FORD PERFORMANCE NASCAR INDIANAPOLIS NOTES
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns for its annual visit to Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend and Ford teams will be looking to reach victory lane at the famed track for the first time since 1999. Here’s a look at Ford’s three wins at The Brickyard.
THREE JEWELS FOR DJ
The first time Ford found victory lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was in 1996 when Dale Jarrett won the first of his two Brickyard 400 championships. What made the race most memorable from a Ford perspective is that it ended up being a battle between Jarrett and his Robert Yates Racing teammate, Ernie Irvan. The two ended up breaking away from the field as Irvan found himself in the lead after passing Jarrett on lap 139, but when he pushed up the track going into turn two with only seven laps to go, Jarrett was there to take advantage and make the pass. Jarrett held on to eventually win as the race ended under caution. That completed a trifecta of sorts for Jarrett, who also won the Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600 earlier that season, and capped a memorable day for Ford with seven finishers in the Top 10 and 11 in the Top 14.
RUDD’S BIG WIN
Ricky Rudd stretched his fuel to the limit in winning the 1997 Brickyard 400 as he went the final 46 laps without stopping. That decision, along with a pair of timely cautions, enabled him to gain the lead and hold it until the checkered flag. Rudd inherited the lead on lap 147 after the yellow flag came out for debris after Robby Gordon hit the wall. While leader Dale Jarrett and fellow contender Jeff Gordon were forced to pit for fuel under the caution, Rudd stayed out. Another caution with seven laps remaining allowed Rudd to save the necessary fuel to make it the rest of the way. In a single-file restart with three laps to go, Rudd led Bobby Labonte, Johnny Benson, Mark Martin, Jarrett and Gordon. Labonte was never able to get closer than a couple of car lengths as Rudd posted his second win of the season and biggest triumph of his career.
TWO FOR JARRETT
The last time Ford ended up in victory lane at the Brickyard was when Jarrett won in 1999 for the second time in four years, overcoming disappointment from the previous year when he had a dominant Ford Taurus but ran out of gas midway through the race. Jarrett, who qualified fourth, was in a class by himself as he led 81 of the final 82 laps to win his fourth race of the season. The crucial part of the race came under caution when Jarrett came down pit road on lap 143 and opted for two tires. He was able to clear Bobby Labonte on the ensuing restart and was not threatened the rest of the way as he joined Jeff Gordon as the only two-time winners of the event.
A MAST-ERFUL START
Another memorable Brickyard highlight came in the inaugural weekend in 1994 when Rick Mast won the pole while driving the No. 1 Ford of car owner Richard Jackson. Mast went on to lead the first lap at the speedway in official NASCAR competition, but ended up finishing one lap down in 22nd place. The pole was one of four Mast earned during his 15-year NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career.
FORD WINNERS AT THE BRICKYARD
1996 – Dale Jarrett
1997 – Ricky Rudd
1999 – Dale Jarrett