For Immediate Release
CHASTAIN MOTORSPORTS: ANOTHER SMALL TEAM GOES ON A ROLL
INDIANAPOLIS, July 7, 1997 -- When Stephan Gregoire chased down Tony Stewart on the final two laps of the Samsonite 200 at Pikes Peak International Raceway and missed victory by only .222 of a second in the closest finish in Indy Racing League history, another small race team went to the podium. And, although Chastain Motorsports was fielding a car for the fourth time this season, it was only its second "real race." Gregoire started the Indy 200 at Walt Disney World with a car the team knew had problems, and parked it after two laps. At Indianapolis, the team was done before it started when Gregoire and his mates on the fifth row were taken out in a fourth-turn collision before the green flag. But in the second IRL race of '97, Gregoire got a best career finish of fifth at Phoenix. And at Colorado Springs, he went to the front. "All of this stuff is pretty remarkable," said Tom Chastain, the rookie car owner. "Indianapolis is the first time we had a full-time mechanic (Rusty Hurford). The help we have has been supplemental help. We have a guy (Chris Sumner) who drives in from Cincinnati to help. Darrell Soppe flew in from Phoenix. Yves Chappaz, from France, helps when he can. "When I think about what we're competing against -- million-dollar budgets -- and we were able to run with the big teams. The IRL made it possible for us to do that. The difference for us is the people, with the driver and crew -- that levels it up." After the team skipped Texas, it made a decision for the Samsonite 200. Since the Chastain entry didn't get to the starting line at Indy, it would carry its Indy sponsors -- Estridge Home Builders, Porter Paints, Moen, Nutone, Jack Elrod Co., Viking Air Tools, Sink & Edwards, Crystal Catering, TKO-Graphics, Morellis Cleaners, Fortune Technologies and Miller-Eads Co., Inc. -- on its car at Colorado Springs. "We worked very hard on getting Paul Estridge (home builder from Carmel, IN.) and Jack K. Elrod (Jack K. Elrod Co.,) to come on-board as first-time sponsors at the Indy 500," Chastain said, "and we were disappointed not to ever see the green flag. So, we carried their names at the Samsonite 200 as 'pay back.' We felt we needed to give something back. The car we'll be bringing to Charlotte will be pretty bare. We're back to where we started from prior to Indy." Gregoire started the Samsonite 200 in 11th place, and took the lead from Arie Luyendyk on Lap 91 and held it for five laps. Next to finishing second, perhaps, it was the young team's proudest moment. Mike Smith, a veteran crewman who was in Colorado Springs to visit his mother and offered his help to the Chastain team, was operating the signal board for Gregoire on the back straightaway. When Gregoire took the lead, Smith put "P1" on the board and hoisted it high. "It's the first time a car I was working on ever took the lead," Smith said. "He (Gregoire) called in and asked if that meant to pit ( in one lap). "I called back on the radio that, no, it didn't mean that, it means you're in the lead and it's staying up where everyone can see it until somebody passes you. "I've waited 10 years for the chance to do that." ...97 IRL-24..