CURRY, STEWART TEAM UP TO FIELD CAR FOR SALLES LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Jan. 21, 1999 -- Team manager Larry Curry and driver Tony Stewart were a dynamic duo for car owner John Menard during the first three years of the Pep Boys Indy...
CURRY, STEWART TEAM UP TO FIELD CAR FOR SALLES
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Jan. 21, 1999 -- Team manager Larry Curry and driver Tony Stewart were a dynamic duo for car owner John Menard during the first three years of the Pep Boys Indy Racing League. The Indy Racing League kicks off its fourth season this weekend with the TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway, and Curry and Stewart, who left Menard at the end of the 1998 campaign, are back together again. Only this time they are co-owners with Indianapolis businessman Andy Card of an Indy Racing League team. Teco Energy called Curry late last Friday and said it wanted to be a car sponsor for the season-opening race. Brazilian driver Gualter Salles, who was in negotiations with Curry, was called and told to be at the track Thursday. Salles had driven the past two seasons in CART. "Basically, this started out as a dream," Curry said. "That dream became reality about 4 p.m. Friday when Teco said it was coming in." Curry called Stewart, who won the 1996-97 Indy Racing League championship under Curry's leadership, and told him also to be at the track Thursday to act as Salles' "coach" in practice and spotter in the race. "Larry's done 98 percent of the work, and I've done 2 percent," said Stewart, who was ninth-quickest Wednesday in GM testing at Daytona International Speedway. He will drive a full NASCAR Winston Cup season for car owner Joe Gibbs. "You didn't think I'd sit there and do one thing," Stewart said. "Last summer Larry brought up the concept, and it became reality last Saturday." Curry had to hustle to get everything together to put an active team in the pits this weekend. He said that Indy Racing League officials and many teams offered needed advice and equipment. "I think the exciting thing is that Tony and I have had a very strong relationship on and off the track," Curry said. "Tony was such a great driver in the IRL - and hopefully will be again - and he felt the IRL launched his career. This is his way of saying, 'Hey, guys, I may be driving in Winston Cup, but this is my way of giving something back.'" The car Salles will drive is the Dallara/Aurora/Firestone that Sam Schmidt drove to second place at Las Vegas in last October's season finale and was leased for this race. Curry hopes to have a new car for Phoenix. Curry said he chose Salles because he was experienced in open-wheel cars. Curry added that he felt he couldn't afford to use an untried rookie with the limited testing time available Friday and Saturday. Salles will sit in and drive an Indy Racing League car for the first time Friday, but his background in open-wheel racing is extensive. "I'm very excited," Salles said. "I know some of the (Indy Racing League) drivers from Europe. I raced with Kenny Brack (1998 league champion) seven years ago in Opel Lotus." Salles drove a complete season with CART in 1997, but the team wasn't financially able to follow up in 1998, so he drove seven selected races for Dale Coyne. Third team co-owner Card acted as Stewart's press agent when he entered the Indy Racing League in 1996. His family-owned trucking company, Perkins Specialized Transportation Inc., is an associate sponsor. It wasn't until 2 years ago that Stewart owned any type of racing vehicle. That's when he purchased a Legends Car for his father, Nelson. Last year he purchased a three-quarter midget and a dirt late model. Now, not only does he share ownership of an Indy Racing League car, he also is half-owner of the Coors Light Silver Bullet car Jason Leffler will drive in Saturday's USAC race at Walt Disney World Speedway.
Schedule: The TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 starts at 1 p.m. (EST) Jan. 24. PPG Pole qualifying starts at 12:30 p.m. Jan. 23. Practice sessions take place at 10:15 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. Jan. 22, and 9:45 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Jan. 23. The USAC Coors Light Silver Bullet Series race, held in conjunction with this event, starts at 2:30 p.m. Jan. 23.
On the air: ABC will televise the TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 live at 1 p.m. (EST) Jan. 24. SpeedVision will televise PPG Pole qualifying live at noon Jan. 23. The IMS Radio Network will broadcast the race live at 1 p.m. Jan. 24, with a prerace show starting at 12:30 p.m. A qualifying highlights show will be broadcast on the IMS Radio Network at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 23.