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Cup cars begin testing for Brickyard

7/17/2001

INDIANAPOLIS -- Drivers and crew chiefs, searching for
higher speeds at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, are looking at a
next-generation tire to play a role.

Teams had difficulty matching tires to the track surface Monday
during the first day of NASCAR Winston Cup testing in preparation
for the Brickyard 400 on Aug 5.

"It's like we've never been here before," said Robin
Pemberton, crew chief for Rusty Wallace. "These new tires have
really thrown off all our setups. We're wrecked everywhere we go if
we try to use last year's notes."

Goodyear -- which supplies all the tires in NASCAR -- produced a
new tire for the 2001 racing season. For crew chiefs, that means
much of their data gathered from previous years is virtually
useless.

During Monday's tests, Todd Bodine, who won the pole for last
weekend's race at Chicagoland Speedway, was fastest at 176.229 mph.
That was almost 5 mph slower than the track record set by his
brother, Brett, in second-round qualifying last year.

Driver Jeff Burton said the track was slicker than he recalled.
He suspected that Firestone's Indy-car rubber also contributed to
the problem. A month of racing activity for the Indianapolis 500
has left deposits of rubber on the pavement.

"I don't ever remember it being like this, but I think this is
the first time I've been in the first test group, so I don't
know," Burton said. "I just know the speeds are way off where we
need them to be, and everybody's complaining about it."

John Andretti was unfazed by the slower speeds. He said test
speeds mean little.

"Typically, the guys who run fast in testing are not going to
be fast in qualifying, unless the weather conditions are exactly
the same - and in Indiana they never are."

Adjusting for the new rubber is getting easier as the season
progresses because what works at one place at least provides a
starting point when arriving at a track with similar
characteristics, Pemberton said.

"You just have to pick somewhere to start and keep working at
it. That's all you can do," he said. "But everybody's in the same
boat."