The roar of NASCAR Winston Cup stock cars echoed through the hallowed grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on June 22-23, 1992, as nine teams tested Goodyear tires at the legendary 2.5-mile track.
Ironically, the first day of the test session dawned with the coldest temperature ever recorded on June 22 in the Circle City.
“Everybody always said it’d be a cold day in hell when we raced at Indianapolis,” Kyle Petty joked.
Speedway officials opened the spectator gates at 9 a.m., and by 10:40 every available parking spot had been filled. The crowd was estimated between 25,000 and 30,000, but IMS personnel were forced to turn away nearly 35,000 additional fans because there was no place to put their cars.
The nine drivers participating in the tire test were Rusty Wallace, Dale Earnhardt, Ernie Irvan, Ricky Rudd, Mark Martin, Bill Elliott, Darrell Waltrip and Petty. The cars pulled off of pit road in numerical order at exactly 11 a.m. with No. 2 Wallace being the first on the track.
Although nothing official was said by either speedway or NASCAR personnel about the possibility of a future stock-car race, the mood was optimistic, and in some cases, near euphoric.
“I never dreamed I’d race at Indy, and now it just might happen,” said Martin.
“I’m not sure what they’re doing here,” Earnhardt said. “I know we’re testing tires, and the only reason I’ve ever tested tires is because they’re going to race somewhere. You don’t test a tire here to run at Charlotte, so I imagine we’re testing tires here to run here in the future.”
At the conclusion of day two, the nine drivers thrilled the estimated 40,000 spectators with nine laps of “drafting practice.”
“Mainly it was just a big practice deal to see if we could fit all those cars on the track,” Rudd told reporters.
Elliott, driving the No. 11 Ford, recorded the fastest speed both days and his lap at 168-plus was 63 mph slower than Roberto Guerrero’s record pole speed for the Indianapolis 500.
Contrary to popular belief, the test was not the first time NASCAR stock cars had circled the Indy track. Early in 1962, six drivers – Junior Johnson, “Fireball” Roberts, Marvin Panch, Paul Goldsmith, Rodger Ward and Len Sutton – alternately drove Pontiacs during a 24-hour endurance run.
Johnson said the event was staged by Pontiac to promote to its new police cruiser, but the cars were prepared to NASCAR specifications by Nichels Engineering and averaged approximately 162 mph.