07/24 17:39 CDT Pucker up! NASCAR returns to Brickyard
Pucker up! NASCAR returns to Brickyard
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) --- Dale Jarrett loved his win so much he had to celebrate it
with a kiss.
His impromptu smooch with the bricks in 1996 has blossomed into a tradition for
drivers of all series when they win at the famed Brickyard. It's time to pucker
up again: NASCAR runs its 21st Sprint Cup race Sunday at Indianapolis Motor
Jarrett started a love affair that lasts to this day, and has crossed racing
series all the way to the Indianapolis 500. Back in '96, Jarrett and crew chief
Todd Parrott kneeled down and planted a big ol' kiss on the bricks that serve
as the start-finish line at the venerable speedway.
"It's something I would like to take all the credit for," said Jarrett, who
also won in 1999.
Winners of the Indy 500 usually drink milk after the race. Jarrett and Parrott
had discussed the idea for a new celebration at a track steeped in history
should they win the race. But by the time Jarrett grabbed the checkered flag in
only NASCAR's second year at the track, he forgot about sealing the win with a
Like a good crew chief, Parrott again made the right call.
"Todd grabbed me and said, 'Hey, remember what we talked about?' It wasn't
until then that I remembered that we were going to do something a little
different," Jarrett said. "We hadn't told any of the crew or anything like
that. So we just told them to follow us and went out and had our time on the
yard of bricks."
And now, every driver from Ryan Newman (last year's Brickyard winner) to Ryan
Hunter-Reay (this year's Indy 500 winner) kneel down and plant one on the row
"It's pretty cool now to see that every race winner and their teams," Jarrett
said. "Of course it's a lot more orchestrated now than what it was at that time
because we took everybody by surprise. But to even see the guys that win the
Indy 500 go out and be a part of it, it's pretty cool to know you started a
tradition that will probably carry on for a long time."
It's just a small slice of what makes racing at Indy so special. The Brickyard
may not be the marquee race to win on NASCAR's schedule --- the Daytona 500 is
still No. 1 --- but it's close.
"It's definitely the biggest win of my career," said Ricky Rudd, the 1997
winner. "I was never fortunate enough to be able to win at Daytona. I'd
probably put them in that order, Daytona out front. Right in there would be
Indy. If I wasn't able to win Daytona, at least I got Indy."
NASCAR first kicked the tires of running in Indianapolis in the early 1990s. By
1992, the stock car series was ready to take a dip in the Indy pool with two
days of tire testing. An estimated 30,000 fans at the speedway chanted "we want
a race" as the cars roared from the pit past a hand-lettered sign, "Indy fans
In 1993, former IMS President Tony George extended the official invitation for
NASCAR to come aboard.
On Aug. 4, 1994, NASCAR hit the track for its first practice on the 2 1/2-mile
track. Cup veteran Ken Schrader was the first driver to complete a lap. Greg
Sacks was the first to bring out a yellow flag as his engine burst just minutes
into the opening session.
Tim Steele became the first to crunch his car against the speedway's concrete
walls in an official practice.
So it began --- and there was no turning back. IMS later added Formula One,
Grand-Am, and motorcycles to the racing schedule.
The Indy 500 is still the undisputed king race of the track. But NASCAR sure
has made it known stock cars have as much a place at the track as a nice swig
"It's the win that keeps coming," said 2000 winner Bobby Labonte. "You haven't
been forgotten. I'll just put it this way: I don't have many trophies in my
house, there's like two, and one is the Brickyard trophy. Kind of shows you
where I put that, if that makes sense to you."
It sure does to any driver in NASCAR.