NASCAR News

AllState 400: Busch leads Friday practice

 

August 4, 2006

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Kurt Busch
Dodge

Kurt Busch's lap of 182.039 mph in the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge was fastest among the 50 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers who turned Allstate 400 at the Brickyard practice laps Aug. 4 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Busch, who was married July 27 in Virginia, was all smiles following practice - for both the positive happenings in life both at and away from the racetrack.

"It's been an interesting couple of weeks, with my life and what's going on and what the team is doing while I have been gone, to really hunker down and put a lot of effort into this Indianapolis race," he said. "They have given me what every driver dreams of: a position to go for the pole on Pole Day. I hope I can deliver for the Miller Lite team tomorrow. (It) feels good that we have done our homework and it has translated into a solid start so far this weekend. It's just real exciting to have a shot at the pole."

Pole qualifying for the 13th Allstate 400 at the Brickyard is scheduled to start at 10:10 a.m. (ET) Aug. 5, followed by two one-hour practice sessions, starting at 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., respectively.

Busch's car is owned by legendary team owner Roger Penske, whose open-wheel racing team has won the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race a record 14 times, including the 90th edition of "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" with driver Sam Hornish Jr. on May 28.

But the closest a Penske NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series car has come to winning the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard is three runner-up finishes, in 1995, 2000 and 2002, by Rusty Wallace, Busch's predecessor. Busch knows what winning at Indy means to his boss.

"I was cruising around in the garage area this morning, (the) phone rang, and it was Roger," Busch said. "He was pumping me up on what this means to him, and he had already let me know this before the wedding. And now it is after the wedding, and he is still letting me know what it means to him.

"That sense of pride, you can hear it in his voice. The amount of emphasis he puts into it and the team, I think the car (for Indy) was re-bodied twice to make it better. To be here in May and to share just a few moments with him on what he did to sit on the pole with Sam Hornish and to win the race, it's very special to him, and it's always been special to me. To see Rusty's past here, finishing second a few times, it gives you the motivation to know this car is capable, Roger is capable of it, and now can I step up to the plate and deliver for our sponsors and everybody involved. I feel like I am up and ready for the challenge."

Kasey Kahne, runner-up in the 2005 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard, was second fastest in today's practice at 181.995 in the No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge. Robby Gordon was third at 181.181 in the No. 7 Menards/Johns Manville Chevrolet, Scott Riggs fourth at 181.097 in the No. 10 Stanley Tools/Valvoline Dodge, and Ken Schrader rounded out the top five overall in the No. 21 Little Debbie Ford at 180.908.

The top six speeds of the day were recorded in the second practice session; Schrader was fastest among all drivers in the first session.
The only major incident of the day involved Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates rookie driver Reed Sorenson, who spun in Turn 1 with less than 10 minutes to go in the second practice session and hit the SAFER Barrier, causing heavy rear-end damage to the No. 41 Target Dodge. Sorenson, who was eighth fastest in practice before the accident, was unhurt and cleared to drive.

Several other notable drivers had mixed results in Friday practice. Defending Allstate 400 at the Brickyard winner Tony Stewart was 28th fastest in the second session in the No. 20 The Home Depot Chevrolet at 178.334. NEXTEL Cup points leader Jimmie Johnson, who has struggled in his three most recent starts at IMS with finishes from 2003-05 of 18th, 36th and 36th, respectively, was seventh fastest on the day at 180.296 in the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet.

Four-time Allstate 400 at the Brickyard winner Jeff Gordon, who celebrated his 35th birthday Aug. 4, was 24th fastest at 178.575 in the second session. Gordon will attempt to tie two records Sunday. Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet, could tie Michael Schumacher as the only five-time race winners in IMS history. Schumacher collected his fifth Formula One United States Grand Prix victory on July 2 at Indianapolis.

Gordon could also equal the late Dale Earnhardt's 76 career wins with a victory at IMS.

The 13th Allstate 400 at the Brickyard is scheduled to start at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 6.

