IRL: Guerrero happy to return to driver's seat in Kentucky

SPARTA, Ky., Friday, Aug. 25, 2000 -- Roberto Guerrero, who twice finished second in the Indianapolis 500, peered intently at his car Friday morning as mechanics worked feverishly to get it ready to practice for The Belterra Resort Indy...

SPARTA, Ky., Friday, Aug. 25, 2000 -- Roberto Guerrero, who twice finished second in the Indianapolis 500, peered intently at his car Friday morning as mechanics worked feverishly to get it ready to practice for The Belterra Resort Indy 300 at the new Kentucky Speedway. Other teams already had their cars out on the wide racing surface searching for speed. Guerrero hoped his car would be ready for the next session. It was typical of the way his career has gone in recent years. It appeared the Indy-car career of this affable, naturalized American citizen from Colombia had taken its final ironic twist at Indianapolis in May. He was driving for legendary four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt, but the car lost speed during his qualifying run and Foyt waved off the attempt. Guerrero didn’t have a ride through June and July. In fact, his last Indy Racing Northern Light Series start was at Indy in 1999. Car owner Price Cobb shut down his Colorado operation after that race, and Guerrero has missed the last 14 Indy Racing races. Only his association with a NASCAR Busch Series operation has kept him semi-active. But all of this changed when Corey Coulson, a new Northern Light Series car owner from Minnesota, called Guerrero. Coulson asked if Guerrero was interested in driving his ’99 G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone in the final two races with the hope of getting sponsorship and putting together a competitive team in 2001. “The latest is I’m here ... in Kentucky,” Guerrero said with a laugh. “He’s hoping to do this race and Texas. Obviously, we all have hopes he is going to get some money and then maybe put a full season together for the next year. That’s obviously a long ways away, but at least I’m here, and we’ ll give it a shot. “They had the car at Indianapolis. He wanted me to drive it at Indianapolis. I told him at Indy with a ’99 car you were kind of wasting your time. But we built a relationship. Then he contacted me when he decided to do these last two races, and I said I felt we could. “It’s a different story. You’re going to be in the race, so you don’t really have to worry about qualifying. Hopefully running a smooth, consistent race and trying to finish, it really would be the goal.” Guerrero has no hard feelings about what happened at Indy. He said the outcome was extremely disappointing, but adds that he went there without a ride and said his opportunity with Foyt looked for a while like it had come down from heaven. The cars, Guerrero added, were always great, and it was found later after his aborted run that the sluggish speed of the car had nothing to do with his driving. “It was a problem with the battery, and that’s what kept the speeds down,” he said. “So it ended going from being the best opportunity I would have to being pretty bad. But there’s no point crying about it. You put your head down and keep trying. So we’ll just keep trying and see what happens.” Guerrero first came to the Indianapolis 500 in 1984 and finished second to share rookie of the year honors with Michael Andretti. Guerrero followed that with a third in 1985, a fourth in 1986 and then he placed second again in 1987, a stall in the pits on his final stop costing him the victory. His star was on the rise, especially after he won races at Phoenix and Mid-Ohio that year. Then came a testing accident in the fall of 1987 that turned his career topsy-turvy. He had highs of a second at Phoenix in his racing return six months after the accident, a record-setting pole run of 232.482 mph at Indianapolis in 1992 and became the first driver to lead a Northern Light Series race with an Infiniti-powered car at Texas in 1998. But unfortunately he couldn’t land a ride with a top-budget team. So he continued to search for better opportunities. “I’ve been through pretty much everything, so there is very little new stuff for me,” Guerrero said. “Everything has already happened. You’ve just got to take it in stride. “I still enjoy very much driving these cars. We’ll see what happens.” Guerrero, who’ll be 42 on Nov. 16, admits that he has thought about retiring, but then says to himself, “Why?” “I still think I can do as good a job as anybody out there,” he said. “I’m in better shape physically now than I was when I was 20 years old. So I say, ‘Why?’ I don’t know.” Guerrero continues his involvement with the Busch Series team, which has hired top mechanic Ward West as chief mechanic. West is assembling the team. The plan is to test and prepare to race in the season finale at the Homestead-Miami track. Guerrero will drive there and at the other high-speed tracks next season while his brother Jaime works toward getting cleared to drive in NASCAR high-banked events. If both the Indy Racing and Busch arrangements work out, Roberto could be a busy driver in 2001. “I’m just keeping all my options open,” he said. “It would be very nice to have to make that choice between an IRL team and a Busch team. “It would be a very tough decision. I think I would have to weigh both teams and what the possibilities would be, but I still have a very soft spot for the Indy cars. “I feel if I had a decent opportunity to do Indy cars, I think I would go that way.”

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Roberto Guerrero , Price Cobb , A.J. Foyt