NASCAR drivers prepare for Brickyard
Several NASCAR teams headed north after Sunday's rain-delayed Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway. Before heading to Daytona for July 4th weekend, a handful of drivers stopped at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a two-day private test session.
"We have the new generation six car," said Earnhardt Ganassi Racing driver Juan Pablo Montoya, after some morning laps in the #42 Target Chevy. "For us, I think it's very important to know what the car is going to do. We get about four private tests a year. We can learn a lot of things for like Pocono as well. It's kind of the same thing, flat track. So we picked to come here. It's a track where I run really well, always."
Montoya is the only driver to have raced at the Speedway in the Brickyard 400, Indianapolis 500 and U.S. Grand Prix Formula One race. He won the Indy 500 as a rookie in 2000.
In six starts in the Brickyard 400, JPM has earned one pole and started no worse than 13th. His best finish is second. He has led two races and 202 laps. He would love for his first NASCAR oval win to come at Indianapolis next month.
"I think it would be very special," said Montoya. "After winning the 500 here, to do the double would be amazing. When I was here in Formula One, it was very close a lot of times and never happened."
Montoya's teammate, Jamie McMurray, also is testing in Indy. McMurray won the 2010 Brickyard 400.
"When I look at this race, I compare it to the Daytona 500," said McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald's Chevy. "Indy is such a special place to be able to win at. Anytime they introduce you, they always include Daytona and the Brickyard."
Like Montoya, McMurray has a solid record in the Brickyard 400. In 10 starts at the Speedway, he has five top ten finishes and three top five finishes. This season, McMurray is 19th in the standings, still within striking distance to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs.
"I feel really good about coming back here," said McMurray. "Our cars have been quick at a lot of tracks we haven't been fast at in the past. This year, we've been good at almost all the tracks. Our test is going really well today. I'm anxious to get back here and get to the race."
Earnhardt Ganassi Racing figures to be a contender for the pole and the race.
"I think we've just got it figured out," said Montoya. "Even the year Jamie won, we should have won. We had the wrong call on strategy and it cost us the race."
McMurray was asked about the possibility of the Brickyard becoming a night race in the future.
"If they were going to do that, it would be for the fans," said McMurray. "I don't know from a driver's perspective that it would be that much different. But if it would draw in a bigger crowd and make it more comfortable - it's typically really hot when we come to Indy - I think it would be great."
Joe Gibbs Racing also brought its three Spring Cup drivers to the test. Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin all took laps Monday before rain arrived at the Speedway around 1:30 p.m. Kenseth comes off a win Sunday at Kentucky, his series leading fourth win of the season.