News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 23, 2010

Heat is on for Brickyard qualifying

Tom Reck
Tribune-Star Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS — The run for the Brickyard 400 pole will be the main event today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Qualifying for the 17th NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis is slated to begin at 10:10 a.m., with the fastest on the field starting in the No. 1 position in Sunday’s race.

Jeff Gordon has won the race four times and been on the pole three times — the last being 1999. The only other driver to win the pole more than once was Ernie Irvan, who did it in 1997 and 1998.

Two drivers have gone on to win the race from the pole. Kevin Harvick did it in 2003 and Jimmie Johnson won one of his three races from the No. 1 slot two years ago.

Mark Martin was the pole-sitter in 2009 and ran well in the race before finishing sixth.

Kyle Busch says qualifying is important at Indianapolis.

“You definitely have to qualify up front at Indy — that’s the biggest thing — it’s hard to pass and get through traffic,” he said.

Jacques Villeneuve, a former winner of the Indianapolis 500, also has competed at IMS in Formula One races. He will attempt to make his first Brickyard 400 race, driving the No. 32 car for Braun Racing.

“It’s great to be back on the oval. Fifteen years ago, winning the 500 is an amazing memory … it helped me the rest of my career,” said the 1997 Formula One world champ.

He said driving an Indy car and a stock car are completely different.

“Qualifying, the whole lap, was flat out with just a little lifting [in an Indy car]. In NASCAR, you have to brake. It will take a few laps to get the braking,” he said.

If Villeneuve makes the field, he and Juan Pablo Montoya will be the only drivers to compete in all three major auto races at the Speedway.

Drivers took turns meeting with the media before and after practice sessions Friday. Much of the conversation centered on an incident in last week’s Nationwide Series race involving Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski.

Edwards was fined $25,000 and lost 60 Nationwide Series points. Both drivers were put on probation.

Edwards says he does not plan to appeal the penalties.

“I understand and respect that those other teams were caught up in the wreck that Brad and I had initiated … those guys are working hard,” he said.

“I’m going to do what I normally do — try to pass him the best way I know how,” Keselowski said when asked what to expect this weekend at the track.

Juan Pablo Montoya was fastest in two one-hour practice sessions Friday with a top speed of 179.756 miles per hour. Jamie McMurray was second on the speed list and Martin third.

Drivers will have two sessions to practice today following qualifications. They begin at 2 and 3:30 p.m. Sunday’s race is slated to begin at 1:20 p.m.

Pit passes — Luke Bryan will be the headliner at a concert following qualifications today. It begins at noon.

• Indianapolis Colts tight end Dallas Clark will be grand marshal for the race.

• General-admission tickets are being sold for the first time for the NASCAR race. They are $40 and may be purchased at the gate on race day.

Brickyard 400 pole winners

1994 — Rick Mast

1995 — Jeff Gordon

1996 — Jeff Gordon

1997 — Ernie Irvan

1998 — Ernie Irvan

1999 — Jeff Gordon

2000 — Ricky Rudd

2001 — Jimmy Spencer

2002 — Tony Stewart

2003 — Kevin Harvick

2004 — Casey Mears

2005 — Elliott Sadler

2006 — Jeff Burton

2007 — Reed Sorenson

2008 — Jimmie Johnson

2009 — Mark Martin