Practice Speeds

1. (2) Kurt Busch, Dodge, 182.039 mph
2. (9) Kasey Kahne, Dodge, 181.995
3. (7) Robby Gordon, Chevrolet, 181.181
4. (10) Scott Riggs, Dodge, 181.097
5. (21) Ken Schrader, Ford, 180.908
6. (07) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 180.690
7. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 180.296
8. (41) Reed Sorenson, Dodge, 180.256
9. (31) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 180.238
10. (11) Denny Hamlin, Chevrolet, 180.234
11. (99) Carl Edwards, Ford, 180.205
12. (6) Mark Martin, Ford, 180.173
13. (12) Ryan Newman, Dodge, 179.968
14. (29) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 179.928
15. (40) David Stremme, Dodge, 179.752
16. (42) Casey Mears, Dodge, 179.519
17. (17) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 179.505
18. (8) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 179.304
19. (1) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 179.294
20. (25) Brian Vickers, Chevrolet, 179.290
21. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 178.994
22. (15) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 178.827
23. (18) J.J. Yeley, Chevrolet, 178.802
24. (24) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 178.575
25. (66) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, 178.469
26. (5) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 178.370
27. (22) Dave Blaney, Dodge, 178.341
28. (20) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 178.334
29. (4) Scott Wimmer, Chevrolet, 178.186
30. (19) Jeremy Mayfield, Dodge, 178.020
31. (78) Kenny Wallace, Chevrolet, 177.911
32. (96) Tony Raines, Chevrolet, 177.834
33. (26) Jamie McMurray, Ford, 177.697
34. (90) Stephen Leicht, Ford, 177.662
35. (14) Sterling Marlin, Chevrolet, 177.630
36. (32) Travis Kvapil, Chevrolet, 177.595
37. (38) Elliott Sadler, Ford, 177.054
38. (49) Kevin Lepage, Dodge, 176.970
39. (00) Bill Elliott, Chevrolet, 176.967
40. (55) Michael Waltrip, Dodge, 176.661
41. (70) Johnny Sauter, Chevrolet, 176.280
42. (45) Kyle Petty, Dodge, 176.243
43. (34) Chad Chaffin, Dodge, 176.205
44. (60) Boris Said, Ford, 175.984
45. (88) Dale Jarrett, Ford, 175.888
46. (43) Bobby Labonte, Dodge, 175.860
47. (01) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 175.768
48. (37) Mike Skinner, Dodge, 175.747
49. (61) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, 173.661
50. (04) Bobby Hamilton Jr., Dodge, 172.189

ALLSTATE 400 AT THE BRICKYARD POST-PRACTICE QUOTES

CLINT BOWYER (No. 07 Jack Daniels Chevrolet): "Pretty good. It's just tires. Everybody's being patient with the tires. Just got get some rubber on the track for it to come in good. We're just cording tires really quick, lose grip quick, and just the regular green track conditions. I made a second run on scuffs, not stickers (in first practice). Went slower and a lot tighter, car definitely had tight tendencies when it came to turn in. But think the Jack Daniels Chevrolet will be just fine."

ROBBY GORDON (No. 7 Menards/Johns Manville Chevrolet): "The track was pretty green. Track was really pretty good to us. We tested out here on the first day, which was the hottest day of the test. We picked up a lot of data from the test and feel good about the car." (Is this car new?) "Yeah, this is a car we've been playing with in the wind tunnel. We got the number kind of where we need have. Like I said keep playing with it, and feel pretty confident."

DENNY HAMLIN (No. 11 FedEx Express Chevrolet): "It wasn't bad. I thought it was pretty successful. I ran in the top five (in the first practice). We've got a little bit of improving to do but overall happy with where we are at." (How did the track feel?) "The tires felt a little bit off. It really feels grippy to me. The track is so green; it has a lot of grip right now. It's really wearing the tires out really quick. The more laps we run, the better off the track is going to get." (Any concerns with possibility of temperatures possibly dropping throughout the weekend?): "No, I don't think so. The hotter it is the more your setup come into play. The cooler weather will hide some handling issues if it is cooler come race day."

