The Callahan Report: Emotions run high as Brickyard 400 draws near
5 August 2000By Terry Callahan
Motorsports Editor, The Auto Channel
INDIANAPOLIS: The seventh running of the Brickyard 400 is only a few hours away. The streets surrounding the Indianapolis Motor Speedway were nearing gridlock by 8:00 a.m. The traffic can be viewed as a symbol of dedication. Most race fans patiently wait in the traffic, displaying their favorite drivers colors.
While the fans are patient, those on the inside of the sport are tense. Drivers are feeling the butterflies that accompany the emotions associated with racing at Indy. In a few hours, they will be performing in front of their largest audience of the year. Running at Indy is special. Wining at Indy creates instant stardom. Victory at the Brickyard is second only to the Daytona 500 for the NASCAR Winston Cup drivers.
Some team members, crew chiefs, and car owners had a sleepless night. Some were going over the race in their heads. Others were making final adjustments in hopes of collecting on Brickyards big payday. The team members charged the garage gates this morning to take care of their precious masterpieces, hoping their machinery will deliver their driver into Indys coveted victory lane.
Even In the press room, even the PR representatives are on edge. Mike Arning, who handles PR duties for Home Depot driver Tony Stewart was a perfect example of the stress that comes with Indianapolis. Arning displayed a temper tantrum in an early morning dispute with one of the many journalist covering the event. Arning, who had taken the journalists seat, looked for another seat in the press room with colorful language and a red face. Arning failed to appear in the press room at the Speedway on pole day, when most journalists scurry to reserve their seats.
You were not even here yesterday, Arning yelled. I will just go grab on of the 600 other seats, concluded Arning as he looked for a seat with convenient access to a telephone.
Arning was unaware the journalist was busy taking pictures and doing interviews at nearby Indianapolis Raceway Park on Friday, preparing for the Kroger 200 NASCAR Busch Grand National race held Friday night. The writer, who asked not to be identified, understood that it is all part of the tensions surrounding an event such as the Brickyard 400.
The tense emotions will turn to excitement when the green flag drops. First and foremost, the team members, the owners, the journalists, and the PR representatives are all race fans just like the ones sitting in the grandstands. They will all vault out of their seats as the more than 500 acres that make up the Indianapolis Motor Speedway rumbles with cheers and the roar of powerful engines.
Starting up front for Saturdays race will be Ricky Rudd. The driver from Virginia is a former winner of the Brickyard 400. Rudd owned his own race team when he won this race. He is driving for Robert Yates Racing in 2000. Todays race could be Rudds best shot at victory since winning the Brickyard 400 in 1998.
Rudds teammate and two time winner of the event, Dale Jarrett, is also on the favorites list. Jarrett is the defending champion of this race. He was running away with the race two years ago, when a bad pit strategy ruined his chances at victory. Jarrett and his team learned from that bad experience. Learning pays off. Jarrett and his Todd Parrott led team won the 1999 Winston Cup Championship.
A sentimental favorite for victory today is Darrell Waltrip, who is retiring at the conclusion of the 2000 season. Waltrip thrilled race fans everywhere Thursday when he set a new track record during qualifying. Waltrip was on the pole for a brief period until Rudd took the top spot away.. Waltrips speed was good enough to start on the outside of the front row. Waltrip believes he has a legitimate chance at winning this race. None of the 300,000 race fans on had would be disappointed if he pulled it off.
Let the emotions run free. In the end, the 2000 Brickyard 400 promises to please.