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FYI WIRZ: NASCAR's Top Drivers Talk Revered Indianapolis

Dwight Drum@@racetakeCorrespondent IIIJuly 21, 2010

The top five drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this week—Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, and Kurt Busch—all describe with deep respect the 2.5-mile track at Indianpolis, Ind.

The Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway commences this Sunday at 1:00 p.m. on ESPN.

This fast series includes comments by three of NASCAR’s most popular drivers—Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, and Kasey Kahne.

FYI WIRZ is the swift presentation of pertinent motor-sports topics compiled and condensed by Dwight Drum at Racetake.com.

Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Chevrolet)

“Indy has a lot of tradition,” Harvick said. “It's one of those places where everybody wants to win. It's the second place that you check off in the year that you want to try to win the race next to Daytona. We've been fortunate to win there, and know what that feels like. And, growing up as a fan of Indy Cars, and really wanting to race open-wheel cars, and to be able to win there, and just to compete there is pretty cool.

“Track position is pretty key there. Obviously you need to have a fast car, and usually Indy is the place where everybody brings out all their new stuff to try to take that next step on performance, and hopefully we do that. I know we have a plan to do that, and I think we will. You car has got to turn, but you've got to be able to lay the throttle down and still maintain grip up off the corner."

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Chevrolet)

“When I first heard about it (NASCAR racing at the Brickyard), I thought it was too good to be true and that there was no way that it was ever going to happen because that was just like a dream for me,” Gordon said. “I thought when I chose to go NASCAR racing, or got chosen, that there was no way that I was ever going to race at Indy, and I kind of hated that that dream that I’ve had since I was a young kid was going to go away. That was the best news I’ve ever heard. I certainly was excited about it, and never thought we’d go there and win it, and then when we did. I honestly still look back on it and it felt like somebody needed to pinch me, wake me up because it wasn’t real.” 

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Chevrolet)

"I have a lot of memories watching the (Indianapolis) 500 with my grandfather and my dad,” Johnson said. “And then even watching the (Brickyard) 400—watching Earnhardt fight so hard to be the first car on track for that test session, Jeff (Gordon) winning the inaugural race. It's definitely a race that I'm excited to go to. And the history of the track means a lot to me and the fact that I've won three there means a lot to me as well.

“It would be a huge honor to join the list of four-time winners; just to win there once is a career maker for anyone. To have three victories there means a lot to me, and when I went to do the winners circle appearance a month or so ago, I was there with Rick Mears. To see him as a four-time winner and to talk about his experiences at the track and what it's done for his life and career was neat and helped me open my eyes to his world and the open-wheel world there. So I'm pumped and excited."

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Toyota)

“Every time I go (to Indy), there’s so much tradition at that race track,” Hamlin said. “I love going there. I love racing where you have fans on either side of the speedway and the straightaways are so long there, you have time to look all around and see what’s going on.

“We’ve been fast, but not successful at that race track. Every time we finish, we finish really well. I’m looking forward to it this year. I think we’re going to go there with a new car, and hopefully have something for those guys.”

Kurt Busch (No. 2 Dodge)

“It’s important that we come back in there after the off week and get back in stride toward making the Chase field,” Busch said. “As far as the ‘race for the Chase’ goes, we’re definitely hoping to be competitive at Indy, build a little more on our confidence level, and pad our ‘comfort zone.’

“A win there on Sunday would be as prominent and important of a feat that’s possible. For me personally, it would be a thrilling experience I’d always remember and hold at the top of the list of my accomplishments.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Chevrolet)

"When somebody asks me what it would feel like to win here, I think about the open-wheel history of this track, and I think about drivers like (Mario) Andretti and (A.J.) Foyt, and the guys even before them. I think about the history of this track and how it's survived the war and closed down and opened back up and everything that it's been through.

“When they first brought stock cars here to practice, it was a realization for a lot of people, including myself, being an aspiring driver at the time, that I may have a chance one day to race at Indianapolis that I otherwise didn't think that I would have unless I was to go in the open-wheel series."

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Chevrolet)

“It’s always been a dream to win in Indianapolis,” Stewart said. “I’ve been very blessed and fortunate to win it twice now, and that’s something that if I died tomorrow I would die a happy man because of those two races. But it would be that much more special to win it as a team owner, too.”

Kasey Kahne (No.9 Ford)

”Winning at the Brickyard and the Daytona 500 are on the top of my list. I think it depends on what type of racing background you have which one is more important to you. For me, coming up in the sprint car ranks, I raced in the Indianapolis area a lot and learned early on how significant winning at the Brickyard was. When you think about the drivers that have won at Indy throughout the years, it would mean a lot to be able to add my name to that list. We’ve been close a few times and it’s certainly a victory I’d love to pull off.”

“I look forward to each year. It’s a neat track. To me it’s just tough because all four corners are different, so you have to get your car to handle in each of them and get down the straightaway. If you can win at that place in any type of race car it’d be a great day.”

Photo credit: Dwight Drum @ Racetake.com 

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