DAVID STREMME (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge): "We got a brand-new car. We tested it here. The Coors Light car is running pretty good. We're just taking it easy, trying to see what the track is going to give us. I'm having a lot more fun now than I did during testing. Testing was a little different." (About racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway): "It's pretty cool. The fans here, just coming through Gasoline Alley, it's amazing. I can't even begin to describe what it's like. It's something else. Even when you're in the car, it gets you pumped up and want to go out there a do a better show. I know it gets me excited. I'm having a lot of fun right now. We have to get into the race by qualifying, and we're going to work hard at doing that. Right now, we're looking pretty decent. We have to accomplish that goal and then go into Sunday."

BORIS SAID (No. 60 Sobe-No Fear Ford): (How does your prior experience help when it comes to running here again?): "Overall, preparation for myself is the big thing. As I know what to expect and overall gained knowledge from running here last year. Knowing how deep and how far you can push in the corners here is a sharp learning curve your first year." (Did you touch the wall in the first practice?): "Yeah, I had a date with the wall. Just a little kiss, it happened on my second lap out. Messed the car up a little bit, and my guys are working to get it straight. But overall we don't think it was that bad." (How did the car feel before contact with the wall?): "It was running real tight. Just driver error on my part with hitting the wall."

CARL EDWARDS (No. 99 Office Depot Ford): "We had a good first race practice there. We're going to qualifying trim here next. Everything seems pretty good; we were top four or five car so far." (How did your car feel first time out?) "My car is real tight. I think a lot of guys are having trouble getting the front to grip. So, we'll see if it gets any better."

KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge): (Did the track get better during this second practice?) "It felt good. Good both practices. Felt really good. We did some race practice this morning and some qualifying (setups) just now. Have got to say this is one good Dodge Charger."

TONY STEWART (No. 20 The Home Depot Chevrolet): (About returning as defending winner): "It's more relaxing. I think we are able to enjoy this for the race itself versus everything else that goes around us. It is definitely more relaxing because of what we did last year." (About if he feels he has to do well): "No. It is just the opposite. It lets us relax and worry about working on the race car. The goal is to win the race this weekend - don't get me wrong on that - but it's not like a "live or die" situation like it has always been the last seven years. This year we are going to go out and try to do what we do every year and try to win the race. If it doesn't happen, then at least we have last year to fall back on." (About what he did all week): "I did a lot of nothing and little bit of something. I basically just stayed home on my property down in Columbus and fished. I had Ryan Newman there yesterday fishing. I drove my late model and my sprint car last week testing a little bit. I got to play with my toys a little bit last week." (About if he invited Carl Edwards to do a little fishing): "No. We invite him to tie the anchor on at the bottom half of the rope."

KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge): "It's been an interesting couple of weeks, with my life and what's going on and what the team is doing while I have been gone, which is to really hunker down and put a lot of effort into this Indianapolis race. They have given me what every driver dreams of, a position to go for the pole on Pole Day. I hope I can deliver for the Miller Lite team tomorrow. It feels good that we have done our homework and it has translated into a solid start so far this weekend. It's just real exciting to have a shot at the pole." (About being a Penske driver at Indianapolis): "I was cruising around in the garage area this morning, phone rang, and it was Roger. He was pumping me up on what this means to him, and he had already let me know this before the wedding. And now it is after the wedding, and he is still letting me know what it means to him. That sense of pride, you can hear it in his voice. The amount of emphasis he puts into it and the team. I think the car was re-bodied twice to make it better. To be here in May and to share just a few moments with him on what he did to sit on the pole with Sam Hornish and to win the race, it's very special to him, and it's always been special to me. And, of course, to see Rusty's (Wallace) past here finishing second a few times, it gives you the motivation to know this car is capable, Roger is capable of it, and now can I step up to the plate and deliver for our sponsors and everybody involved. I feel like I am up and ready for the challenge."

