Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Inaugural Brickyard 400 Starting Field: Where Are They Now? Part 2




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:

In order of finishing position, with car # and sponsor in parenthesis
Bobby Labonte's car from THIS
YEAR'S race--he and Jeff Gordon are
the only drivers to have competed in
every Brickyard 400.

16. Bobby Labonte (22 Maxwell House): The last car on the lead lap in 1994, Bobby Labonte went on to win the 2000 Brickyard 400, the same year as his Winston Cup championship.  Bobby has raced a part-time schedule in 2014.

17. Ernie Irvan (28 Havoline): Ernie looked poised to battle Jeff Gordon to the checkers on this day, but a flat tire relegated him a lap down.  Two weeks later, a practice crash at Michigan International Speedway nearly cost him his life.  Since retiring, Ernie has worked both in the motorsports field (helping his son's career) and out (organizing equestrian events in South Carolina).

18. Greg Sacks (77 USAir): Nascar's "super-sub" was running full-time for D.K. Ullrich in this race.  Since then, he's made his mark helping to start GT Vodka.

19. Jeff Burton (8 Raybestos): Jeff holds the title of the best-finishing rookie driver in the inaugural Brickyard 400 (although, technically, almost EVERY driver was a rookie to the track).  Soon after, "The Mayor" joined Roush Racing, where he'd see his greatest success.  Jeff is currently running a partial schedule while preparing to become a color commentator for NBC Sports in 2015.

20. Joe Nemechek (41 Meineke): "Front Row Joe" narrowly missed out on being the highest-finishing rookie in this race, but would go on to win a handful of races at the Cup level.  Joe Nemechek currently runs part-time in the three touring series, while helping start his son John Hunter's career.

21. Bobby Hillin Jr. (44 Buss Fuses): Racing for the team that would eventually morph into Bill Elliott Racing, Bobby Hillin was years removed from his shocking win at Talladega--one that made him the youngest winner on the Cup circuit.  Since retiring, Hillin has worked in the excavating and petroleum industries.

Richard Petty takes the famed
#43 around IMS during an
early tire test.  Wally Dallenbach
would run a different car in the race
itself--this one was immediately
brought to the track museum.
22. Rick Mast (1 Skoal Classic): Not only did Rick win the pole for this race, but he was also on the pole for the famed 1992 Cup series finale.  Mast raced until carbon monoxide poisoning forced him into retirement.  Currently, Rick owns an environmental clean-up business in his native Virginia.

23. Wally Dallenbach Jr. (43 STP): The son of IndyCar/CART chief steward Wally Dallenbach Sr., Wally Jr. was racing for the legendary Petty Enterprises car in 1994.  After a journeyman's career, Wally moved into the broadcast booth, working for both TNT and NBC Sports, covering both Nascar and IndyCar.

24. Bobby Hamliton (40 Kendall): Having entered Nascar through stunt-driving work for "Days of Thunder", Bobby was still on his way up the Nascar ladder at the time.  After winning a few Cup races, Bobby moved to the Truck series, where he started and raced his own championship team.  Sadly, he died young of neck cancer.

25. Kyle Petty (42 Mello Yello): Finishing just behind his teammate, Kyle was nearing the end of his successful run with SABCO Racing, following it up with a less-successful run driving his own cars.  In addition to his TV work with multiple networks, Kyle also runs the Victory Junction Gang Camp for seriously ill children.

26. Jeremy Mayfield (98 Fingerhut): Racing for Cale Yarborough at the time (who himself raced in the Indy 500 years back), Mayfield would eventually go on to Cup success with Penske-Kranefuss and Evernham Motorsports.  He was later suspended for drug use, a charge he has continued to fight.

27. Derrike Cope (02 Advil): Derrike, the 1990 Daytona 500 champion, was in-between rides at the time, having just been replaced at Cale Yarborough Motorsports by Jeremy Mayfield (see above).  Cope continues to race today for his own Nationwide Series team.

28. John Andretti (14 Bryant): Ironically, John Andretti's finish--two laps down--was the best by a driver with experience racing in the Indianapolis 500.  Andretti, after finishing his Cup career, has worked in broadcasting as well as undertaking charitable endeavors, mostly in the Indianapolis-area.

AJ Foyt tests his stock car at
Indy--the 1994 Brickyard 400
wound up being his final race.
29. Rich Bickle (9 Orkin): A short-track ace, Bickle was still a few years away from his career highlight top-5 at Martinsville.  Bickle retired from racing (having done so mostly on the local level in his later years) in 2013, and owns several racing-related businesses in Wisconsin.

30. A.J. Foyt (50 Copenhagen): The legendary Foyt, who raced numerous series in his storied career, came out of retirement for the inaugural Brickyard 400, making this his final race as a driver.  Foyt currently owns the IndyCar team A.J. Foyt Enterprises, driven by Takuma Sato.

31. Ward Burton (31 Hardee's): A rookie in 1994 (like his brother Jeff), Ward would go on to a solid Cup career, including a win in the 2002 Daytona 500.  Since retirement Ward has focused his time on conservation efforts related to hunting, while also steering his son Jeb's racing career.

Danny Sullivan pits his car as
Derrike Cope (#02) and AJ Foyt
go by on-track.
32. Jimmy Hensley (55 Bondo): Jimmy ran a long, varied Cup career, though he saw more success in the Busch and Truck Series.  Jimmy currently works in the fire-suppression industry, and is the Western Director of the North Carolina Society of Fire Rescue Instructors.

33. Danny Sullivan (99 Corporate Car): Danny is best-remembered for his famed "Spin and Win" in the 1985 Indy 500.  His Nascar run came near the end of his career (and wound up being his only Cup start), and he has since gone on to work in driver development and the aviation industry.

34. Jeff Purvis (51 Country Time): Jeff Purvis was a southern dirt-track ace who saw his best Nascar runs in the Busch Series.  He was forced into retirement in 2002 after a massive head injury at Nazareth Speedway.  He has since returned on a local-level, and has helped developed "crate" engines for dirt track series.

35. Mark Martin (6 Valvoline): Though in the midst of his successful run with Roush Racing, Mark had a disappointing day at Indy, finishing 60 laps down.  Mark went on to race for a number of other teams, retiring from active competition last season.

TOMORROW--Part 3