GOODYEAR LEADS TALENTED CAST OF VETERANS INTO ORLANDO LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Jan. 20, 1999 -- The Pep Boys Indy Racing League kicks off the final racing season of the 1900s this weekend, and it's easy to see that there has been a changing of...
GOODYEAR LEADS TALENTED CAST OF VETERANS INTO ORLANDO
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Jan. 20, 1999 -- The Pep Boys Indy Racing League kicks off the final racing season of the 1900s this weekend, and it's easy to see that there has been a changing of the guard in the major league open-wheel ranks. With Arie Luyendyk driving only in the Indy 500 this May before retiring, just eight Pep Boys Indy Racing League drivers entered in the TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway on Jan. 24. competed in either a Formula One or Indy-style race prior to 1990. Eddie Cheever Jr., defending Indy 500 champion, heads the list of pre-1990 drivers. In fact, his first start in a major league open-wheel race goes back the F1 South African Grand Prix in 1978 when he was barely 20 years old. Others who drove at least one race in the 1980s are Eliseo Salazar, Roberto Guerrero, John Paul Jr., Raul Boesel, Scott Goodyear, Mark Dismore and Scott Harrington. Goodyear, 39, who came within a whisker of winning three Indy 500s since his rookie year in 1990, jokes about becoming one of the grizzled veterans of the Indy Racing League. "I'm not that old," he said. "I'm glad there are a few guys who have got years on me. It seems like it's been a long time, but I only came to the Speedway in 1990 as a rookie. "I think the key thing is I'm no longer the young guy coming into the series. To be somewhere in the middle of all the guys out there gives you a nice balance of having experience and still having eagerness to be out there to be one of the quickest guys. I think that's very important." In the early January test session at Walt Disney World Speedway, Goodyear recorded the top speed of 169.819 mph in the Pennzoil Panther G Force/Aurora/Goodyear despite fighting off pneumonia. "A lot of people ask me how long am I going to drive for," he said. "I think I'll go 'til I'm 45, which seems to be the number that seems to be cropping around right now with guys like Arie and (Bobby) Rahal all sort of stopping. It's a case where I've got quite a few more years to fulfill my goal, which is to win the Indianapolis 500." Goodyear chased Al Unser Jr. across the finish line at Indy by a half-car length in 1992 and got another second in 1997 when he followed Luyendyk to the checkered flag by .570 of a second. In 1995 he actually was first to the flag, but was penalized to 14th for passing the Pace Car on a restart. He has taken the green flag in 114 Indy-style races. He's excited about starting the new season, because he feels this could be his year. The only major addition to the team is engineer Andy Brown. "We know we're fast, we know we're capable," he said. "I think we're smart about how we run our races, it's just a case of making sure we're standing in the center of the podium. That's what we're trying to do." Cheever, 41, ended years of frustration by winning the rain-shortened Walt Disney World race in 1997 and then charged to a glorious victory last May at Indy. Sunday's race will be his 233rd career start in either an F1 (132 career starts) or Indy-style car (100). He starts his second season as driver/owner of the Rachel's Gourmet Potato Chips/Children's Beverage Group Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. Salazar, 43, made his Formula One debut in 1981. The Chilean drove in 24 European events over the years before coming to Indy-style racing in 1995. He's appeared in 33 races and joins the Nienhouse team this year driving a Dallara/Aurora/Firestone after missing the second half of the 1998 season following a crash at Dover, Del.
Guerrero, 40, drove in 21 F1 races starting with the 1982 season. In 1984, he finished second at Indy and shared the Bank One Rookie of the Year award with Michael Andretti. He has 140 Indy-style starts and showed a lot of speed and moxie last season when he stepped into the CBR-Cobb G Force/Infiniti/Firestone, leading 22 laps at the Lone Star 500 in Texas. He returns with the team and Firestone tires this time around. Paul, 38, shocked everyone in 1983 when as a rookie he outran the field in the Michigan 500 in only his third Indy-style start. It took him 15 years -- until last year's second Texas race -- for him to duplicate the feat. He has 50 Indy-style starts and will again drive for Indianapolis cafeteria owner Jonathan Byrd in the VisionAire G Force/Aurora/Firestone. Brazilian Boesel, 41, drove in 23 F1 races starting in 1983. He joined the Indy-style ranks in 1986 and his 170 races in that type car are most by any Indy Racing League driver. He is teamed again with car owners Dennis and Felicia McCormack and sponsor TransWorld Diversified Services in a G Force/Aurora/Firestone. Dismore, 42, is the final driver to get his first start prior to 1990. His came in 1989. A crash in 1991 at Indy during practice put his career on hold, but he has bounced back in the Indy Racing League and now looks forward to his 25th Indy-style race. He'll be back at the wheel of the Tom Kelley-owned MCI World Com Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. Harrington, 35, made his only CART start at Elkhart Lake, Wis., in 1989. He is classified is a Pep Boys Indy Racing League rookie this season because he has only two league starts, the 1996 Indy 500 and as an injury substitution for Salazar at the 1998 Pep Boys 400K at Dover, Del. Harrington will drive the full season in Dallara/Aurora/Firestone owned by his father, Gene Harrington.