Countdown To The 20th Running: The 1996 Brickyard 400
Date: August 3, 1996
Pole Winner: Jeff Gordon
Race Winner: Dale Jarrett
The 1996 Brickyard 400 will forever be remembered for the "kiss" that started a lasting tradition.
Dale Jarrett, one of the best big-stage drivers in NASCAR history, had already won two Daytona 500s, including the 1996 edition. This was arguably the next brightest spotlight.
And he starred again, capping off the celebration by kissing the bricks at the start-finish line, a tradition that lives to this day.
The race was the site of new paving that had been added since the previous August, which raised the speed about five miles per hour.
As the race began, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin led the field of 40 cars under the green flag to begin the third annual Brickyard 400. But Gordon’s hopes for a second silver brick – the famous trophy awarded Brickyard 400 victors – ended when he cut a right-front tire and drilled the concrete. He limped the DuPont Chevrolet back to the pits, and his crew affected repairs, but Gordon was out of the running.
At the front of the pack now, Kyle Petty ran the point with his Coors Light Pontiac and Johnny Benson followed close behind. Petty then cut a tire and smacked the fourth-turn wall, bouncing off into the path of Sterling Marlin. Benson’s yellow Pontiac then led, with his crew working through the pit stops flawlessly with two-tire stops.
Late in the race, Benson and his team made a slight mistake during a late pit stop under caution. Benson fell back to 13th during the restart. Ernie Irvan and Jarrett had worked their way to the front when the green flag fell. Terry Labonte had his Kellogg’s Chevrolet at the point, with Ricky Rudd right behind, followed by Jarrett and Irvan. This format lasted 10 laps then Jarrett moved to the point with Irvan in hot pursuit. Irvan then passed Jarrett four laps later and the two Robert Yates Racing Fords began a brilliant duel that lasted the remainder of the race.
With six laps to go, the door finally opened when Irvan drove a little too hard into the corner. Jarrett saw his opportunity and yanked his Ford left and nailed the accelerator. Jarrett drew even with Irvan then regained control of the lead. Jarrett rolled to victory at the Brickyard 400, which was huge for Jarrett and the Yates team.
Jarrett’s win marked the first time a Ford had gone to victory lane in the three years of the Brickyard 400 race.
Stories and excerpts used from The Official NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Yearbooks are used with permission of Round 5 Books and UMI Publications.