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Indy still magic to some, though others yawn

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The Winston Cup teams are at Indianapolis Motor Speedway today for the Brickyard 400.

The race has increased the popularity of the sport in the Midwest, but even after nine years, it's interesting to listen to a few of the drivers and crew chiefs voice their opinions about the Brickyard.

There are those, like Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart, who grew up dreaming of winning the Indianapolis 500 and think racing anything at The Speedway is more wonderful than anything else.

Then there is Kyle Petty, son of seven-time Winston Cup champ Richard Petty, who looks at Indy as just another race.

"Our stock car history is at Daytona," Petty said. "It's the open-wheel cars whose history is at Indy."

They are extreme positions, but that doesn't mean there aren't others in the stock car fold with ideas that could be indexed with Stewart and Petty.

Ryan Newman, who won his fourth race of the season last week, gets all excited when he thinks about winning the Brickyard 400.

"To me," said Newman, "Indianapolis is a racer's race. There's no restrictor plates. There's no out-of-bounds lines. You have to do your job as a racecar driver as you normally would, as I grew up thinking. That's why it's more important and the biggest race of the season.

"Again, it's 185 points in any race, so from a team's perspective, and from a Winston Cup championship perspective, it's no different, but as a racer, and I think Tony would say the same thing, he'd rather win Indy than he would the [Daytona] 500."

Matt Kenseth, who currently leads the Winston Cup points race, is on record from February as saying the Daytona 500 is just another race to him. And, last weekend, he said very much the same thing about Indy.

"I don't know how to say this exactly right, but I probably don't quite have the respect for Indy as maybe some other drivers do just because I've never been an open-wheel fan," said Kenseth during an interview at Pocono Raceway. "I don't think I've ever watched an entire Indy 500. And I never went there.

"Honestly, the biggest thought I had when I went out on the track was I couldn't believe how narrow it was and how tight the entrance to turn one looked. I didn't think there was any way you could get two stock cars through there side by side."

Kenseth's crew chief, Robbie Reiser, on the other hand, is smitten.

"Every year before the Indy 500, my dad would shut down the entire house," said Reiser. "Our entire family would gather together to watch that race. Indy? Everyone wants to win Indy. I could be from Alaska and want to win Indy."

When it comes to their race team, Kenseth and Reiser agree on almost everything. But though they both grew up in Wisconsin, they disagree on Indy.

"Ah," said Reiser, on hearing of Kenseth's remarks, "He'd just never been there as a kid. But let me tell you, he wants to win Indianapolis. Everybody does."

Busy Hagerstown

Every weekend this month, Hagerstown Motor Speedway is packed with events that were rained out over the first half of the season.

On Saturday, the AMA Motorcycle U.S. Progressive Insurance Flat Track Grand Nationals will bring its best riders to the track. Gates will open at 4 p.m., warm-ups will begin at 6, and racing will start at 8.

Last weekend, defending Xtreme Dirtcar Series champion Rick Eckert of York, Pa., won the Topless 40 for late models.

Fire safety measure

NASCAR officials said this week that all Winston Cup, Busch and Craftsman Truck Series vehicles will be required to have an additional fire-extinguishing cylinder solely dedicated to the fuel cell area beginning Aug. 13.

The cylinder must be mounted in the driver's compartment and will attach to a steel bracket welded to the frame and/or roll cage. When discharged, it will release Halon, a proven and effective fire suppressant, in the area of the fire and will prevent the fire from spreading.

"We've been working diligently on fire prevention and fire containment ... over the last few months," Gary Nelson, managing director of NASCAR Research and Development, said in a release. "We felt this was the most viable [system] for containment of potential fires coming from the fuel-cell area."

The hurry-up effort on fire prevention has been keyed by massive, car-engulfing fires involving star drivers Dale Jarrett and Bobby Labonte.

