Friday, October 14, 2011

From tire tests to parting clouds, Indy welcomes NASCAR (

(Originally appeared on July 29, 2011 at

'll never forget NASCAR's purported "tire test" at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1992.

Nine drivers, including Bill Elliott, Ernie Irvan and the late Dale Earnhardt Jr., took to the fabled Brickyard for two days in June of that year to determine if the fabled IMS could accommodate NASCAR Cup cars.

I was there, too, covering the event for USA Today. Fellow reporters who were also there knew NASCAR would not spend the time, let alone the money, to test out IMS unless a race was in the works in the near future. Sure enough, in April 1993, IMS and NASCAR jointly announced the birth of the Brickyard 400, to be held in 1994.

Later in 1993, the second "tire test" was held with over 30 teams taking part. They not only wanted to drive on IMS's legendary 2.5-mile oval, but to gain experience and crucial data for the following year's inaugural race.

For a race car driver in any form of motorsport, taking to the track at Indy is the ultimate. Even if it was just in practice or to supposedly 'test tires.' To actually be able to say you drove on the same track as some of the greatest drivers of all time, including Unser, Mears, Andretti and Foyt, was without comparison.

And then, when NASCAR actually came in full force to take part in the first Brickyard 400 in 1994, a new legacy of lore for both IMS and NASCAR began. One that has continued to grow in magnitude with each passing year since.

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