IndyCar AUSTRALIA NOTEBOOK
Walker Racing driver Scott Goodyear, who fractured a vertebra in his mid-back during the March 16 practice session for the Rio 400 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, returned home to Indianapolis on March 19 via a Federal Express cargo plane that transports the IndyCar teams' race cars and equipment.
Goodyear, who was being treated with a specially-made brace, opted to travel by cargo instead of passenger plane to allow him room to lie down and travel in better comfort.
"I can't thank the Federal Express people enough for allowing me to travel on the cargo plane," Goodyear said. "I really wanted to come home. I guess you could say that they shipped me 'priority' because I got here overnight before 10:30 a.m."
Goodyear's Valvoline DuraBlend Special Reynard Ford was shipped to Reynard Racing Cars in England for repairs and Walker Racing will not run a second entry with Robby Gordon at IndyCar Australia. Owner Derrick Walker assured Goodyear that his ride will be awaiting him when he is fit to return. Walker, however, may consider a replacement for Goodyear for the races he will be unavailable to compete in.
"I talked with Scott and told him that his car will be ready whenever he is. The sponsors on his car are his, so I have no intentions of running that car with someone else with his sponsors," Walker said. "… I would consider putting someone else in the car until Scott gets back if it was a competent driver who had sponsorship of his own to help maintain our franchise."
* MORE FedEX FREIGHT
IndyCar's teams and officials begin in Indianapolis this weekend the annual trip to Australia. The loading process begins Friday, March 22, when two Federal Express 747 airplanes will split 440,000 pounds of cargo and race cars. All told, 47 PPG Indy Car World Series race cars will make the trip along with all the necessary tools, support equipment and spare parts. The planes leave Saturday, March 23, for a trip that could take up to 30 hours. Along the way, fuel stops will be made in San Francisco, Hawaii and the Fiji islands before reaching the final destination in Brisbane. Together, the planes will burn over 82,000 gallons of fuel enroute to Australia.
* WINNING ISN'T EVERYTHING
Patrick Racing's Scott Pruett is gaining a knack for attaining the early-season PPG Cup points lead without the benefit of winning a race. Last season, Pruett used four top-10 finishes, including two podium showings, to move atop the PPG Cup standings after the fourth race of the season at Long Beach. He cut his time to the top in half this season, moving into first after top-four performances in Miami and Rio. Pruett guided his Patrick Racing Firestone Lola Ford to a fourth-place finish in Miami and following with a third in Rio. He holds a one-point edge (26 - 25) over Target/Chip Ganassi Racing's Jimmy Vasser, who won at Miami. "I think a lot of people who, in recent years, had thought of Scott Pruett and maybe had not thought of a guy that runs up at the front consistently now feel that way," said Pruett, who earned his first IndyCar victory at the Marlboro 500 last July. "For me personally, I am just going out there doing what I love to do. I feel very fortunate that I am getting paid to do what I actually have always dreamed of doing, and even if it all was to end tomorrow and I lost my ride or whatever the case may be, it has all been worthwhile. Whether they remember Scott Pruett or whether they do not, I really feel very fortunate and lucky to be able to do what I have done."
* OUT BY A FOOT
Rookie Mark Blundell will miss the IndyCar because of a fractured right foot he sustained during an accident March 17 at the Rio 400. Blundell returned to hims home in Hertfordshire, England from Brazil and has the injury protected by a cast. Blundell, who races for the PacWest Racing Group, was injured when his car crashed into the wall after he had completed 10 laps of the event.
* OUT OF GAS
The Valvoline Company will no longer be the official motor oil sponsor or provide fuel service at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, company president James J. O'Brien announced on March 15. Valvoline first came to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1963 and four years later took over the operation of the IMS fuel service facility. "It is most unfortunate that our 29-year marketing and service relationship with the Speedway has to end," O'Brien said. "But we just could not reach an agreement this year." The company will continue to sponsor Indy-style racing teams and drivers, in addition to using Indy-style racing to help promote and test its well-known products. The Valvoline Company is the signature sponsor for the Derrick Walker Racing tandem of Robby Gordon and Scott Goodyear. "Regretfully, business relationships come and go," said Steve Kirchner, Valvoline's vice president of marketing. "That's why Valvoline has always put the racing fan at the top of our priority list -- and that will never change. We will continue to heavily support one of America's most popular sports -- automobile racing."
* SIR JACK ON TRACK
Of the race cars being flown to Australia in a pair of 747 planes, all but one is set for action in the PPG Indy Car World Series Australian IndyCar event. The other is Sir Jack Brabham's famous Cooper Climax T54 which he drove 35 years ago in the 1961 Indianapolis 500, largely credited as the first step in the rear engine revolution in Indy Car racing. Sir Jack, one of Australia's premier Formula One Champions and the patriarch of auto racing's Brabham family that includes sons Geoff, Gary and David, will take the car on several ceremonial laps throughout the weekend. He will also serve as the events Grand Marshall.
* FACTORY DIRECT
Lola, the England-based chassis manufacturer, has announced that it will supply racing cars and parts directly to its customer teams in the United States beginning Nov. 1. Carl A. Haas Automobile Imports, Inc. had served as Lola's distributor in this capacity, but that agreement will come to an end on Oct. 31. In the meantime, Haas Auto will continue to supply trackside service for Lola Indy and Indy Lights teams at all races as well as distribute Lola cars and parts from its Lincolnshire, Ill. Base. Orders for 1997 model cars, however, will be handled directly by Lola. "After our long relationship, it has been a difficult decision, but the racing car business has changed dramatically over the last few years and a different approach has become essential," said Eric Broadley, chairman of Lola Cars. "Teams no longer just buy cars and parts, they demand a complete integrated package, including engineering and development backup, and that can only be effectively provided by the manufacturer directly."
* SWAN SONG
Dennis Swan, IndyCar's vice president of logistics and chief steward designate, conducted oval track qualifying at the recent Rio 400 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, marking only the second time in the series' 16-year history that an official other than Wally Dallenbach has run the session. The first one was the season opener at Homestead, where Dallenbach passed the reigns to Swan. Dallenbach, IndyCar's director of competition and chief steward, used the races as an opportunity of transition for Swan, who will take over the retiring Dallenbach's duties in 1997.
* WHO'S NEXT?
IndyCar credential registration for IndyCar Australia will be held at the Ocean Blue Resort, 122 Ferny Ave., Surfers Paradise from March 28 - 31. The office will open Thursday, March 28 from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m., and from 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. on Friday, March 29, and Friday, March 30. Registration also will be available from 8 - 10 a.m. on the day of the race.