Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Inaugural Brickyard 400 Starting Field: Where Are They Now? Part 1

The biggest race of the modern Winston Cup-era took place on Saturday, August 6th, when 43 drivers became the first men to run stock cars around Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an official race.  The introduction of the Brickyard 400 arguably changed the course of racing history, from the winner (Jeff Gordon, who cemented his status as a "big-time race-winner") to the series (Nascar, which was now inarguably a national sport) to the track itself (IMS, which used the money from the 400 to bankroll the Indy Racing League the following year).  Over 20 years later, the starting field from that race have taken multiple paths--here's where they've led to so far:

Jeff Gordon & crew celebrate in
victory lane (Jeff is holding the
checkered flag).
In order of finishing position, with car # and sponsor in parenthesis

1. Jeff Gordon (24 DuPont): The Brickyard 400 was the second win of Jeff's Cup career, coming in-between his rookie season and his first championship season.  He has scored a total of four Brickyard wins to date.  Jeff is the only driver from the inaugural race still running a full Cup schedule.

2. Brett Bodine (26 Quaker State/NationaLease): The last great run both for Brett and the Kenny Bernstein-owned King Racing team, Bodine's career day was overshadowed by an on-track incident with his brother Geoff (see Geoff's entry for more info).  Brett is still with Nascar, working as the pace car driver.

3. Bill Elliott (11 Budweiser): Bill was preparing to leave Junior Johnson & Associates (he would be replaced by Brett Bodine) to start his own team.  Later, Elliott would win the Brickyard 400 driving for Ray Evernham.  Today he's steering his son Chase's career.

4. Rusty Wallace (2 Miller): A former champion, Rusty was unable to visit victory lane at Indy, despite running for IMS legend Roger Penske.  Today, Rusty works for ESPN as a studio commentator.

5. Dale Earnhardt (3 GM Goodwrench): Dale would have to wait a year, picking up his lone Brickyard 400 win the following season, leading to jokes that he was the first "man" to win the race.  Tragically, Dale was killed in the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
Darrell Waltrip makes a pit stop.

6. Darrell Waltrip (17 Western Auto): Already in the twilight of his career, DW would see his self-owned team slide in performance, before ending his career with a handful of lower-end teams.  Darrell currently works for Fox Sports as a color commentator.

7. Ken Schrader (25 Kodiak): The next-best Hendrick Motorsports car belonged to Schrader, midway through his lengthy career.  Schrader recently retired from Cup racing, although he continues to run lower-level races.

8. Michael Waltrip (30 Pennzoil): By 1994 "Mikey" was in the thick of his lengthy winless streak (in points races), one that would last until a string of plate-race wins in the new millennium.  In addition to working as a studio analyst (for Cup races) and color commentator (for Truck races) for Fox Sports, Michael also runs his own race team, as well as occasionally racing himself in a very-limited schedule.

9. Todd Bodine (75 Factory Outlet Stores): Running for Butch Mock, it was a banner day for the second-best finishing Bodine brother (Todd stayed out of the family feud).  After dominating the Nascar Truck Series, Bodine currently works as an occasional analyst for Fox Sports.

10. Morgan Shepherd (21 Citgo): Though on the downside of his career, Morgan was still capable of strong finishes for the Wood Brothers.  Morgan has continued racing (albeit mostly in underfunded equipment), and recently set a record as the oldest driver to ever compete in the Cup series.
Look strange?  This is Ricky Rudd's
1993 car at IMS for a tire test. However,
Ricky had already announced that he
and sponsor Tide were forming his own
team in 1994.  Hendrick Motorsports
still wanted to test, though, so they
brought Ricky's car, with all the Tide
decals removed.  Terry Labonte--
who had already been announced as
Ricky's replacement (with new
sponsor Kellogg's)--tested the car.
He had no relationship with Tide,
hence the lack of sponsors.

11. Ricky Rudd (10 Tide): Though Darrell Waltrip was the highest-finishing owner-driver that day, it was The Rooster who'd become the first owner-driver to win the Brickyard 400 in 1997.  Ricky is currently retired and works occasionally as an analyst for NBC Sports.

12. Terry Labonte (5 Kellogg's): Terry's run rounded out a fantastic day for the Hendrick Motorsports team.  Terry currently races part-time on the Cup circuit, and has said that he will retire completely at the end of this season.

13. Ted Musgrave (16 Family Channel): Musgrave's time Cup racing ended without a win, though he managed to revive his career in the Truck series.  Last racing in 2010, he has since worked as a spotter.

14. Sterling Marlin (4 Kodak): Sterling's Indy debut came sandwiched between his two Daytona 500 victories.  He last raced in 2009, and has since returned to his native Tennessee, where he owns a Dodge dealership.

15. Lake Speed (15 Ford Quality Care): One of two drivers to take a Cup points provisional starting spot (Harry Gant being the other), Speed is arguably best-known for his pre-Nascar days as a karting champion.  He currently races vintage karts, having left Nascar after a serious injury.