J.J. YELEY (No. 18 Imitrex/GSK Chevrolet): "We were pretty decent. We just made qualifying runs. The first two runs we made were pretty tight. Got a little more aggressive with it, then just got a little bit too free. After that #41 (Reed Sorenson) plugged his into the fence, definitely didn't want to go out and do that. So we have a really good race car. We're just going to try to sneak up on it." (Does the track have enough rubber on it to feel comfortable?): "I think it's getting some more on it. But it's definitely pretty far away from where it needs to be. The way the schedule is today, you just don't have enough cars on the racetrack to get enough rubber down. So I'm sure it's going to be hairy in the morning. Guys putting tires on every 10 to 12 laps. Hopefully after the first practice it'll be safe to try to make some long runs out there." (Have any pushing issues?): "You generally have some pushing issues driving these NEXTEL Cup cars. The biggest thing is trying to get them to turn without making them too loose. It's a very fine balance. The guy that's going to get the closest is going to win the race."

DALE EARNHARDT JR. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet): We practiced all qualifying (setups). Because our test was so good we felt like we could give a little time up today and go straight to qualifying. Again, the car's a little bit faster than I am. I'm taking a little bit of time getting up to speed in (turn) No. 2. Need to drive a little bit harder through there. I think I can pickup on the time charts a little bit. The car is really, really good. Glad to be out here." (How was the grip level out on track? Improve toward the end?): "Yeah, the car feels pretty good. The car handles great. I've got enough bite on my handle, which is a good thing to say. Normally you can't be that optimistic this early. But if I get a little bit more speed if I drive a little bit harder in turn No. 2 and think we will be all right." (Here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, does rubber build-up during the race ever become an issue like it does at other tracks?): "Not necessarily. This track really doesn't change a whole lot compared to what most tracks do. I think it's just because we are running 90 degree corners. You are not in the corner as long as you are in most places."

TONY RAINES (No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet): "Well, it feels good to be back here. Our practice didn't go as well as we'd like. There's a lot of people who could say that. We did a little bit of race run and a little bit of qualifying run. A few qualifying runs and that's probably where we're struggling the most, just trying to get the car to go faster. When you go fast here, it doesn't want to turn. So we're just trying to figure out how to make it turn better and go faster." (About racing at IMS): It's fun. It really is. It's a big event at a famous racetrack. It's exciting to be part of all this. It's a race, and you want to run well and get as many points as you can, and so does everybody else. It's a dogfight out there." (Do you have a lot of family and friends here?): "I have a lot of family and friends in here. I think I'm allowed 10 passes, and I think I have 21 of them here. You just want to run well here in your old neighborhood, so we've got a little bit of work to do."

RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 Alltel Dodge): "We were pretty good in qualifying trim. We just didn't get the balance quite right, and we just only have so many sets of tires to work with. We don't have a very good draw, so our odds for the pole aren't very good. Like coming back here to Indy. It'd be nice to be able to kiss the bricks."

KEN SCHRADER (No. 21 Little Debbie Ford): "The car's good. We'll just have to see tomorrow. We just started working on qualifying runs, and we're happy with it. We were happy with it testing. We actually brought back a different car after testing. It's solid. It's all we need."

JIMMIE JOHNSON (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet): "The last two races have been good for us. We haven't had the performance we wanted, but sixth or seventh isn't bad, either, and we're doing all the right things." (About qualifying): "Yeah, we'll see. You never know. You have to put one clean one in tomorrow. We got a good draw."

JEFF BURTON (No. 31 Cingular Wireless Chevrolet): "They were pretty good. We worked on race trim. We thought we definitely were tighter than we needed to be, so we have to deal with that for Sunday. We've got some ideas, we're going to throw them at it and see what happens, got a good draw for qualifying. We'll go out and lay it down for qualifying and see what happens. There are a lot of great teams in this sport, and everyone works a little harder to try to beat the other one. We have to do the same."

The author can be contacted at nascar@autoracing1.com

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