FOX Sports Exclusive
NASCAR's Indy roots run deep
|Before the Brickyard 400: NASCAR at Indy|
As you have probably already heard and will continue to hear until you'll want to scream this weekend, it is a really big deal that NASCAR is racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. No, you don't understand. It is a really, really big deal.
Indy is the birthplace of modern racing. The stuff we take for granted every Sunday pace laps, yellow flags, "Gentlemen, start your engines" it all originated at The Brickyard. The first Indy 500 (which for you youngsters out there actually used to be a bigger deal than the Daytona 500) was held in 1911. The track itself opened two years earlier as a testing facility for Detroit automakers and a car playground for really, really rich people.
Over the next eight decades, open wheel racing grew into the sport of kings. Meanwhile, the sport of The King, Richard Petty, was toiling around in the dirt on tracks like the North Wilkesboro Speedway and on the beach at Daytona. Not surprisingly, stock car racers that made their living on bullrings in front of 1,500 people to earn checks of $1,500 were insanely jealous of the men who raced in front of 200,000 fans for paydays that reached into six, then seven digits.
Who, you might ask, am I talking about? Read ahead. You might be surprised.
Junior Johnson 1963It's true. The Last American Hero attempted to qualify for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing in May of 1963. Johnson won 50 Nextel Cup races as a driver and 132 as an owner. In fact, he almost won the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994 with
But his lone qualifying effort for the 500 didn't work out, failing to crack a field that included the likes of A.J. Foyt, Dan Gurney, Rodger Ward and eventual winner Parnelli Jones.
The good news back then the 500 and the World 600 at Charlotte were run one week apart so Johnson was able to make it home in time to win the pole and finish second behind Fred Lorenzen.
The Wood Brothers 1965 With Jimmy Clark behind the wheel of a Lotus-Ford, the Ford Motor Company sought to find a competitive edge for the Formula One legend. They found that edge in the form of a pit crew from Stuart, Va. the legendary Wood Brothers.
Due in no small part to the Woods, Clark won the race by outlasting Jones and a youngster named Mario Andretti.
Cale Yarborough 1966-72Yarborough made three Indy 500 starts between '66 and '72, running the 500 and 600 during one May week in 1967. Yarborough actually ran Indy Cars full-time for a few seasons before returning to NASCAR for good in 1973.
Yarborough's best 500 finish came in 1972 when he wound up 10th.
Lee Roy Yarbrough 1967-1970Lee Roy no, he wasn't related to Cale, proven by the missing "o" won 14 Cup races in just 198 starts. He nearly won the Indy 500 in just three. His average finish in three tries was a disappointing 23rd, but a very fast car in 1969 was undone by a spilt header.
Yarbrough pulled off the Charlotte-Indy week-long double twice in '69 and '70.
The Allisons 1970-75The Alabama Gang invaded south-central Indiana on four different occasions Donnie in 1970 and '71 and Bobby in '73 and '75. Big brother Bobby won the most NASCAR races 85 to 10 but Donnie owns family bragging rights at Indianapolis.
Donnie Allison finished fourth and sixth in his only two Indy starts. He nearly pulled off the May double in 1970, finishing fourth behind Al Unser Sr. at Indianapolis after winning the World 600 at Charlotte the weekend before.
Bobby finished 32nd and 25th with two mechanical failures.
So now that you are all learned up, feel free to spend your weekend correcting your friends and neighbors when they say, "You know, NASCAR wasn't allowed at Indy until 1994..."
Ryan McGee is the managing editor of