The research has also uncovered several other areas to be improved by modifying the current requirements or specifications for the driver and fuel cell/trunk compartments. And, NASCAR is continuing to work on testing a roof hatch as an alternate exit.

Nuts and bolts

Remaining tickets for the 46th annual Daytona 500, Feb. 15, 2004, are on sale now. They are available online at http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 800-PITSTOP.

When asked about the benefits of having a college degree, Newman, who has a degree in engineering, said: "I tell people there are two big things I learned in college that didn't necessarily have anything to do with engineering. One was time management and the other was problem solving, which basically has to do with getting by in every-day life.

"There are a lot of things, at least from my perspective, that I learned different from going to high school and then maybe getting a job. I think anybody who has the chance should take the opportunity and go to college, even if they have to make [a] stretch to do it. I think it makes a difference to the person."

Lineup

NASCAR

Brickyard 400

At Indianapolis (Car numbers in parentheses)

1. (29) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 184.343 mph.

2. (12) Ryan Newman, Dodge, 184.238.

3. (9) Bill Elliott, Dodge, 183.925.

4. (22) Ward Burton, Dodge, 183.741.

5. (15) Michael Waltrip, Chevrolet, 183.722.

6. (97) Kurt Busch, Ford, 183.711.

7. (25) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 183.445.

8. (18) Bobby Labonte, Chevrolet, 183.408.

9. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 183.333.

10. (19) Jeremy Mayfield, Dodge, 183.262.

11. (81) John Andretti, Chevrolet, 183.098.

12. (40) Sterling Marlin, Dodge, 182.890.

13. (31) Robby Gordon, Chevrolet, 182.801.

14. (2) Rusty Wallace, Dodge, 182.741.

15. (20) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 182.541.

16. (38) Elliott Sadler, Ford, 182.430.

17. (17) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 182.341.

18. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 182.286.

19. (24) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 182.223.

20. (77) Dave Blaney, Ford, 182.149.

21. (57) Kevin Lepage, Ford, 182.131.

22. (42) Jamie McMurray, Dodge, 182.098.

23. (30) Steve Park, Chevrolet, 181.976.

24. (01) Mike Skinner, Pontiac, 181.829.

25. (6) Mark Martin, Ford, 181.770.

26. (0) Jason Leffler, Pontiac, 181.759.

27. (191) Casey Atwood, Dodge, 181.675.

28. (41) Casey Mears, Dodge, 181.123.

29. (23) Kenny Wallace, Dodge, 181.046.

30. (1) Jeff Green, Chevrolet, 181.025.

31. (154) Todd Bodine, Ford, 180.915.

32. (7) Jimmy Spencer, Dodge, 180.832.

33. (74) Tony Raines, Chevrolet, 180.741.

34. (88) Dale Jarrett, Ford, 180.585.

35. (32) Ricky Craven, Pontiac, 180.545.

36. (8) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 180.484.

37. (99) Jeff Burton, Ford, 179.648, provisional.

38. (5) Terry Labonte, Chevrolet, 180.343, provisional.

39. (21) Ricky Rudd, Ford, 179.770, provisional.

40. (10) Johnny Benson, Pontiac, 180.480, provisional.

41. (45) Kyle Petty, Dodge, 179.960, preovisional.

42. (14) Larry Foyt, Dodge, 178.845, provisional.

43. (37) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, 178.186, provisional.

Failed to qualify

44. (11) Brett Bodine, Ford, 180.484.

45. (79) Billy Bigley, Dodge, 180.220.

46. (49) Ken Schrader, Dodge, 180.368.

47. (71) Jim Sauter, Chevrolet, 179.140.

48. (43) Christian Fittipaldi, Dodge, 179.133.

49. (104) David Reutimann, Pontiac, 178.912.

50. (07) Ted Musgrave, Dodge, 179.465.

51. (02) Hermie Sadler, Pontiac, 178.628.

52. (4) Robert Pressley, Pontiac, 179.269.

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