I still remember Robert Yates calling me into his office in the spring of 1992 and telling me that NASCAR was going to take a select number of cars to Indy in June of that year. Bill France Jr. and Tony George had been negotiating to bring NASCAR to Indy. They invited nine teams to go to Indy for what they called a Goodyear tire test. I was thrilled that we were one of the teams chosen.
We actually won the race at Michigan that Sunday in June and then Monday and Tuesday we were at Indy. I remember walking into the garage area there for the very first time like it was yesterday. I have to admit, it kind of felt weird. But it was a very cool deal to see them come down the front straightaway that very first time.
It was inevitable that NASCAR was going to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Every race is important on our schedule. Every race pays the same amount of points on our schedule. Regardless of the points and the money, there are two or three tracks on our circuit that you want to say you won at. To me those three are Daytona, Darlington and of course Indy. The history and tradition at that place is something special. Like winning the Daytona 500, winning the Brickyard 400 to me is one of those things that stay with you the rest of your life.
I don’t know if we could ever overshadow the Indianapolis 500. I will say this though, it feels normal for us to be there now. In the first few years we went there the purists didn’t like us there. Now, I don’t see or feel any of that. This weekend’s race is also the second highest paying race on our schedule. So that makes qualifying for the Go or Go Home guys so intense because they pay so much money just for finishing last in the race.
On a persona note, I have been at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for every single Brickyard 400 race. We almost, and I mean almost, won that very first race with Ernie Irvan driving the No. 28 car. Ernie and Jeff Gordon swapped the lead back and forth all day long but unfortunately we cut a tire down with about 15 laps to go and Gordon went on to win and scribble his name into the history books as the first NASCAR winner at the famed speedway.
Even though I never got to celebrate in Victory Lane, I have fond memories at Indy because I was fortunate to have a fair amount of success there.
In 1996 we had a 1-2 finish with Robert Yates Racing. Dale Jarrett won the race in the No. 88 and Ernie finished second in the No. 28. That was a big day for Robert Yates and the entire company in what is probably the second biggest race of the NASCAR season. I also finished third there with Dale Jarrett in 1997 and fourth with Mike Skinner in 1998.
FOX race analyst Larry McReynolds has more than 25 years of NASCAR experience as a mechanic, crew chief and broadcaster. He and his fellow Crew Chief Club members take you behind the wall at www.crewchiefclub.com.
“How to Become a Winning Crew Chief” is on bookstore shelves, or you may order your own autographed copy from www.DWStore.com.