The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series makes its way to the world famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Crown Royal 400. Team Chevy drivers have won 13 of the previous 18 races at the track, including the inaugural race in 1994 (won by Jeff Gordon) and last year’s race (won by Paul Menard). Below are the thoughts of some of Team Chevy’s drivers as they head to the famed yard of bricks.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET – 2nd IN STANDINGS:
“Everyone wants to win at Indianapolis. Everyone wants to go through the process they have at post-race, the celebration and the unique thing that they do. I’ve read about the history and read about how it has survived two world wars and how it was basically the proving grounds for the automobile back in the turn of the century. I would love to be able to say I’ve won a race there. It’s at the top of the list. It battles with tracks like Daytona (Fla.).”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET – 4th IN STANDINGS:
“You drive through the tunnel at Indy and come in and look around the history just starts talking to you. I’m so happy to have had three very special moments there myself. I hope to have a fourth and join some elite company that have won four times there.
“Track position is everything. The track position challenge starts in qualifying. Clearly a fast race car is important, but maintaining track position and especially having track position at the end of the race is everything.”
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 JIMMY JOHNS CHEVROLET – 6th IN STANDINGS:
“I don’t know, but it’s a good track to have fit you though. It’s been a very good race track for us over the years, for whatever reason it seems like we always run well there. Hopefully we can do the same thing this year because it’s a fun race to win. To experience that back in 2003 was pretty cool, and hopefully we can experience that again this year.”
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 MOBIL 1/OFFICE DEPOT CHEVROLET – 7th IN STANDINGS:
“It’s a place that is a momentum-driven track. You don’t just have two ends to the race track and two big 180-degree corners. You’ve got four 90-degree corners to negotiate. If you have one bad corner at Indy and if your car’s not right, you’re going to be bad in four corners versus two corners a lap. And with it being two-and-a-half miles, you carry so much speed, if you lose momentum at that track, it just seems like it’s really a big penalty.”
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE CHEVROLET – 12th IN STANDINGS:
“Winning at the Brickyard and the Daytona 500 are on the top of my list. For me, coming up in the sprint car ranks, I raced in the Indianapolis area a lot and learned early on how significant winning at the Brickyard was. When you think about the drivers that have won at Indy throughout the years, it would mean a lot to be able to add my name to that list. We’ve been close a few times, and it’s certainly a victory I’d love to pull off.”
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 QUICKEN LOANS CHEVROLET – 14th IN STANDINGS:
“It’s a unique race track. We all know that. It’s a lot of fun, especially when you’re up front. It seems like the straightaways go on forever and you can just sit there and relax and drive the race car. The race track is really fun to drive. It’s one of the hardest tracks to race, which is why some people love it and some people hate it. It’s really a deal where, if you have a fast race car, you will have fun. If your car isn’t fast, it’s going to be a miserable day. It is so difficult to pass there. Track position is so important. But for me, I think racing at Indianapolis is just about the history of the track. The history of all auto racing at that facility and around there. Growing up in Indiana and being an open-wheel driver, I got to spend a lot of time around the Speedway and competing there and knowing the history of people like A.J. Foyt, Mel Kenyon and all the greats who have raced there. Just to know my tire tracks are in theirs, that’s cool. That’s what makes it special.
PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 MENARDS/NIBCO CHEVROLET – 15th IN STANDINGS:
“Obviously, you’re going to have a little more bounce to your step. Not just me, but the entire No. 27 NIBCO/Menards team will. You get to see the billboards hanging up. I’ve heard there’s a big picture on the Pagoda. Stuff like that is going to be neat, but I have gone through that tunnel between turns one and two for years and I always get goose bumps. That’s never going to change. There are a lot of pictures and memorabilia that remind me of that day, because at the time it was very surreal. Seeing everyone’s faces in Victory Lane, riding around the track in the convertible with Richard (Childress, team owner) and my dad (John Menard) and kissing the bricks with everyone from RCR. There are a lot of great memories.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET – 17th IN STANDINGS:
“I want to bring that trophy (home) and watch [son Leo and daughter Ella] fight over it. These days, Leo’s been starting some fights, so I’m curious to see who would win and for that trophy to be a fifth Brickyard trophy? That’d be a good day.
