NASCAR's 10 most memorable moments at The Brickyard
NASCAR returns to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for its 21st visit on Sunday. What was once simply and elegantly The Brickyard 400 has morphed into the Crown Royal presents the John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard ... and it may be brought to you by Big Machine Records. And there may be a ".com" thrown in there. Anyway, in the spirit of North America's most popular racing series competing at the world's best known speedway, Athlon Sports contributor Vito Pugliese has compiled the 10 most memorable NASCAR moments at the Brickyard presented by Big Machine Record.
10. 1994: Dirty Laundry
Geoff Bodine in his Hoosier-shod Thunderbird had things in hand at The Brickyard until brother Brett (the Cup Series’ current pace car driver) got under him and ended things prematurely. Geoff didn’t mince words when asked about the incident on television either. Geoff's interview starts at the 4:00 mark.
9. 1996: One Tough Customer
Dale Earnhardt’s “One Tough Customer” persona started in the Wrangler days, but was proven true several times when he became “The Man in Black.” Following a horrendous accident at Talladega that saw him hit the wall head-on, then get t-boned in the freaking roof, Earnhardt showed up to Indy with his bad wing and started the race after a night of watching Clint Eastwood movies to psyche himself up. You can almost see the tear behind those Gargoyles. Check out Mike Skinner getting in … kind of looks like a Senior stand-in, too. (Pit stop begins at the 2:35 mark.)
8. 1997: Rudd wins one for the little guys
Before RPM stood for Richard Petty Motorsports, it was Rudd Performance Motosports, the outfit Ricky Rudd founded after he left Hendrick Motorsports. The new Tide Ride broke through and beat the top tier teams in 1997, doing the impossible in what had become arguably the second biggest race of the NASCAR season.
7. 2005: I don’t think we’re in El Cajon anymore
Check out this massive hit taken by Jimmie Johnson in 2005. Pretty sure JJ wouldn’t pass any post-concussive tests today after this lick, judging by how he seems to have no clue where he is or why Dave Burns is talking to him.
6. 1992: One lap to rule them all
When the notion was first floated of running stock cars at The Brickyard, Kyle Petty was quick to offer his assessment that, “they don’t run dogs at Churchill Downs.” Once NASCAR and Tony George saw how bonkers fans went for a tire-test — 50,000 strong in attendance — it helped to add some urgency with adding a race to the schedule. The top speed of the test was 168.767 by Bill Elliott on June 23.
5. 2008: Yellow Fever
In 2005, Michelin abruptly pulled out of the US Grand Prix at Indianapolis after a rash of tire failures threatened to do in their drivers (and actually injured Ralf Schumacher with the resulting crash). Goodyear one-upped Bib a few years later in 2008, when tires were exploding, coming part and acting like IEDs in the middle of the racetrack, tearing the sides off the race cars. The end result? Mandatory competition cautions every 10-12 laps over the final 100 circuits. Purge this one from the memory bank, post-haste.
4. 2005: Stewart’s 20-minute victory celebration
In 2005, Tony Stewart finally won The Brickyard 400. “Finally” is a bit of a misnomer, as it only took him seven tries to do it. Not exactly DW or The Intimidator breaking through at the Daytona 500. However, being an open-wheel guy from Indiana, it was a pretty big deal. Stewart spent the next 20 minutes or so taking victory laps, greeting Will Castro of Unique Whips, going Helio Castroneves on the fence and then taking a nap.
3. 2007: Stewart just said “bullsh*t” on television
We all know how much Smoke loves the Brickyard. So much so that be blurted out an obscenity during a post-win interview on TV. Before this, his “here kitty, kitty, kitty…” line was just about to become legendary, though it would be a little while before Kevin Harvick would be happy with Tony or let him grab his wife’s butt on TV. I'm not really sure what BS Stewart was referring to … but at least he got to kiss Miss Sprint Cup and the bricks.
2. 2002: Jimmy Spencer: Buschwhacker
Quick, what’s the first thing you think of when you hear the name “Kurt Busch”? Right, him slapping his ass and pointing at Jimmy Spencer. What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the name “Jimmy Spencer”? Right, Kurt Busch slapping his ass and pointing at him. While some took the gesture as Kurt telling Jimmy to “kiss my ass,” Busch was actually using an old short track gesture meaning, “go to the back of the line for rough driving.” It was the third salvo fired in the three-year rivalry between the two, and one of the last great soap operas in NASCAR. Pick it up at the 3:50 mark.
1. 1994: Gordon wins the inaugural Brickyard 400
Jeff Gordon is from Vallejo, Calif., however when he’s in the Midwest, he’s from Pittsboro, Ind. One of the original stars of ESPN’s long gone and much lamented “Thursday Night Thunder,” all eyes were on Gordon when the inaugural NASCAR race was run at Indianapolis in 1994. A few months off his first career Cup win at Charlotte, he was wheel-to-wheel with Ernie Irvan in the closing laps for the first win at the historic track, and where any open wheeler from Indiana one day longed to be. By the way, Indy, that’s a pretty radical trophy for such a momentous occasion.