News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports

July 29, 2013

NASCAR at Indy?

20 years ago, open-wheel racing saw Brickyard as insult to famed oval’s tradition; now, it’s No. 2 to Daytona

INDIANAPOLIS — Traditionalists balked and some were downright outraged at the mere suggestion that stock cars dare set their fenders on the sacred ground of Indianapolis.

Stage a NASCAR race at the home of the Indianapolis 500?

May as well make Indy 500 winners swig orange juice in Victory Lane or have the track install lights for a night race. Heck, make it the Indianapolis 350. None of it could have been worse than big, bad NASCAR storming into their city — an open wheel city.“I think Indy cars belong at Indy and stock cars belong at Daytona,” 1986 Indy winner Bobby Rahal said more than 20 years ago.

“I think it’s a big mistake because Indy has all that tradition and romance and I don’t believe it should be tampered with,” said Johnny Rutherford, also a former Indianapolis 500 champion.

Romance? What is this, a love story?

Well, sort of.

It was time to pucker up and kiss the bricks once again when NASCAR ran its 20th Cup race Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon are as much a slice of Indy racing history as A.J. Foyt and Rick Mears.

There’s a generation of drivers coming up who dreamed of racing at Indianapolis for 400 miles, not 500.

The Brickyard may not be the marquee race to win on NASCAR’s schedule. Rahal was on to something, the Daytona 500 is still No. 1.

But Indy is a close runner up.

“You have the Daytona 500 and then the Brickyard 400,” Gordon, a four-time Indy winner, said. “Some people may rank it different than that, but that’s how I look at it. There was a time, maybe back in 1994, where I would have ranked this No. 1.”

Then the next big thing in NASCAR, a 23-year-old Gordon won the inaugural race in 1994. An estimated crowd of 250,000 fans absolutely jammed the place, and Gordon recalled the die-hards lined up 10 deep around the garage just to get a peek at the drivers that would soon usher NASCAR into a boom period.

NASCAR hadn’t just raced at Indy — it took it over.

Dale Earnhardt won in 1995 and then Dale Jarrett started a celebration with his 1996 win that lasts to this day, and even carried over to Indy. Jarrett and crew chief Todd Parrott knelt down and planted a big ol’ kiss on the bricks, the start-finish line for the race.

Who needs milk?

Tony Stewart, a former open wheel champion, never got to fulfill his boyhood dream of winning an Indianapolis 500. But the Indiana native has twice won the Brickyard, putting an emphatic end to his skepticism that winning a NASCAR race in Indy would never mean as much had it happened in open wheel.

“The first time they came, I’ll be honest, I was 100 percent against it,” he said. “When you grow up in the state of Indiana, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the Holy Grail to you. I didn’t want to see anything different come to it. To me, it was the Indy 500 and that’s all it was supposed to be.”

That feeling didn’t last for long. Stewart won in 2005 and 2007 and was won over that NASCAR could truly call Indianapolis home.

“It was everything to me,” he said. “My whole life, since I was a kid, that’s what I wanted to do. Not that I had some fascination with kissing bricks as a child. But my fascination to do it here was pretty obsessive.”

NASCAR first kicked the tires of running in Indianapolis in the early 1990s. By 1992, the stock car series was ready to take a dip in the Indy pool with two days of tire testing.

An estimated 30,000 fans at the Speedway chanted “We want a race,” as the cars roared from the pit past a hand-lettered sign, “Indy fans love NASCAR.”

In 1993, former IMS president Tony George extended the official invitation for NASCAR to come aboard.

On Aug. 4, 1994, NASCAR hit the track for its first practice on the 21⁄2-mile track.

Cup veteran Ken Schrader was the first driver to complete a lap. Greg Sacks was the first to bring out a yellow flag as his engine burst just minutes into the opening session.

Tim Steele became the first to crunch his car against the speedway’s concrete walls in an official practice. Steele slid off turn three and slammed into the barrier.

Gordon was the fastest driver in the opening practice.

So it began — and there was no turning back. Gordon, Mark Martin, Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte have raced in all 20 Brickyards.

IMS later added Formula One, Grand-Am, and motorcycles to the racing schedule. With IMS set for a $100 million makeover, there’s even talk of adding lights.

NASCAR at IMS got off track, though, after the Goodyear tire debacle in the 2008 Cup race that soured fans on attending.

Tickets once hotter than the Memorial Day sun are available at bargain prices, and Sunday’s race was far from sold out. Crowds and interest have waned as the novelty of stock car racing faded, a problem at most tracks on the circuit. There were empty sections all down the front stretch for Saturday’s Nationwide Series race.

