Ask Donald Davidson: Indy 500 vets at the first Brickyard 400 and brick-kissing

Published On July 15, 2015 » 2331 Views» By Donald Davidson » Ask Donald Davidson, Blogs, Brickyard 400, Cup Series, IMS, IMS History, Indy 500

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How many Indianapolis 500 veterans drove in the first Brickyard 400, and who were they? – Gary L., Indianapolis

Well, it ended up there weren’t as many as we thought there were going to be, with the rumor mill having gone positively berserk during the weeks and months leading up to the 1994 inaugural. We recall Lyn St. James, Willy T. Ribbs, Raul Boesel and Arie Luyendyk all being mentioned as possibilities, along with numerous others, none of which panned out. Scott Brayton planned a shot with a John Menard entry and actually took part in an early summer test, but spun and hit the Turn 1 wall and never returned.

Was that A.J. Foyt in a stock car at Indy? You bet. He wasn't about to miss the inaugural Brickyard 400.

Was that A.J. Foyt in a stock car at Indy? You bet. He wasn’t about to miss the inaugural Brickyard 400.

When the much-anticipated entry list was finally released, it contained no less than 89 aspirants hoping to claim one of the 43 starting positions, but somewhat surprisingly only seven entrants nominated a driver with at least one Indianapolis 500 start. Of the seven, a mere four made the final cut, and we would respectfully suggest that only the most hardened of trivia buffs would be able to successfully identify all four. The three who did NOT make it were Davy Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Stan Fox, while the four who DID were A.J. Foyt, John Andretti, Geoff Brabham and Danny Sullivan.

What?

Really?

Geoff Brabham and Danny Sullivan?

Indeed, and their inclusion was quite remarkable to say the least when considering that non-qualifiers included such NASCAR regulars as Joe Ruttman, Dick Trickle, Randy LaJoie, Jim Sauter, Mike Wallace and Robert Pressley. And who would ever have guessed that the fastest of the four “500” drivers would have been Brabham? But, indeed, the Australian, driving for the then brand new Kranefuss-Haas team, ranked 18th, while Sullivan wasn’t too far behind in 26th.

The highest finisher in the race was John Andretti who placed 28th, two laps down, while Foyt in 30th and Sullivan in 33rd were both running at the end. Brabham was taken out by an accident after 127 of the 160 laps and finished 38th.

We well remember all of the emotions on race morning with several of the old-school journeyman NASCAR drivers being in awe of the fact that they were finally realizing a boyhood dream by competing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when they had long since come to terms with the fact that it might not ever happen for them. Several of them approached Foyt to ask if he would pose with them for a photograph, standing on the bricks.

And what a thoughtful gesture it was at the race morning drivers’ meeting when Darrell Waltrip suggested that, in view of how difficult it had been to earn a starting position for this event, that there should be a round of applause for all of the non-regulars who had made it. We were told that the response was quite rousing and heartfelt.

Is it true that the kissing of the bricks was started by a NASCAR driver? – Several readers

Yes, absolutely true. After winning the third running of the Brickyard 400 in 1996, Dale Jarrett and crew chief Todd Parrott strolled out to the line quite unannounced and dropped to their knees to kiss the bricks together. After Ricky Rudd followed suit the following year, it soon became a much anticipated and multi-faceted, heavily organized “photo shoot,” now entailing countless combinations of driver and crew chief; driver with full crew; driver with family, and on and on and on.

The first brick-kissers: Todd Parrott and Dale Jarrett, after winning in 1996 at the Brickyard.

The first brick-kissers: Todd Parrott and Dale Jarrett, after winning in 1996 at the Brickyard.

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Donald Davidson

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Historian Donald Davidson, based at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, developed a passionate interest in the Indianapolis 500 as a teenager in England. Arriving at IMS in 1964, he delighted the racing community with his ability to recite year-by-year accounts of participants’ careers. Returning permanently in 1965, he was invited by Sid Collins to join the worldwide IMS Radio Network and was hired by Henry Banks as USAC statistician, remaining at USAC for almost 32 years. He was named Indianapolis Motor Speedway historian in 1998. Along with numerous television and radio assignments, raconteur Davidson has played host to the popular call-in radio show “The Talk of Gasoline Alley” on 1070 AM in Indianapolis during the month of May continuously since 1971. His writing credits include countless historical articles and columns, a pair of “500” annuals in 1974 and ‘75 and co-authorship with Rick Shaffer of the acclaimed “Autocourse Official History of the Indianapolis 500,” published in 2006.
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