Countdown To The 20th Running: The 1999 Brickyard 400
Date: August 7, 1999
Location: Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Race Winner: Dale Jarrett
Pole Winner: Jeff Gordon
When NASCAR rolled into Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 20th race of the 1999 season, Dale Jarrett already had a firm grasp on the points lead with a 254-point advantage over second-place driver Mark Martin. Jarrett, who had already won three times earlier in the season, used the momentum he had earned from his biggest win of the year in the Brickyard 400 to capture his only NASCAR premier series title by 201 points over Bobby Labonte.
The 1996 Brickyard 400 marked the sixth running of the Brickyard race and gave NASCAR drivers another chance to take home the PPG Winner’s Trophy.
The starting row of Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin lead the thundering field into turn one at the opening green flag. Gordon immediately established himself as the man to beat by leading 24 of the first 26 laps. But while Gordon cruised, Dale Jarrett began moving toward the front. Dale Jarrett closed the gap on two-time Indy winner Jeff Gordon in early race action. Jarrett passed Gordon on lap 27 and led the event on six separate occasions, including the final 42 laps. Ultimately, he would lead 116 of the 160 laps – a new Brickyard 400 record.
After running out of fuel in last year’s event, Jarrett and crew chief Todd Parrott had done extensive testing on the fuel system during sessions at the track in preparation for this year’s race. A fuel-pressure gauge and warning light was installed on Jarrett’s car so the previous year’s miscue would not be repeated. In the end, none of it was needed. Dave Marcis lost an engine in the warning laps, bringing out the final yellow, and when the cars headed for pit road, Jarrett made the call for only right-side tires. He came out of the pits first, and when the green dropped with 13 laps to go, the points leader put the spurs to the Taurus. Behind him, the battle raged between Ward and Jeff Burton and Mark Martin, allowing Jarrett to power away from the field for a 3.3 second victory.
"It was hard work," said Jarrett. "The car was really good. But, after last year, you’re out there and you wonder what’s going to happen now. Todd Parrott had already told me that we were good on fuel. Then the caution came out and I said, ‘Here we go again.’ We agreed to come in and take two tires. We had no idea what it would do to the car. But really, it was the best it was all day."
"After last year, we shed a lot of tears. We couldn’t even joke about running out of gas for six months." Bobby Labonte and Gordon fought their way past the Burtons and Martin to claim second and third places, with Martin fourth, and Jeff beating older brother Ward for fifth place.
The victory gave Jarrett a pair of PPG Winner’s Trophies, and was a just reward for the fuel problem that cost him a chance for victory last year. More importantly, his fourth win of the season bolstered his point lead over Martin.
Stories and excerpts used from The Official NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Yearbooks are used with permission of Round 5 Books and UMI Publications.