July 17, 2012 | By Jan Shaffer
Brickyard Pioneers: Where are They Now? Danny Sullivan
Note: This is the fifth of a series about drivers who competed in the early years of the Crown Royal Presents the “Your Hero’s Name Here” 400 at the Brickyard who no longer compete regularly in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Five Indianapolis 500 winners have participated in at least one Brickyard 400. A.J. Foyt, Jacques Villeneuve, Juan Pablo Montoya and Sam Hornish Jr. are four of them.
The fifth? Former taxi driver, Formula One driver and 1985 “spin and win” Indianapolis 500 champion Danny Sullivan, who started the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994 in a rare NASCAR appearance.
“It wasn’t great, but it was OK,” Sullivan said of his NASCAR experience at IMS. “I drove Talladega in an ARCA car and tried to qualify at Atlanta and Rockingham. We were outsiders, but I like my friends down there. I like NASCAR. They did a good job. I’m glad I did it, but it could’ve been fine if I could’ve been competitive.”
He got a last-minute assistance from an old friend to qualify for the historic race in 1994 at IMS.
“My old buddy RP (Roger Penske), I went down and borrowed some shocks from Rusty Wallace,” Sullivan said. “In practice, I couldn’t get a clean lap. When I went out and qualified, I went quicker.”
He said his qualifying run caused some head-scratching in the NASCAR tech area. But his ability to race was compromised early.
“On the opening lap, the Plexiglas on the right-side window blew out,” Sullivan said. “I wanted to go on without it, but NASCAR said to stop and fix it, so we lost some laps.”
Sullivan was running at the finish in 33rd place, eight laps down, in a Chevrolet.
There was a big difference between Indy cars and stock cars at the Brickyard.
“When you were so used to driving an Indy car and trying to go flat, it was hard to roll out of it in the corners,” Sullivan said. “The Indy car is so much faster. They’re so precise and quick. I think Darrell Waltrip said it (about stock cars), ‘When they’re good, they’re bad.’ They have about three times the weight, don’t have the same tires, don’t have as much downforce.”
Sullivan, 62, is only minimally involved in racing today and has turned his attention to aviation.
“I work for Tempus Jets and do government contracts,” Sullivan said. “We have planes in Afghanistan and other not-so-nice parts of the world. We started out with one airplane and 10 people 4 ½ years ago and right now we have 200 people and 37 aircraft. We have a lot of business with oil, gas and mining companies. Lately, I’ve been involved in discussions in Africa.”
Sullivan doesn’t spend much time at his Pebble Beach, Calif., home, but still keeps involved in racing when he can.
“I have a couple historic cars in England, and we race them,” he said. “I’m also an FIA steward at Formula One races twice a year. I’ll do Hungary and the USGP at Austin this year. We’re still trying to compete. I kind of keep my hand in.”
Super Weekend tickets: Tickets are on sale now for the Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard on July 26-29 at IMS.
All ticket orders can be made at www.imstix.com and through the IMS Ticket Office at the IMS Administration Building at the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday-Friday. For more information, call the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700, or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area.
Children 12 and under will receive free general admission when accompanied by an adult with a Kroger Super Weekend ticket or general admission ticket.
Tickets for groups of 20 or more also are on sale. Contact the IMS Group Sales Department at (866) 221-8775 for more information.