They're dusty, dirty and smudged with rubber and oil. Yet nothing sounds more attractive to NASCAR racers than the Yard of Bricks. Red Bull Racing hopes to give 'em a smooch on Sunday.
One year ago, Scott Speed came back from NASCAR's mid-summer off-week a newly married man. This year, he and wife Amanda have returned from celebrating their one-year wedding anniversary in the Bahamas. Each time, he came back to race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Driver No. 82 has a unique history with Indy. Last season's Sprint Cup start was his first race there since 2007 when he drove in Formula One. His day took a turn for the worse when, with a possible failing tire, he pitted under green 13 laps in. He dropped from his 26th-place starting position to a lap down in 42nd, and the problem made for a long day around a long track with long straightaways. Two years earlier, Speed finished 13th in the '07 Indianapolis Grand Prix.
Speed currently ranks 24th in the driver standings, 143 points behind 23rd.
Nineteen races into the season - just past halfway - Speed's numbers continue to tell a story of improvement. Comparing the first 19 races of Speed's rookie season of 2009 and this year: Points position (+12), total points (+565), average start (+1.4), average finish (+8.7), laps led (+6), lead-lap finishes (+6), laps completed (+1,260) and running at the finish (+7).
Reed Sorenson spent his off-week in Braun Racing's No. 32 Toyota and the Nationwide Series, finishing second Saturday night at Gateway to keep his St. Louis streak going. He's finished first twice and second twice in six starts there. He'll also drive the No. 32 in the Nationwide race at O'Reilly Raceway Park.
As a 21-year-old, Sorenson won the pole for the 2007 Brickyard 400 and went on to finish fifth. He followed up with 17th in 2008 and then 13th in '09.
"It's way different than any track we run at, but it's always fun to go there and just being at that race track, in general, is something that a lot of people don't get to do," he said. "The cool thing about Indy is it's really fast and flat and it still has a lot of grip. It's very hard to race and very hard to pass, but if you have a good car it's fun to race on."
The No. 83 Red Bull Toyota ranks 24th in the car owner standings, 81 points behind 23rd. The Brickyard 400 will be Sorenson's fourth race in the No. 83. His best finish is eighth on July 3 at Daytona.
"We had a really good run at Daytona," he said. "This past weekend (at Chicagoland), as a team, we made gains throughout the weekend and struggled during the race. That's something that's part of the Sprint Cup Series. We're just trying to find a good baseline and get these cars fast like they were last year."
Sorenson's specially designed helmet, complete with Red Bull branding and the likeness of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Brickyard 400, will be up for auction after Sunday's race on eBay.
Reed will donate the money to the American Red Cross Southeast Louisiana Chapter to help aid in recovery efforts from the Gulf oil spill.
The helmet, designed by Beam Designs, will carry the signatures of Reed and Mari Hulman George, chairman of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.