his team's pit strategy and his car's fuel economy.
But on lap 168 of 200, Wallace instead found himself against the turn one retaining wall after being hit by the lapped car of Jerry Nadeau.
What could have been a top-10 run turned into a 37th place finish. It was a bitter pill for the Square D Racing Team to swallow, as they fell from 21st to 24th in points after being just five points away from cracking the top-20.
The Brickyard 400 pays the same amount of points that the last race on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series pays. But any driver will tell you there's a big difference between racing at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway and the hallowed grounds of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"When you roll through Gasoline Alley, you know that you're on sacred land," said Square D Chevrolet driver Kenny Wallace. "It's like, 'Wow, what am I doing here?' It's still the place to be."
The place to be indeed. An estimated 50 cars will attempt to qualify for the sixth annual Brickyard 400. Just as it is at any Winston Cup race, making a good qualifying lap is key. But at Indy, it's all the more critical, because with 50 cars vying for 43 spots, anything can happen.
"We're not really in a position to say we're safe by any means," said crew chief Jimmy Elledge. "The pressure to qualify well at Indy is always high because it seems like everybody goes to Indy. But we try not to look at the number of cars trying to make the show. We treat every team the same. Yeah, there's pressure. But it's really the same type of pressure we face every week - whether there's 46 cars or 56 cars trying to make the race."
According to Elledge, weather conditions add another dimension to turning a quick lap around Indy's 2.5-mile oval.
"It's a moody race track - very weather-sensitive," said Elledge. "You'll see your speeds in practice and you can't really get excited because the weather is such a variable. Ten degrees of track temperature can mean a lot of speed. You'll be watching the (scoring) monitor and all of a sudden its starts going crazy with a bunch of guys ripping off some fast laps. You look up and there's cloud cover and the track temperature is coming down. It's something you've got to pay attention to, but at the same time, not get carried away with.
"When we tested, we focused on making the car driveable, getting the balance right and making sure that the speed was there. We concentrated on our own deal, and stayed away from chasing the race track."