IRL: Indy500: Scott Goodyear wants to put an end to close calls

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, May 15, 2000 - Race driver Scott Goodyear probably doesn't even attend movies starring Glenn Close because her name reminds him of his fate thus far in the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. You know, close but no...

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, May 15, 2000 - Race driver Scott Goodyear probably doesn't even attend movies starring Glenn Close because her name reminds him of his fate thus far in the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. You know, close but no banana. That's why he has only one thing on his mind this May as he prepares for this weekend's qualifications. "I've started in the front row, I've started in the back row, I've started in rows in between," he said. "All I want to do is win the race." The driver of the #4 Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone reached age 40 last December and knows he is closer to the end of his career than the beginning. Goodyear was right in his assessment of his nine previous race appearances, two of which include second place finishes. In 1992, he started 33rd (last place), but mounted a late race charge that put him on the tail of Al Unser Jr. as they exploded out of Turn 4 on Lap 200. He got the nose of his car even with Unser Jr.'s rear wheel as they reached the checkered flag in a pulsating finish. The difference between first and second was .043 of a second, closest in Indianapolis 500 history, but no consolation for Goodyear. He started fifth in 1997 but couldn't quite run down Arie Luyendyk, finishing second. That margin of defeat was .570 of a second. In 1993, he started fourth and actually finished a fraction of a second in front of Unser Jr. But unfortunately, there were six other cars only seconds in front of him led by winner Emerson Fittipaldi. Then there was 1995. He started on the outside of the front row and actually crossed the finish line first. But he couldn't even win that way. He had passed the Pace Car on a late restart and was relegated to 14th place because he didn't respond to a black flag. His starts and finishes for his other races: 1990 - 21/10; 1991 - 12/27; 1994- 23/20; 1998 -10/24 and 1999 - 9/27. He was running near the front last year when the engine malfunctioned. He missed the 1996 race as he recovered from a broken back suffered in a racing accident in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. But to look at Goodyear's not-so-good luck it's not necessary to look further back than the previous Indy Racing Northern Lights Series event, the Vegas Indy 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on April 22. He was leading the race with 20 laps left when suddenly blue smoke poured out the rear of his car, ending his challenge. And ironically, who would pass him and take the victory? Al Unser Jr. "I hope the luck is going to change here at the 500," Goodyear said. "That would be sort of nice for everything to go right here. "The first year with the Panther team we thought we had a couple of them (wins) that got away. Last year we won two and probably gave a couple more away. "I think this year we've got to keep on pushing. I think the key thing for us right now is to put a big focus on two things. No. 1 is the championship, and right now we've got to turn our sights on just the 500. The whole focus right now is just making this car as good as it can be as far as a race car is concerned." Team manager John Barnes said he is really happy with his entire team in its preparation to win Indy. He pinpoints his pit crew as the best in the business. "I think our pit crew is better than anybody's," he exclaimed. "I don't care, from pit stops to how they prepare the cars to whatever. (Crew chief) Kevin Blanch's leadership has improved the last year, and we're just really excited about it." Barnes is one of the team's co-owners along with Gary Pedigo, Jim Harbaugh, Doug Boles and Mike Griffin. Pedigo, an Indianapolis new car dealer, also is owner of the Indianapolis Ice in the Central Hockey League. The hockey team provided the racing team some motivation when, trailing 3-2 in the Miron Cup championship series, won the last two games on the road to win the league championship. The Ice players took the title Friday night in Columbus, Ga., and were in the Speedway stands on Saturday cheering for Goodyear as practice began. But what if Goodyear ends his career without victory in the world's biggest race? "I'd be disappointed," he says bluntly. "But you know I'm enjoying what I'm doing. I think I've been quite fortunate to come here in 1990 and be here every year with the exception of 1996, obviously without an injury. From that standpoint, maybe we're weren't as lucky as some, but we're a lot more lucky than a lot of others." Neither Goodyear nor Barnes expects to challenge for the pole on Saturday. That isn't in their program. Their primary goal is get a spot near the front so Goodyear can avoid any accidents that might occur back in the pack at the start of the race. "My job is to make sure we are there at the end of the day," he said. "Make sure I've avoided any wrecks, flying debris or anything that is going on and hopefully communicate with the team to help make the car better. "If we're there at the end of the day, we want to be in contention to win the event. We've been pretty lucky here, because every time we've been running we've been somewhere in contention to win the event. "We just hope luck is with us and that we're there for the last 10-lap shootout, because that's what really makes it exciting." For Goodyear, it's time to put an end to that close business.

IRNLS/IMS

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Series INDYCAR