Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

If You're Not Yet a Legend, Brickyard Can Make You; the Race Rarely Excites, but the Trophy Looks Great on a Mantle

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

If You're Not Yet a Legend, Brickyard Can Make You; the Race Rarely Excites, but the Trophy Looks Great on a Mantle

Article excerpt

Byline: DON COBLE

INDIANAPOLIS - The Indianapolis Motor Speedway offers a big trophy, a big paycheck and a place in racing history. The one thing it doesn't offer is good racing.

But that doesn't seem to bother too many drivers. For most, legacies are far more important than good side-by-side racing. Stock cars in this Sunday's Allstate 400 are too big and too bulky to easily maneuver around the 2.5-mile oval, but that doesn't matter. To win at the Brickyard means joining an elite group of legendary drivers, men with names like Foyt, Unser, Mears, Earnhardt and Gordon.

If you want a good race, go to Darlington, S.C., If you want to become immortal, go to Indianapolis.

"There's only one Indianapolis," said John Andretti, whose family has raced at the Brickyard since 1965. "It is the speedway. Period."

The Daytona 500 is the most-watched race in the U.S., according to Nielsen Media Research. The Allstate 400 is fourth, and it beats the ratings for the Indianapolis 500. But as far as drivers are concerned, Sunday's race is huge.

"It's definitely the second-biggest," Michael Waltrip said. "If you're a driver, you want to win at Daytona and you want to win at Indy. There aren't a lot of those trophies out there."

At 3,400 pounds, a Nextel Cup Series car is more than twice as heavy as a sleek Indy Car. Stock cars also lack front and rear wings that provide downforce. An Indy Car is six inches wider to give it more stability in the turns. So much of a stock car's success at the Brickyard is based around a driver's ability to slide the car through the 90-degree turns without bouncing off the wall.

"What makes Indianapolis famous is its history, not the racing," Johnny Sauter said. "There are a lot of places ... that aren't conducive for great racing. But ask anyone in this garage, and they'll take a boring win at Indianapolis over just about anything else."

Jeff Gordon jump-started his career with a win at the Brickyard in 1994. It was the first year for the Nextel Cup Series at Indianapolis and it was the foundation to his first of four series championships. …

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