IRL: Indy 500 IMS Media Tour notebook 2005-04-05

2005 INDIANAPOLIS 500 MEDIA TOUR NOTEBOOK Gen. Powell loves performance cars; Rice still trying to absorb 2004 victory INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, April 5, 2005 -- Notes from the first day of the 2005 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour: Powell loves ...

2005 INDIANAPOLIS 500 MEDIA TOUR NOTEBOOK
Gen. Powell loves performance cars; Rice still trying to absorb 2004 victory

INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, April 5, 2005 -- Notes from the first day of the 2005 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour:

Powell loves horsepower: Rick Scheidt, executive director of Chevrolet's car and truck development, Corvette and SSR Marketing, announced April 5 that former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will drive the Chevrolet Corvette Convertible Pace Car for the 89th running of the Indianapolis 500.

"He's a car buff and enthusiast," Scheidt said of Gen. Powell. "Most recently, he took delivery of an '05 Corvette Coupe."

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Still sinking in: Buddy Rice winner of the 2004 edition of the "500," said his victory hasn't quite had its full impact yet.

"To be able to be someone who takes part is one thing," Rice said. "I think it'll be a few years before it sinks in. It's weird to think you're stuck on that (Borg-Warner) Trophy with all those great drivers. It's been an awesome year since I left here.

"First off, I had to fill in for a former points winner and '500' winner in Kenny (Brack, who was injured and out of action on the Rahal Letterman team). We had a lot of makeup to do. Right now, my focus is to get back here and win again."

A sponsor gave him "the car of his choice" after the Indy triumph, and Rice, a car collector, chose a '49 Mercury.

"It's intended to go fast and once I tune it, it'll go better," Rice said. "I better do some brakes on it though, because it has the same brakes it did in '49."

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ABC's Harris eager for May: Three members of the ABC Sports broadcast team for the 89th Indianapolis 500 were on hand for the first day of the Media Tour, and new anchor Todd Harris was chomping at the bit.

"It's sure a step up from the 'World's Strongest Man,'" Harris said of his new assignment, in the broadcast booth with Gil de Ferran and Scott Goodyear. The opportunity to work with Brent (Musburger) -- I worked college football with Keith Jackson and met Jim McKay.

"Now, to be calling the Indianapolis 500 with Brent Musburger, maybe I'm speechless for the first time."

De Ferran, who won at Indy in 2003 before retiring as a driver, is in a new role.

"It's a totally different view for me," de Ferran said. "It's enormously challenging. It's one thing to have a reasonable idea of what's going on on the racetrack and what the drivers and teams are thinking. It's another thing to say it on TV as it happens and be concise.

"Everything's new. I'm still finding it strange not being a competitor, and I find myself having competitive feelings in the broadcast booth. I'm still in love with the sport. I still get excited. I still find myself on the edge of my seat describing an overtaking maneuver."

Musburger, who will serve as host of the telecast, said: "I'm looking forward to it. There are events that kind of transcend American sports. People who don't follow racing at all follow the Indianapolis 500. I tell people to come to the Indy 500 and be sure to be there for the start. The sound when they come the last turn. It's spine-tingling.

"(My first time here) would have been the early '70s or late '60s," he added. "I was working for (W)BBM, which was the CBS station in Chicago. So they would send the local sportscaster down and we would collect interviews with Andy Granatelli, Parnelli Jones and then we would rush them back and put them up on the 6 o'clock news.

"Like probably everybody else who's ever covered this race just one time, I got thrown out of the garage by A.J. Foyt. I felt really bad at the time until I found out it was a badge of honor and you really weren't accepted around here until A.J. Foyt kicked your butt out. He and I have joked about it since then.

"A.J. Foyt reminded me of a Dick Butkus type. He was a fierce, fierce, competitor and the only thing that mattered to him was succeeding. He didn't care how, it was just, 'Gotta get it done,' and nobody was going to get in his way. And Mario Andretti became a great friend of Dick Vermeil because Vermeil was coaching the Eagles, and Andretti liked football. Dick's father had been a dirt-track racer in northern California. They became close friends, so I was around the Andrettis a lot during that time, too."

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Hemelgarn, drivers preparing: Driver Paul Dana and Hemelgarn Racing got a late start for 2005 but scrambled their way into the season and are preparing for Indy.

"We put together a deal in late January," Dana said. "Mo Nunn decided to liquidate some of his equipment, and we were fortunate to get it. I think the guys put a car together in seven days. I think we had 60 laps total, but at Homestead, we weren't up to pace but we ran all 200 laps and got a top-10 finish."

Mishael Abbott, his Menards Infiniti Pro Series teammate, had a similar experience.

"We put it on the outside of the second row at Homestead, and that opened a lot of eyes," she said. "At the test here, I put my suit on, walked out, looked down at my suit and said: 'I'm driving at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. How cool is that?'"

Lee Kunzman, the longtime Hemelgarn team manager, said Indy and readying for the next IndyCar® Series event, on April 30 at Motegi, Japan, were the reasons the team skipped the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 3.

"For Japan, the guys are gone for 10 days and the cars for two weeks," Kunzman said. "Up until last week, the guys had three days off in two months. I felt it was time to stop and take a breath and get ourselves prepared to close the gap other teams have on us. The bottom line is the Indianapolis 500."

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Indy 500 tickets: To purchase tickets, camping or parking for the 89th Indianapolis 500, contact the IMS ticket office at (800) 822-INDY or log on to www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com.

-ims-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Goodyear , Gil de Ferran , Mario Andretti , Parnelli Jones , Mishael Abbott , Buddy Rice , Paul Dana , Keith Jackson , A.J. Foyt , Mo Nunn , Todd Harris