IRL: Indianapolis 500 Notebook 2004-01-20

Indianapolis 500 Notebook Rahal plans second entry for Yasukawa; U.S. Olympic gold medalist to visit Indy INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2004 -- Team Rahal plans to field an entry for the 88th Indianapolis 500 for Roger Yasukawa, who ...

Indianapolis 500 Notebook
Rahal plans second entry for Yasukawa; U.S. Olympic gold medalist to visit Indy

INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2004 -- Team Rahal plans to field an entry for the 88th Indianapolis 500 for Roger Yasukawa, who finished 10th as a rookie in the race in 2003.

Yasukawa, from West Hollywood, Calif., will join fellow American Buddy Rice in Rahal entries at Indianapolis and the preceding Indy Racing League(R) IndyCar(R) Series race, the Indy Japan 300 on April 20 at Motegi, Japan. Rice is replacing 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner Kenny Brack, recovering from injuries suffered in a crash in October 2003 at Texas, as Team Rahal's full-time driver.

The 88th Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 30 and will be broadcast live on ABC and the IMS Radio Network.

Yasukawa, 26, finished 12th in the 2003 IndyCar Series point standings with Super Aguri Fernandez Racing in his first full season. He will drive a Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone package at Indianapolis and Motegi for the team co-owned by 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, with sponsorship to be announced later.

"I am thrilled to be able to join Team Rahal," Yasukawa said. "Last year was a learning year for me. Now this year I must challenge to win races. Team Rahal and Honda will have a strong package for me.

"I was very impressed with the team after my first visit last week. Obviously, Team Rahal has a first-class operation, and I am hoping to learn a lot from Bobby's experience as a former Indy 500 winner. I am looking forward to working with Buddy as a teammate."

Said Rahal: "Adding Roger to our lineup for Motegi and Indy is a tremendous asset for Team Rahal. Roger showed plenty of potential last year in his rookie season in the IRL and his working with Buddy and Kenny will help him and our team overall for two of the most important races for us this year.

"Roger brings a strong professionalism and enthusiasm to our organization."

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Buhl to welcome Olympic gold medalist to Indy: Indianapolis 500 veteran Robbie Buhl will welcome Olympic wrestling gold medalist Rulon Gardner to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday, Jan. 23.

Gardner, from Afton, Wyo., won the gold medal in Greco Roman wrestling in the 2000 Summer Olympic Games at Sydney, Australia. He won the James E. Sullivan Award as the top U.S. amateur athlete in 2001 after capturing the gold medal at the World Wrestling Championship that year.

Gardner, 32, also survived being stranded in the frozen Wyoming wilderness for more than 18 hours after a snowmobile accident in 2002. He now is training to defend his title in the 2004 Summer Olympics at Athens.

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Gregoire keeps eye on Indy: Indianapolis 500 veteran Stephan Gregoire may have a strong, full-time ride in sports cars this season, but he still has his eyes on the month of May at Indianapolis.

Gregoire recently signed with the Spirit of Daytona team to drive a Chevrolet Crawford in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series, which starts with the Rolex 24 at Daytona on Jan. 29-Feb. 2. But he would like to make his seventh start in the Indianapolis 500, too.

"I'm always hoping to do it again," Gregoire said. "I feel I never accomplished my goal."

Gregoire, 34, could drive in two of the most prestigious races in the world in a span of less than three weeks if he races May 30 at Indianapolis. He's also scheduled to drive in the Le Mans 24 Hours on June 12-13 in his native France.

This will be Gregoire's second start at Le Mans. He finished seventh overall last June in a Courage-Judd with teammates Jonathan Cochet and Jean Marc Gounon.

Gregoire made his Indianapolis 500 debut in 1993, leading a lap. His best finish was eighth in 2000 while driving for Dick Simon Racing. Gregoire's last Indy start came in 2001, with Heritage Motorsports.

"I would like to be back with a good ride," Gregoire said. "It takes a good sponsor. Greg Beck is somebody I would like to come with. He was my first owner."

Gregoire won't need to travel far to get to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He lives with his wife, Virginie, and their two young children in central Indiana.

"I like it a lot here," he said. "I've been here full time since 1996. We have lots of friends here. There is no reason to go back to France."

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Castroneves, Herta head to hardwood: Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and Indy veteran Bryan Herta will appear at the Indiana Pacers' NBA game against the Detroit Pistons on Jan. 20 at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Castroneves and Herta will meet Pacers star Jermaine O'Neal during before the game. Castroneves and Herta also will be honorary captains of the game and will be involved in on-court promotional activities during the game.

Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy will be the guest of Castroneves and Herta at the game.

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Quick laps: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Historian Donald Davidson will be inducted into the Hoosier Auto Racing Fans Hall of Fame during the group's annual banquet Jan. 25. Motorsports safety pioneer Bill Simpson also will be inducted -- A CD of music by Jim Nabors, known worldwide for singing "Back Home Again in Indiana" during Indianapolis 500 pre-race ceremonies, was released Jan. 20. "More Songs of Inspiration" is on Sony's Legacy label.

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Tickets: Tickets are available for the 2004 Indianapolis 500 on May 30. For information, log on to www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com, or call the IMS ticket office at (800) 822-INDY or (317) 492-6700.

-ims-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jonathan Cochet , Robbie Buhl , Stephan Gregoire , Helio Castroneves , Bobby Rahal , Bryan Herta , Roger Yasukawa , Dick Simon , Jean Marc Gounon