Winning big races is what guys such as Rusty Wallace live for. There aren't too many bigger than today's Brickyard 400.
The race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway carries a $6.1 million purse, second only in stock car racing to the Daytona 500. And in only its sixth year the event has become one of the most prestigious on the Winston Cup circuit.
"We got our 49th career win back at Bristol in April and have been trying hard to get that 50th win ever since," Wallace said. "Can you imagine how cool that would be to get the 50th victory in the Brickyard 400 at Indy? It would be a hell of a way to go down into the history books, I can tell you that."
It would put Wallace, the 1989 Winston Cup champion and one of the sport's most popular drivers, on an elite list.
The winners of the first five Brickyard races were three-time series champion Jeff Gordon (1994, 1998), seven-time series champion Dale Earnhardt (1995), current series leader Dale Jarrett (1996) and longtime favorite Ricky Rudd (1997).
Wallace understands the history of Indianapolis Motor Speedway more than most stock car drivers. The principal owner of his team, Penske Racing South, is Roger Penske, whose open-wheel team has won a record 10 Indianapolis 500s. "It would be great to win it for Roger," Wallace said. "But it's just as important to me and the rest of our team. This is the third and final super big race of the year, and you can't begin to know how much we want to win it."
Wallace lists the Daytona 500, which he has never won, and the Coca-Cola 600 near Charlotte, which he won in 1990, as the other two standout races on the Winston Cup schedule.
In last night's International Race of Champions, Mark Martin charged from 11th in the 12-man all-star lineup to win his third title. But it was not enough to boost Martin, the leader with four IROC titles, to his fourth championship in a row. He fell one point short as Earnhardt finished eighth, just high enough to add this title to those he won in 1990 and 1995.
* CART: Paul Tracy won the provisional pole for today's Grand Prix of Detroit, edging rookie sensation Juan Montoya for the prime starting spot. Tracy last started on the pole at Milwaukee in 1997.
* FORMULA ONE: Michael Schumacher needs an operation on his broken leg and has ruled out any chance he would return to racing in the next few weeks.