Hoosier drivers headed ‘home’

Published 5:33 pm Thursday, July 26, 2007

By By SCOTT NOVAK / Niles Daily Star
NILES – He may have grown up more than two hours away from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but South Bend (Ind.) native David Stremme considers it home.
Stremme, fellow South Bend native Ryan Newman and LaPorte's Tony Raines will be making a trip home on Sunday as they compete in the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.
While Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, who also have Indiana ties, have won at the Brickyard, Stremme, Newman and Raines can only dream of what it would be like.
On Tuesday, Stremme talked about what it would mean to win at Indianapolis as part of NASCAR's weekly teleconference.
Stremme is 25th in points entering Sunday's race. There are only seven events left before NASCAR begins its Chase for the Championship.
This will be Stremme's second trip to the Brickyard as a driver. He fondly remembers his first trip.
"Well, it was pretty neat last year," he told the media from Bristol, Tenn. where drivers were doing some testing. "Everybody's always, you know, talking about going to Indianapolis and watching the 500 or watching the Brickyard. I was never able to really participate in a lot of that because I was doing a lot of local races and stuff. Any time I got to the Indianapolis area, I'd go by the track. Being right in the town, there's so much history there, it's just cool.
"But probably a neat thing for me was last year during the driver introductions, we're riding around in the vehicles, I see a lot of people that I had raced with growing up or people who watched me grow up, and it was pretty emotional. It was cool," he continued.
Stremme, who drives the No. 40 Coors Light Dodge, has been struggling since the team left Talladega. The team was 14th in the point standings, just two positions out of the Chase.
Stremme said that the team did not perform well in the Car of Tomorrow races, which put them behind the eight ball.
"The organization wasn't ready," he said. "I shouldn't say they weren't ready. They were ready, but we weren't as prepared as we should have been. It was pretty plain and simple."
Stremme added that the past five races, he has had a car that was capable of finishing much higher than it ended up placing. Some of it was mechanical and some of it was just bad luck.
"The company's really stepped up," Stremme stressed. "They got the cars working better. At Louden we had a really good car. That was one of them deals, we had an alternator go bad right at the beginning of the race, we had to change the battery late in the race which put us pretty far back in the pack and we ended up getting wrecked."
Of late, Ganassi Racing has had a string of good luck. Juan Pablo Montoya won the road race in California and his other teammate, Reed Sorenson won the Busch Series race on Saturday night.
If the team can continue their string of good luck, Stremme hopes that he can find his way to victory lane at the Brickyard.
When asked if he would like to nip Newman and Raines at the line, Stremme said he didn't care who he beat.
"It's not just beating those two guys, there's about 30 some other guys you got to beat," he said. "I mean it would just be nice to win at Indy. For me just to win, period would be awesome. I felt like we've been in good position at times and something's happened. But you know, any time you go to, again, around your home area, and like I said, I grew up about two hours from Indianapolis but it's still home."
Stremme and Newman went to school together and lived three miles apart. The two took different paths to NASCAR. Newman came up through the open-wheel ranks, while Stremme raced stock cars.
So you would think when they get together they would talk racing. Not so says Stremme.
"It was something where when we talk, I mean, we don't really talk about what's going on in our sport or our teams," he said. "We kind of talk about maybe stuff going on around home. I'm all the time telling him I wish … there's a pizza joint back home, that I could have some pizza from or just something like that."
Stremme recalled watching Raines race at the local short tracks.
"You know, like Tony Raines, he actually raced with my parents when I was a littler kid running around the track, I got to watch he race," he said. "He moved on. We have a lot of mutual friends in other divisions of racing and that. We'll talk about that."
Stremme added that it was nice that the three northern Indiana drivers have brought attention to the area.
"Auto racing in that area is strong," he said. "You can go race different tracks and it's tough. I think that's what's helped me be able to move on and get the experience I needed to compete at this level."