It's the greatest tradition in NASCAR history: kissing the bricks. However, it hasn't always been that way.
In order to appreciate the tradition of kissing the bricks you have to go back to 1992. It was then that the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing, announced that they would add a new track on the schedule for the 1994 season. A new track for NASCAR, yes, but not a new track to the fans. For the first time ever, stock cars would circle around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
It was a great day, the first NASCAR race at Indianapolis, but there was something missing. Jeff Gordon went to victory lane in 1994, but there was no drinking of the milk or special celebration. It was just a normal NASCAR win. Dale Earnhardt won the race in 1995, and it had the same feel.
In 1996, however, that all changed. That's when Hickory, NC resident Dale Jarrett won the Brickyard 400, and his crew chief, Todd Parrott, had an idea. As crazy as it sounded, Todd Parrott wanted to kiss the yard of bricks that remained from the original Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
For those of you who didn't know, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened in 1909 and was original constructed out of bricks. The whole 2.5 track consisted 3.5 million bricks. Motorcycles were the first thing to race then in 1910. Then The American Automobile Association (AAA), ran a series of 16 car races. It was a disaster. The racetracks surfaced was blamed for five deaths to the drivers.
In 1961 track president Tony George paved the track. George, however, wanted to keep the history of the track, so he left one yard of bricks, giving the historic track the nickname of "The Brickyard."
Parrott's idea seemed crazy to everyone at the racetrack except for Jarrett. This win was especially special for Jarrett. His dad was one of NASCAR's greatest drivers ever, but Ned never had the opportunity to run at Indianapolis. Dale had added the Jarrett name to the list of historic winners at the track, making the win overly special.
After the victory lane celebration, Jarrett and Parrott started walking out toward the front stretch. It confused track employees and NASCAR. When asked what he was doing Todd said, "We just wanna kiss the bricks." Jarrett and Parrott and the rest of the Robert Yates Racing team turned their hats backwards and kissed the bricks.
Then in 1997, Ricky Rudd turned his hat backwards and kissed the bricks and in 1998 Jeff Gordon did it as well. It was truly becoming a tradition.
Kissing the bricks has even caught on with some Indy car drivers. In 2006 Sam Hornish Jr, won the Indianapolis 500, and after drinking the milk, he turned his hat backwards and "kissed the bricks."
But I think what it means to the fans is the most important. As a fan of Bill Elliott, I have experienced my driver "kissing the bricks."
Back in 2002, Bill Elliott dominated the Brickyard 400. I was an Elliott fan forever and never did I see a bigger grin on the face of Bill, then when he climbed out of the car in victory lane at the Brickyard.
Then when he went down to kiss the bricks and an even bigger smile came over the face of NASCAR's most popular driver. Watching that, the Brickyard 400 became more then a race. It became a legendary NASCAR event, in my eyes.
"They didn't taste too good, but I didn't care at that point." Recalls Jarrett, referring to the bricks. Bending down kissing the bricks, thanking the track for the win and thanking the founders of Indianapolis Motor Speedway for such a great facility.
It can all be traced back to 1996 when a crew chief and driver decided to do something out of the ordinary, and creating a new tradition to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, that will remain forever.