NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stars Juan Pablo Montoya, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle, Paul Menard and Martin Truex Jr. got a head start on preparations for the 2011 Brickyard 400 by participating in a Goodyear tire test May 3-4 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 18th annual Brickyard 400 is scheduled for Sunday, July 31.
Richard Childress Racing driver Menard said drivers and teams still gained plenty of important data and experience despite a high temperature of only 60, at least 20 degrees cooler than the probable Race Day temperature in July.
"It was good," Menard said. "Goodyear is trying a bunch of different things, and we hit on a couple things that will hopefully make a great race even better come July.
"It's a nice, cool day, and we'll come back in July and it'll be really hot, so times will be a lot slower. You have to take that into account in what you do as a driver and kind of set up trends that we learn today and tomorrow that we'll apply for July, for sure."
2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Montoya returned to IMS with one goal for this year's Brickyard 400 – victory. He dominated the 2009 race, leading 116 laps before finishing 11th after a pit-road speeding penalty. He started the 2010 race from the pole and led 86 laps before finishing 32nd due to an accident while charging toward the lead with 14 laps remaining. Despite the heartbreak of the last two years, Montoya doesn't think IMS owes him a victory July 31.
"To tell you the truth, they gave me a big one at the beginning," Montoya said. "I got the '500,' and that means a lot to me. I would love to get the '400' win, but it's been like it was in Formula 1, when every time I came here in Formula 1, we were always so close to winning and it never happened. I feel like I'm a lot closer in NASCAR than I was in Formula 1, so I'm pretty pumped."
2004 Sprint Cup champion Busch also has a special reason for wanting to earn his first Brickyard 400 victory. He drives for Penske Racing, which has won the Indianapolis 500 a record 15 times but never has captured a NASCAR victory at Indy.
"It would mean the world to me," Busch said. "To bring it on the NASCAR side, we haven't done that before, and it takes a full effort. It seems like it's easy on the IndyCar side for those guys to bolt it together and pull home those wins, especially here at Indy. So we're hoping we can do that here in July, and this is great that Goodyear invited us to be part of this tire test. It helps us get that little edge on the competition."