Brickyard 400: Martin Eyes Pole After Posting Fastest Practice Speed
30 July 1998INDIANAPOLIS - Mark Martin, chasing the top spot in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series point standings, led the speed chart with a lap of 175.816 mph Wednesday to become the favorite to win the pole for the Brickyard 400.
Martin's best lap in the Valvoline Ford came just 33 minutes before the end of the practice session, which was shortened by two hours and five minutes due to rain. Fifty-one cars turned laps on the 2.5-mile oval during the first practice for the fifth annual Brickyard 400.
Qualifying for the Bud Pole starts at 1:30 p.m. (CDT) Thursday. Martin's best career start for this event was second in 1996.
1996 Brickyard 400 winner Dale Jarrett was second-fastest Wednesday at 175.778 in the Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Ford. Ricky Craven was third at 175.730 in the Budweiser/Quaker State/Pedigree/GMAC Chevrolet.
Defending NASCAR Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon was eighth at 175.107 in the DuPont/Quaker State/Pepsi/GMAC Chevrolet. 1994 Brickyard 400 winner Gordon leads second-place Martin by 62 points in the standings.
"It went pretty good," Gordon said. "I wanted to shake the car down and get some laps down. Now we'll put the qualifying engine in and get more serious tomorrow."
Defending Brickyard 400 champion Ricky Rudd was seventh at 175.111 in the Tide/Whirlpool Ford.
"Basically we are chasing the track," Rudd said. "We're right in there for the pole. We have a little left, but probably so do the guys in front of us."
Practice also started for the inaugural True Value Firebird International Race of Champions event at the Speedway. The 40-lap IROC race - the season finale for the all-star series -- starts at 1:30 p.m. Friday. Martin leads the point standings and will try to win his fourth IROC title in the last five years.
BRICKYARD 400 NOTEBOOK
Event schedule: The fifth annual Brickyard 400 starts at 12:15 p.m. (CDT) Aug. 1. Pole Day qualifying starts at 1:30 p.m. July 30. Qualifying for starting positions 26-36 begins at noon July 31.
Broadcast schedule: The Brickyard 400 will be broadcast live on ABC and the IMS Radio Network at 1 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 1. ESPN's "On The Grid" prerace show starts at noon (EDT) Aug. 1, while the IMS Radio Network prerace show starts at 12:30 p.m. Aug. 1.
ESPN will televise Pole Day live from 2:30-4 p.m. July 30. ESPN2 will offer live Pole Day coverage from 4-5 p.m. July 30 and live second-day qualifying from 1-2 p.m. July 31.
The IMS Radio Network will broadcast live on Pole Day from 2-4 p.m. July 30. Qualification wrap-up shows will be broadcast from 6-6:30 p.m. July 30-31, with hourly reports both days starting at 11:15 a.m.
ESPN and ESPN2 also will provide thorough coverage of Brickyard 400 practice and race previews July 31. Practices will be shown on ESPN2 from 6-7 p.m. July 31. The "Before They Go Green" preview will be shown on ESPN from 7:30-8:30 p.m. July 31.