The Norman Transcript

National Sports

July 28, 2013

NASCAR celebrates 20 years at Indy

INDIANAPOLIS — Traditionalists balked and some were downright outraged at the mere suggestion stock cars dare set their fenders on the sacred ground of Indianapolis.

Stage a NASCAR race at the home of the Indianapolis 500?

May as well make Indy 500 winners swig orange juice in Victory Lane or have the track install lights for a night race. Heck, make it the Indianapolis 350. None of it could have been worse than big, bad NASCAR storming into their city — an open wheel city.

“I think Indy cars belong at Indy and stock cars belong at Daytona,” 1986 Indy winner Bobby Rahal said more than 20 years ago.

“I think it’s a big mistake because Indy has all that tradition and romance and I don’t believe it should be tampered with,” said Johnny Rutherford, also a former Indianapolis 500 champion.

Romance? What is this, a love story?

Well, sort of.

It’s time to pucker up and kiss the bricks once again when NASCAR runs its 20th Cup race today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon are as much a slice of Indy racing history as A.J. Foyt and Rick Mears.

There’s a generation of drivers coming up who dreamed of racing at Indianapolis for 400 miles, not 500.

The Brickyard may not be the marquee race to win on NASCAR’s schedule. Rahal was on to something, the Daytona 500 is still No. 1.

But Indy is a close runner up.

“You have the Daytona 500 and then the Brickyard 400,” Gordon, a four-time Indy winner, said. “Some people may rank it different than that, but that’s how I look at it. There was a time, maybe back in 1994, where I would have ranked this No. 1.”

Then the next big thing in NASCAR, a 23-year-old Gordon won the inaugural race in 1994. An estimated crowd of 250,000 fans absolutely jammed the place and Gordon recalled the die-hards lined up 10 deep around the garage just to get a peek at the drivers that would soon usher NASCAR into a boom period.

NASCAR hadn’t just raced at Indy — it took it over.

Dale Earnhardt won in 1995 and then Dale Jarrett started a celebration with his 1996 win that lasts to this day, and even carried over to Indy. Jarrett and crew chief Todd Parrott knelt down and planted a big ol’ kiss on the bricks, the start-finish line for the race.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
National Sports
  • Pyrenees help leader Nibali, winner Rogers in Stage 16

    BAGNERES-DE-LUCHON, France — The Pyrenees on Tuesday lived up to their reputation for causing ups and downs at the Tour de France: A French rider climbed in the standings, an American went down, and an Australian rebounding from an ordeal ...

    July 23, 2014

  • Mountain stage rough on Yankee rider

    BAGNERES-DE-LUCHON, France — The Tour de France entered the Pyrenees on Tuesday for the first of three mountain stages that may well determine the final podium of this year’s race....

    July 23, 2014

  • Strong prefers not talking about a national title

    DALLAS — Charlie Strong riled up plenty of Texas fans during a statewide spring tour by saying the Longhorns wouldn’t be in the national championship game....

    July 23, 2014

  • TCU’s Fields investigated for alleged assault

    FORT WORTH, Texas — TCU suspended defensive end Devonte Fields on Tuesday pending the results of a police investigation into whether he punched a former girlfriend in the head and threatened her with a gun while shouting, “I should blast ...

    July 23, 2014

  • Sun Belt boss expresses faith in the ‘Power-5’

    NEW ORLEANS — The Sun Belt Conference’s 11 institutions are prepared to pay more to remain part of major college football, commissioner Karl Benson said Tuesday....

    July 23, 2014

  • Crunch time for Ryder Cup

    HOYLAKE, England — The end of the British Open means the Ryder Cup is getting closer, and there are a couple of regulars still not in the team. That starts with Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods....

    July 23, 2014

  • Sam excited about next phase of career

    ST. LOUIS — Now it starts to get intense for Michael Sam and the rest of the St. Louis Rams rookies....

    July 23, 2014

  • Rory McIlroy appears poised to be golf’s next big thing

    HOYLAKE, England — Golf has been looking for the next big star the last five years, and Rory McIlroy is the most obvious candidate....

    July 23, 2014

  • Yankees acquire Headley from Padres

    NEW YORK — Trying to boost one of the weakest lineups in the American League, the New York Yankees acquired third baseman Chase Headley from the San Diego Padres on Tuesday for rookie infielder Yangervis Solarte and minor league pitcher ...

    July 23, 2014

  • Rays get to Wainright, win sixth straight

    ST. LOUIS — Jake Odorizzi allowed two runs over 5 2-3 innings and Yunel Escobar highlighted a five-run fifth inning with a two-run double to lead the Tampa Bay Rays to a 7-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night....

    July 23, 2014