Indy Racing League News and Notes -- Jan. 27, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. Stewart Earns Hall of Fame Honors 2. Hornish Helps With Tsunami Relief 1. Stewart Earns Hall of Fame Honors: Brian Stewart has lived and breathed racing for the last...
Indy Racing League News and Notes -- Jan. 27, 2005
Today's IRL headlines
1. Stewart Earns Hall of Fame Honors
2. Hornish Helps With Tsunami Relief
1. Stewart Earns Hall of Fame Honors: Brian Stewart has lived and breathed racing for the last 40 years, winning championships as a driver and as a team owner. His passion and success in motorsports will culminate in his induction into the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame on Jan. 29. The Indy Racing League Menards Infiniti Pro Series team owner will be recognized with 12 others at the Mississauga Convention Centre in Toronto.
"If you take the names out of Canada, the Villeneuves, the Carpentiers, the Tracys, Brian Stewart is probably one of the best-known Canadian personalities in motorsports," said Roger Bailey, executive director of the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, who has known Stewart for more than 20 years. "And he's certainly one of the best ambassadors Canadian motorsports has ever had."
Stewart's story has humble beginnings. Born in Port Glasgow, Scotland during World War II, Stewart's family immigrated to Canada in 1948 to seek opportunities away from an area that had been devastated by the war. Stewart soon fell in love with cars.
"I liked cars, liked to get my hands dirty working as a mechanic," Stewart said. "I was a mechanic on foreign cars, in particular German foreign cars, and a guy that was a good customer and eventually became a good friend, he bought a Formula Vee. He said, 'Would you like to come out and work on it?', and I did.
"It turned out that I could drive it faster than he could. I had no racing history. I just played hockey. I could drive it faster than he could, and the guy just walked away on the deal, just walked away from the car and said this is your sport. Once you start winning in racing, it's hard to walk away."
Winning is something Stewart did a lot of.
"I was on the pace the whole time that I raced. There was never a race where I would be mid pack or last or anything like that. The only time I wasn't on the podium was if I crashed the car, which I did sometimes. For me, it was just a mental thing. I used to say, 'If I've got the same engine and the same tires as all these other people, how could they possibly beat me?' That's the way I looked at it. Formula Ford was like that, Formula Vee was like that. Everything I ever did was what I would call a spec series. Same tires as everyone else. Same motor as everyone else. The rest of it is just putting the car together. The driver has to drive the car."
He started in Formula Vee, winning the Canadian national championship in 1969 and competing at the world championship at the Nurbergring in Germany. After that, Stewart raced Formula Ford, claiming the Canadian championship in 1972.
"I went to the Formula Ford world championships in Brands Hatch (England), and I finished 12th (out of 200). Of course if you're a race driver, you're devastated by finishing 12th. It's only years later that you realize that it wasn't too bad."
At 30 years of age, however, Stewart realized that his dream of competing in Formula One was getting out of reach. He turned his focus and 'can't be beat' attitude to the ownership-side of racing where he's continued his winning ways for more than 30 years.
"I owned some Formula Fords, owned a Super Vee, owned Vees. I went and grabbed some young guys and put them in there, made them win, insisted that they win. I did the car myself, coached them on the driving. Over the years I had this line of young guys. When you take a young guy, and you give him a good car, and he has confidence that nothing is going to fall off of it, then he's prepared to drive it to the nth degree."
Stewart campaigned drivers such as Danny Burritt, Burke Harrison, Tom Kristoff, Scott Maxwell and Marty Roth, winning championships in several Formula series.
In 1988, Stewart made the decision to enter Indy Lights, a series which his teams dominated for the next 14 years.
Stewart fielded British Formula 3 champion Tommy Byrne in 1989, winning four races. The next year, Paul Tracy drove Stewart's car to victory lane nine times.
"You do something like that, and the next year I had Parnelli Jones phone me up. It's weird as anything for a guy like me -- you're growing up and Parnelli Jones is on this pedestal, and then you're sitting across a desk from him and behind him on his wall are the Vel's/Parnelli Jones Formula 1 cars, the Vel's Indy cars, just one thing after another, and Parnelli is sitting there, and you're negotiating with him. Of course, he's a hard negotiator, as am I. Anyway, bottom line is we did a deal for P.J. (Jones), and I ran P.J.
"The next year I did Frank Freon and Bryan Herta. From then on, you just had all these drivers coming to you."
The list of drivers included Airton Dare, Cristiano da Matta, Jaques Lazier, Sergio Paese and Luis Garcia. In total, Stewart's teams won 31 races, 27 pole positions and two championships.
When Indy Lights disbanded, Stewart considered joining his long-time friend Bailey in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series. A chance encounter with Roth sealed his decision.
"I was out at Mosport, at a club race, and Marty was out there spectating, I was spectating, and he said, 'I want to get back into racing.' I said, 'Well, I'd like to go to this Pro Series with the IRL.' He said, 'Good, because I want to go to Indy.' I said, 'OK, it'll work hand-in-hand.' Marty came to my house, we did a deal, bought a car, started running it."
The two paired up for 12 races in 2002 and 2003 before Stewart "graduated" another racer. Roth formed his own team in 2004, and achieved his dream by qualifying for the Indianapolis 500.
"It's my job to get the drivers to the next level," Stewart said. "If they stay with me for one year and go to the next level, then I did my job. That's the way I look at it. I don't want to keep them forever, because if I do that, I didn't do my job."
Stewart's dedication to developing winners hasn't gone unnoticed. He'll be forever enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
2. Hornish Helps With Tsunami Relief: Two-time IRL IndyCar® Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. has done his part to aid the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami.
Hornish signed autographs at Cabin Fever, a coffee house in his hometown of Defiance, Ohio, in exchange for $5 donations to help aid tsunami victims. Cabin Fever donated all sales earned on coffee, cappuccino, and lattes sold during business hours on Jan. 24 to the effort.
"We're very impressed with Sam," said Cabin Fever owner Lisa Spyker. "We just can't believe that he was so willing to help us with our relief fundraiser. He and his family have been so wonderful to work with, we're just so happy he was committed to helping the Tsunami victims."
The IRL IndyCar Series opens its 10th season of competition with the Toyota Indy 300 at 2 p.m. (EST) on March 6, 2005 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be televised live on ESPN and the IMS Radio Network. The 2005 Menards Infiniti Pro Series season also opens on March 6 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be televised by ESPN2 at 4 p.m. (EST) on March 17.