Hit the bricks
Indianapolis holds many memories -- and a lot of promise
The Brickyard 400 is this week. That's big.
Every race is big, I know, but some you just can't help but get excited about. We take these big ol' stock cars into a place known for Indy car racing and the biggest Indy car race in the world. You get goose bumps coming through the tunnel -- and sometimes the goose bumps don't go away until after the checkered flag.
We feel really good going into Indianapolis, as good as we've felt. We tested really well there, and we feel like we have a car that is capable of doing some great things.
The thing is there is a lot of time between when we check in and when the checkered flag falls on Sunday. A lot can happen -- good things and bad things. We've seen both ends of that stick over the years. What we need to do is come up with more good things, and hope the bad things are behind us.
Being among the best in testing means some things but it doesn't mean everything. It does mean we had a good test and we learned a lot. I don't think it means we're locks to win the pole or the race or anything like that. It means we're closer to where we want to be than some folks right now, but there are a lot of teams who left the Indy tests knowing what they wanted to change and what they wanted to work on. If they find what they are looking for, they are going to be pretty tough.
Plus, the place changes a lot. It changes from minute-to-minute, so changing over a week or so isn't any big deal. If we can go back in there this week with a good attitude and pick up where we left off, we could have a great week.
For right now, leave it at this -- nobody brought any trophies around for testing.
You see, winning is everything in this sport. As big a race as the Brickyard is, it doesn't matter where you win. Winning is winning. It's just as tough to win at Martinsville as it is the Daytona 500 or the Brickyard 400. Maybe there is a little bit more attention paid to certain races but they are all tough to win.
Now, that said, the races at Indianapolis are pretty special. First is the history and heritage of the place. They've been running there almost 100 years, and it seems that just about every big-name driver has made it there one way or another. If you did something at Indianapolis, then everybody on earth seemed to know you did something. The history the place has is just incredible.
Secondly, you win at Indianapolis and you know you've really done something. Everybody brings their best stuff to Indianapolis, and everybody knows everybody brings their best stuff to Indianapolis. First of all, you have to be at your best just to get a good qualifying run on Thursday and have any chance at all to keep up on Saturday. And you'd better be good and you're going to get embarrassed. From what I've seen, you have to be near perfect to even have a chance to hang on.
I've run at the front at Indianapolis and I've run at the back at Indianapolis. Let me tell you right now, both are underrated. When you grow up just across the Ohio River like I did, there is something special at Indy. I had friends growing up who would come to the Indianapolis 500 every year. We followed the stock cars everywhere, but we followed anything that was going on at Indianapolis. Those guys still come back, and they bring their kids -- except they are coming for the stock car races too, just like they did the Indy car races. It never fails -- I run into two or three buddies from Owensboro every time we run Indianapolis.
I know there are guys who have been running the Indianapolis 500 since time began and consider Indy their track but the place is just important to everyone in racing. I didn't grow up in the grandstands but, like a lot of our fans today, I watched it on television every year. I knew who A.J. Foyt and Parnelli Jones and Mario Andretti were, and I kept tabs on them too. True, I kept closer watch on Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough but Memorial Day Sunday was pretty big at my house. We'd listen to the World 600 on the radio that day and watch the Indy 500 on TV that night (Indy was tape-delayed).
We want to win the Brickyard 400 a lot. For one thing, it's the next race. For another, it is becoming a tradition in our sport, and is building its own heritage and history with stock cars. Winning there means a lot. Of course, winning anywhere means a lot. But this team has its eyes set on winning races, as many races as we can win. I think we've shown that we're capable of winning, and nobody wants to win more than we do. Sometimes things have gotten in the way but nobody here hangs their head. We just pick up the pieces and move on to the next race. Win or lose, we're a team, and we're a team dead-set on winning.
I can't think of a better place for that to start for this Mobil 1 Taurus team than Indianapolis.
Jeremy Mayfield is in his fourth year driving the Penske Racing/Mobil 1 No. 12 Ford. His diary will appear weekly on CNNSI.com in 2001.