STEWART, SADLER READY TO JOIN BRICKYARD BRIGADE INDIANAPOLIS, June 30, 1999 -- Tony Stewart has turned thousands of laps at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but on Aug. 7 he'll face a completely different challenge at the historic...
STEWART, SADLER READY TO JOIN BRICKYARD BRIGADE
INDIANAPOLIS, June 30, 1999 -- Tony Stewart has turned thousands of laps at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but on Aug. 7 he'll face a completely different challenge at the historic motorsports facility. Stewart and Elliott Sadler are expected to be the only drivers competing in the Brickyard 400 for the first time in their racing careers. Both will race for one of the three largest purses in motorsports and in front of the largest single-day crowd in NASCAR Winston Cup racing. Both are NASCAR Winston Cup Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates who come from varied racing backgrounds. Give the edge to Stewart at Indy, where he's competed in the last four Indianapolis 500s. His last attempt came May 30 when he scored a ninth-place finish before jetting off to Lowe's Motor Speedway near Charlotte, N.C., to compete in the Coca-Cola 600. He finished fourth in that race. Stewart became just the second driver to complete the torturous, 1,100-mile double-header on the same day, following John Andretti in 1994. "Indianapolis Motor Speedway is near and dear to my heart," said Stewart. "I grew up less than an hour from here. Winning a race at the Speedway would be a dream come true. I was hoping to have a shot at being the first driver to win both the Indy 500 and the Brickyard in one year." Actually, Stewart has a few competitive stock-car laps under his belt at the famed Brickyard. Last year he competed in the inaugural IROC at Indy event, which features racing sedans similar to Winston Cup cars. While Stewart prepped for the big leagues in open-wheel, USAC-sanctioned events, Sadler was groomed for Winston Cup on short, Southern ovals. Sadler is in his first year with the legendary Wood Brothers race team. Leonard and Glenn Wood started the team in 1953. Since then the Woods have piled up 96 victories with a Who's Who roster of drivers, including Dan Gurney, A.J. Foyt and Parnelli Jones. Sadler, 24, didn't grow up on Indianapolis Motor Speedway's doorstep like Stewart, but he's aware of Indy's rich traditions and the facility's standing in the motorsports hierarchy. "I got to test there last year for about five days," said Sadler, who has a distinctive Virginia accent. "It's a beautiful racetrack. The people treat you real nice up there. It's a great racetrack. I'm looking forward to being a part of it." While Stewart has turned more laps than Sadler, Sadler has a flair for racing on tracks with limited banking in the turns. "Indy's as flat as a garage floor," he said with a grin. "I love them. I really like flat tracks, probably more than banked tracks because I grew up on flat tracks. We just got to get stuff figured out on how we need to run at these places. We'll see what happens." Turning test laps is one thing. Lining up with 42 other cars and being surrounded by more than 250,000 fans is another matter. Sadler admits he doesn't know what the experience will feel like until it happens. "I guess I haven't been there yet for all the hoopla, so I really don't know how big it is," said Sadler, from Emporia, Va. "To me, it's just another race on the schedule. But I guess once you get there and see all the stuff that actually goes on for the race, it will probably be one of the biggest races I've ever been in." For the record, there's another Winston Cup rookie, Buckshot Jones, who's expected to enter the Brickyard 400. Jones is classified as a rookie, but he competed in last year's 160-lap run at Indy. He started 15th and finished 27th in '98. Stewart and Sadler have never competed in this event, one of the richest stops on the 34-race Winston Cup circuit. Both bring high expectations to the table. Stewart wheels a Pontiac and is a teammate to Bobby Labonte at Joe Gibbs Racing. Gibbs, the former head coach of the Washington Redskins, started his Winston Cup team in 1992. Gibbs expanded to a two-car operation this year to bring Stewart into the stock-car fold. "I am not sure there is a lot of difference between the Indy 500 and Brickyard 400 in terms of how you approach them as a driver," said Stewart. "They are both long races. You have to take care of your equipment. With help from your crew chief and crew, you have to put yourself in a position to race for the win at the end. "The place has been good to Jeff Gordon," Stewart said of the two-time Brickyard 400 champ who grew up in nearby Pittsboro, Ind. "Hopefully this Hoosier can take his turn in Victory Lane one of these days." Stewart paused a moment and finished the thought. "This is a place filled with many racing memories and traditions," he added. "I would like to add my name to the list of the very few who have had the privilege to win a race here."