Teams look for victory at the Brickyard 400

Winston Cup and IROC action heats up the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Friday, Aug. 2 through Sunday, Aug. 4. General admission for practice and qualifying is $10 Friday, $25 on Saturday - or $35 for a two-day pass. Kids 5 and under are free. Call (317) 492-6700 for tickets. Reserved seats for Sunday"s race are sold out, and no general admission is available.

Here"s a brief primer to bring you up to NASCAR speed as the good ol" boys roar into town for the ninth annual Brickyard 400.

Who"s hot

Sterling Marlin: A slump hasn"t taken away Sterling"s points lead since the second race. He"s also a competent mechanic when the cars are red flagged on the track. Wouldn"t a NASCAR championship trophy look nice wedged between four CART trophies on Chip"s mantle?

Mark Martin: Mr. Consistency is a frequent podium finisher - is it the Viagra that"s "raising him up" in the points standings?

Rusty Wallace: Aerodynamics may be "spoiling" his season, but he"s taking aggressive lessons from teammate Ryan Newman to learn a new way of manhandling a car around on harder tires. No win yet - maybe if they ran on the road course ...

Ryan Newman: The pride of Purdue is holding his own, and keeping The Captain happy.

Roush Racing: Rebounded from a disastrous 2001 season to win five races and put three drivers in the top 10 of the standings. More horsepower, better-handling cars, faster pit stops Ö and a miracle for team owner Jack Roush after April"s plane crash.

Kyle Petty: New team manager Robin Pemberton is building focus within the team. Petty"s focus is a newfound aggression fueled by the search for a new sponsor. Can you hear me now?

Matt Kenseth: A sentimental Michigan win for recuperating team owner Jack Roush was his third of the season.

Who"s not

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: No win for the legacy bearer since Talladega. Rumors of negotiations with Ganassi - maybe just the change Little E needs.

Bobby Labonte: Does his battery need re-charging?

John Andretti: Still pissed off that this is his first trip to Indy this year.

Kevin Harvick: A disappointing winless season following two rookie wins, when he took over the Intimidator"s seat. Some say he lost his nuts after being parked because of a Craftsman Truck tangle - that after probation for an altercation in a March Busch race.

Ward Burton: In freefall since the season-opening surprise win at Daytona.

Steve Park: Hand-picked by Earnhardt, Park missed 12 races last year and four this year while recovering from head injuries sustained in a Busch race last September.

Richard Childress Racing: Best of three entries sits 23rd in the points.

NASCAR"s inconsistent rules: Red flags stopped the action at Daytona once, but Mikey got a yellow - and another controversial Daytona victory.

Mrs. Brett Bodine: Watch out for utility poles that jump out in front of you!

NASCAR crew chiefs: Unapproved jacking bolts, under pans, magnetic rear axle heating pads, mounting bolts for the front of the truck trailing arms - which one of these is not the same? Hint: One is worth more than a $500 fine.

MBV/MB2 Motorsports: Ken Schrader hasn"t won in 11 years; teammate Johnny Benson hasn"t won at all. Don"t expect that to change anytime soon.

Shawna Robinson: Wham, B.A.M., no sponsor, ma"am.

Warming up

Michael Waltrip: Hotter with a restrictor plate, DW"s little brother was finally able to celebrate a Daytona win. Memo to DEI: Mikey"s a keeper!

Jeff Gordon: For any other driver, fifth in points would be a good season. But NASCAR"s glamour boy hasn"t got a win in the books this year - or a pretty wife to console him, or even a million-dollar beach house to call home. Nobody"s saying, "You missed a spot," now.

Dale Jarrett: Pocono and Michigan - he"s good on the big tracks. Can the UPS driver deliver at Indy?

Bill Elliott: Former Gordon crew-chief-turned-team-owner Ray Evernham is working his magic on a rejuvenated Elliott.

Bill France: A year after beating cancer, he"s still THE force to be reckoned with. Mike Helton may be officially in charge, but nothing of any importance goes through the NASCAR offices without stopping at the CEO"s desk.

Cooling down

Tony Stewart: In what was proclaimed his championship year, the Indiana native got off to a bad start as the first retiree at Daytona. A hospital stay due to back injuries suffered at Darlington in March changed his Indy plans - and probably cost him a title.

Jimmie Johnson: Losing $25,000 and 25 points because of improper mounting bolts dropped the promising star in the points standing.

Ricky Rudd: Contract negotiations are an added distraction in a roller coaster season for Jarrett"s Robert Yates Racing teammate.

Court battle over autopsy photos: Earnhardt"s widow"s right to privacy is upheld, ruining any chance Bill Simpson might have had to vindicate his reputation in the court of public opinion.

See the following spread on our recommendations for watering holes you"ll want to visit during the Brickyard 400 weekend.