“Growing up here and going to the track numerous times as a kid, there is just something special about each trip here, but that special feeling changes quickly when I get out on the track because this place is so challenging. The four corners look the same, but each is unique with different transitions and bumps. As a driver, factoring that in with the few little dips, the way the wind is blowing, the radius and everything else can give you an advantage. But the car has to be good, as well. We’ve had the best car or one of the best cars in each of the races we’ve won here.
“We ran well here last year. A lot has changed since we were here last, but I’m hoping we can take what we’ve learned in that time and be even faster, even better this year.”
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 RAIN-X CHEVROLET – 19th IN STANDINGS:
“Most of it is circumstantial. I enjoy going to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The cool thing about that track is that if you built it today, you would be ridiculed. People would say you are the dumbest person in the world (laughter). It’s not conducive to racing we do today and what everyone wants to see, but it is so cool to go there and the history of the place makes it special. The special part is we (NASCAR) didn’t make the history. At Daytona International Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Darlington Raceway, we made the history. We are racing someone else’s history. To me, that is cool. It is neat to go and experience a different atmosphere. It is just a really neat weekend.”
JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. 1 BASS PRO SHOPS CHEVROLET – 20th IN STANDINGS:
“Indianapolis is such a special place to race. I remember going there my first time and being in awe of the place, just to appreciate the history of this track. 2010 was obviously a special year for our team and to go out and win the Brickyard 400 is something that I will never forget. We tried to gamble on fuel mileage last year and led some laps in the closing stages of the race, but just didn’t have the car to race hard at the end with our fuel strategy. Our Bass Pro Shops team has put a lot of effort toward this race and would love to be able to get things on track with a strong finish again this weekend. This will be a busy weekend for us. We have the Chevy Day at the Brickyard on Thursday, which is always a lot of fun, and then we will run the inaugural Grand-Am race at Indy on Friday, before getting into the Sprint Cup Series activity on Saturday and Sunday.“
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET – 21st IN STANDINGS:
“I’m actually pulling double duty at Indy so we are going to be busy this weekend. We’ve got GRAND-AM stuff all day on Friday and then the Cup stuff on Saturday and Sunday. We have so much going on between the NASCAR race and the GRAND-AM race, it’s exciting. We are running the Chevron car in the GRAND-AM race and we’re running the Target paint scheme as normal in the Indy race. I still feel that race owes me, so I’m pretty pumped up about going there and hopefully snatching one up this year.”
KURT BUSCH, NO. 51 PHOENIX CONSTRUCTION SERVICES INC. CHEVROLET – 25th IN STANDINGS:
“It is that same feeling of going to places like Wrigley and Soldier Field. I’ve been on the grandstand side in turn one and when I walked up there and felt that nostalgic feeling it gives you that genuine, ‘alright this place was built back in the early 1900’s and this grandstand sections is probably at least 70 years old depending on if and when it was updated.’ But there is an old, nostalgic feel of a place with history, a place of importance and you take in those moments. I went and watched the Formula One race there. I’ve seen the start of the Indy 500 there. It’s just a very, special and unique place. My first time making a lap around there I was captivated by the fact that I was racing at the Brickyard. Then on lap two I was back in the moment and was like I have a job to do.”
REGAN SMITH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW/FARM AMERICAN CHEVROLET – 26th IN STANDINGS:
“I look forward to working with our new crew chief Todd Berrier whose first race with Furniture Row Racing will be at Indy this weekend. Todd has a proven record of being a successful crew chief and he also has a good understanding of our team which should ease the transition. We are all aware of the magnitude of racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway — it is one of the crown jewels on the Sprint Cup Series circuit. Personally I like racing at Indy and finishing third there last year in our Furniture Row Chevrolet was one of the highlights of the 2011 season. To be a contender again this weekend at the Brickyard will give us a much needed jump start for the remainder of the season. And while we’re at Indy our thoughts will not only be on the race, but also with the victims of the senseless tragedy that occurred near our home base in Denver (Aurora, Colo.) last weekend.
DAVE BLANEY, NO. 36 SEAL WRAP CHEVROLET – 34th IN STANDINGS:
“Indy is the coolest, fastest track we run on all year. It has so much history not just with NASCAR but all of motorsports. Everyone is always honored to race there no matter what. It’s not the best track for side-by-side racing, but everyone likes to go for the chance to race there and win a race at the Brickyard. Indy is also SealWrap’s home track, so there is a lot of excitement for this weekend.”