2003 NFL Preview


Seventeen teams show up for Brickyard testing

Posted: Tuesday July 29, 2003 4:47 PM

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (AP) -- One of NASCAR's signature events -- the Brickyard 400 -- is just five days away and you'd never suspect it here.

The top three drivers in the Winston Cup standings were among 17 teams that showed up for two days of testing at Watkins Glen International. And there's a simple reason: In the first 20 races, 14 drivers have won, and only Ryan Newman (4), Kurt Busch (3) and Jimmie Johnson (2) have won more than once.

"There's just so much more competition," points leader Matt Kenseth said Monday after several hours maneuvering around the 11-turn road course, one of only two on NASCAR's top circuit. "We have to worry about 25 drivers, it seems like every week, and it's just so much more difficult to be that consistent."

Usually, only about 10 teams make the short trip north to test after the Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway. But this year, even Dale Earnhardt Jr. and road course whiz Jeff Gordon, second and third in the standings, chose to test instead of rest for the Brickyard.

"I'm never eager to get in the car and test, but it's been a pretty good test up to this point," Earnhardt said. "It's real important for drivers like myself to test here just to familiarize yourself with the corners, get a little more experience on how to negotiate each turn."

Gordon, who has won four of the last six Winston Cup races at The Glen, was surprised he had so much company for the Monday and Tuesday sessions. After getting caught up in an accident and finishing 36th at Pocono to drop to third in the standings, he was looking for any edge to make up ground on Kenseth.

"We've lost a lot of points over the last couple of weeks," Gordon said. "The road courses have been one of them (Kenseth's weaknesses), but they're doing everything right."

Since finishing fourth two weeks ago in the Tropicana 400 at Chicagoland Speedway to move into second place and within 165 points of Kenseth, Gordon's misfortunes have mounted. He's 308 points back now, leaving Kenseth and Earnhardt in familiar territory.

Earnhardt won back-to-back Busch titles in 1998 and 1999 in his only two full seasons of competition at NASCAR's second level. Kenseth was runner-up in 1998 and finished third the next year.

They relish this new challenge.

"We've had a lot of good, fun races in the Busch Series," Earnhardt said. "We're just now getting to where we're both running good each Sunday, or at least every other Sunday. It's fun.

Over the past couple of years, we had both kind of struggled."

"It would be cool if it got to be where we could battle it out at the end like we used to do, but he beat me both times real bad," Kenseth said with a smile. "It's cool the position we're in right now, but there still is so much racing to do.

"I hope we're still in this position at the end of the year, but I hope we're farther ahead."

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