IMS President Doug Boles said the track was expected to have around 100,000 fans on Sunday.

“It’s still six figures, it’s still a great, big event,” he said. “Daytona’s tearing down their grandstands and they’re coming up out of the ground with 101,000 seats. Because the Indianapolis 500 has a significant crowd, we don’t have the ability to eliminate seats.”

The Cup was overshadowed this week by the Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway that marked NASCAR’s return to dirt after a four-decade absence. Drivers were still buzzing this weekend about Eldora even with the 20th Indy race on the horizon.

Because the track oozes racing history, winning still means the same to drivers, even if the checkered flag is grabbed in front of 100,000 fans instead of 250,000.

“It’s a pretty big deal and there is a good amount of envy to the guys that have won this race before, more so than I feel at other race tracks that I haven’t won at,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “I would say it’s a pretty important race, it ranks right up there.”   

Johnson and Gordon have each won four times at Indianapolis. Foyt, Mears and Al Unser won four Indianapolis 500s. It’s possible they could join Michael Schumacher as a five-time winner at the track. Schumacher won his five F1 races on Indy’s road course configuration.

“Fifth would be incredible. I can’t believe I have four of them right now,” Johnson said before finishing second Sunday.

One day, he could stand alone from the open-wheel greats all because NASCAR and IMS bucked tradition 20 years ago.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports
Local Interest
SPT 071914 DEFENDING CHAMP.jpg

Tribune-Star/Bob PoynterOuch: Defending Men's City Chamion Tom Jones reacts to a missed putt on the 6th hole at Rea Park Saturday morning. Jones is seeking his 9th Men's title.

High School
College
  • ISU basketball trio earn national academic honors

    A trio of Indiana State basketball student-athletes have been named to the 2013-14 National Association of Basketball Coaches Honors Court as announced by the national organization. Honored from Indiana State were Lucas Eitel, Justin Gant and Jake Kitchell.

    July 23, 2014

  • Metro roundup: Post 346 rallies past Rockville

    Wayne Newton Post 346 scored a run in the sixth and two in the seventh to get past Rockville 6-3 in an American Legion baseball regional at Terre Haute North on Wednesday.

    July 23, 2014

  • Truebytower.jpg Memorable experience in Morocco for ISU soccer team could help team's growth

    Coming off the best season in its history, the Indiana State women’s soccer team figures to have the experience to do even better in the upcoming fall season.
    Or maybe that’s #TheExperience.

    July 23, 2014 11 Photos

  • Metro: Former Miss Softball joins Purdue staff

    Terre Haute North graduate Megan Ciolli Bartlett, the state’s 2001 Miss Softball and a two-time All-American at Notre Dame, is joining the Purdue coaching staff.

    July 21, 2014

  • Metro: ISU graduate Johnson sixth in shot at Monaco

    Indiana State graduate Felisha Johnson competed in her first International Association of Athletics Federations Diamond League track and field meeting Friday, placing sixth in a shot put competition that featured six of the top seven throwers in the world for 2014.

    July 18, 2014

Sports Columns
SPT072114sprints crowd.jpg

Tribune-Star/Jim Avelis Records: Near perfect weather contributed to record attendance at racetracks around the state, including the Action Track, seen here.

Pro Sports
SPT 072314 PHEGLEY LINE.jpg

It was the Knights' day: Charlotte's Josh Phegley, center, high fives teammates and coaching staff after the Knights defeated the Indianapolis Indians 8-4 on Wednesday in Indianapolis.

Terre Haute Rex
Colts
Auto Racing
AP Auto Racing News
Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Raw: Iowa Police Dash Cam Shows Wild Chase Arizona Prison Chief: Execution Wasn't Botched Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' Israeli American Reservist Torn Over Return Raw: Protesters, Soldiers Clash in West Bank Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Official: Air Algerie Flight 'probably Crashed' Calif. Police Investigate Peacock Shooting Death A Young Victim's Premonition, Hug Before MH17 Dempsey: Putin May Light Fire and Lose Control Obama Seeks Limits on US Company Mergers Abroad DA: Pa. Doctor Fired Back at Hospital Gunman Raw: Ukraine's Donetsk Residents Flee 'Modern Family' Star on Gay Athletes Coming Out MN Twins Debut Beer Vending Machine Large Family to Share NJ Lottery Winnings In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets U.S. Flights to Israel Resume After Ban Lifted Anti-violence Advocate Killed, but Not Silenced. Crash Kills Teen Pilot Seeking World Record
NDN Video
What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity
Real Estate News