By David Reininger - motorsport.com When the Indy Racing Northern Light Series takes the green flag at Phoenix International Raceway in March, two time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr. will have two new teammates. Joining Unser Jr. at Galles ...
By David Reininger - motorsport.com
When the Indy Racing Northern Light Series takes the green flag at Phoenix International Raceway in March, two time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr. will have two new teammates. Joining Unser Jr. at Galles Racing are Indy Lights veterans Didier Andre and Casey Mears.
"We pretty much we knew we were going to run a two car team," said Galles Racing owner, Rick Galles. "At the last minute we added a third car. We've been able to put together a really outstanding team. We had a good core group to start with and we're within two people of putting everyone into place."
"We've run three cars before. In 1993, we ran Danny Sullivan, Al (Unser) Jr. and Adrian Fernandez, so it's not something we haven't done before."
Didier Andre, who joins Galles Racing for the entire 13 race IRNLS championship, last raced open wheel cars in 1999, scoring a win at Laguna Seca in the Indy Lights Series. He scored three podiums that year, Toronto, Laguna Seca and Fontana, ending the season with seven top-ten finishes. In 2000, Andre competed in the Le Mans endurance race, driving for Chrysler in the prototype sports car division. He also worked as a Chrysler test driver in Europe.
"I have experience on the ovals and drafting," said Andre when asked if his Indy Lights experience would prepare him for the close racing prevalent in the Northern Light Series. "With Indy Lights, especially on the superspeedways, we are all together, twenty cars all together, passing three or four times per lap. With each race you understand more about using the draft."
Casey Mears, nephew of four time Indy 500 winner Rick Mears, has signed with Galles Racing through the first four races of the IRNLS. Galles indicated he was 90 percent certain he would retain Mears for the entire season, allowing the 22 year old Bakersfield, Calif. driver to compete for rookie of the year honors in 2001.
Mears, who made his Indy-style racing debut at Fontana for Team Rahal, figured his impressive fourth place finish would produce an offer to continue in the CART series for 2001. Discussions ensued, but an offer never materialized.
"I actually tested with Chip (Ganassi) and I tested with Pac West a couple of times. John Anderson was kind enough to get a few of us Indy Lights guys in there and do a test. Obviously I tested with Bobby (Rahal) and ran the race at Fontana."
"Really, the only discussions I had with anybody in CART were with a guy named Barry Brooke. He's starting a brand new team with Ilmor engines and year old Bettenhausen chassis. It probably would have been a good opportunity. But this deal here with Rick (Galles) just seems like a dream come true, to run at Indy and be involved with guys like Al Unser Jr. and Rick (Galles)."
When asked about his involvement with Brooke Racing, Mears said, "That got blown a little bit out of proportion. I didn't even know it. A buddy of mine had to call me and tell me I was on their web site, I was signed on with them, we were going racing, the whole deal. The word got out that I was driving for them and the only thing we talked about was just that, just talk."
"When we had the opportunity to get Casey, we jumped at it," said Galles. "Because we think he's the number one American star coming up."
Galles Racing will conducts two tests of their G Force Oldsmobile package before the first race at Phoenix. "We're going to go to Phoenix," Galles said regarding the team's testing program. "We have to get Didier through his test and get him licensed, so we'll do that a day before the open test. Then Al (Unser Jr.) will go and run two days at the open test. We're going to stay an extra day and let Casey run a day at Phoenix."
"Then we're going to go to Homestead for four days and take all three cars and all three teams. That will be it until we go to Phoenix for the first race."
"After Phoenix we'll probably get down to Atlanta. Our goal is run every race track at least once. At this point, we're not planning on going to Indianapolis until we race there. This has pretty much been our tradition for the last 18 years. We went last year because we only had a week but with the new expanded schedule we're just going to go there for race month."
"If I can't do it right, we're not going to do it," said Galles. "We've signed three great drivers and we've got a great team, but we haven't done anything until we go and win some races."
With Unser, Mears and Andre behind the wheel, Galles Racing will provide a triple threat every time they take the green flag.