IRL: Notebook 2002-11-14

INDY RACING NOTEBOOK Conquest engineer Perkins dies in accident; 30 cars could race in Motegi debut INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2002 -- Craig Perkins, the engineer for top Indy Racing League rookie Laurent Redon in 2002, was killed in ...

INDY RACING NOTEBOOK

Conquest engineer Perkins dies in accident; 30 cars could race in Motegi debut

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2002 -- Craig Perkins, the engineer for top Indy Racing League rookie Laurent Redon in 2002, was killed in an automobile accident Nov. 12 near his home in Austin, Texas.

Perkins, 37, helped guide Redon to the 2002 Bombardier Rookie of the Year title with Mi-Jack Conquest Racing. It was his first season working in the IRL.

"Craig was a wonderful husband and father as well as a talented professional whose career was just blossoming," team owner Eric Bachelart said. "We have worked together since 1997 and made the jump from Indy Lights to the IRL in 2002. Our sense of the loss to (wife) MaryAnne, his children, and family is overwhelming."

Perkins was a national karting champion before turning to race car engineering. He worked as an engineer with sports cars, dragsters, Formula Ford 2000, Toyota Atlantic and Indy Lights cars. He also served as a driving coach and teacher for the Ferrari Challenge series and with the Skip Barber Racing School.

Perkins is survived by his wife, MaryAnne, and sons, Zane and Vance.

A funeral will take place Nov. 16 in Austin. Contributions to the Craig M. Perkins Memorial Fund can be sent to: Mi-Jack Conquest Racing, 8010 Woodland Drive, Indianapolis, IN 46278.

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Motegi field could reach 30 cars: In preparation for the inaugural Indy Racing League event at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan in April 2003, league officials are making plans for up to 30 cars, said John Lewis, IRL director of operations.

Lewis has been charged with orchestrating the transportation of equipment and personnel for the Japan event. The massive undertaking creates numerous logistical hurdles.

Gauging interest from current and potential Indy Racing League teams, Lewis and league officials are anticipating up to 30 cars for the Japan event.

"We'd like to field 30 cars over there," Lewis said. "I'm going to try and base my numbers (for shipping) off somewhere between 26 and 30, so that's what I'm working off at this point."

The inaugural IRL event at the 1.5-mile oval is scheduled for April 13, 2003. Lewis and other IRL officials just returned from the league's initial test at the facility with two-time champion Sam Hornish Jr. driving his No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. Sarah Fisher, the IRL's Most Popular Driver Award winner, also was part of the IRL contingent that made the trip, participating in press conferences and taking media and officials in high-speed rides around the track in the Indy Racing Experience two-seat car.

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Warm welcome: Indy Racing League star Sarah Fisher was stunned to discover a fan waiting for her autograph outside of her hotel when she arrived in Japan for the IRL's initial test last week at Twin Ring Motegi.

"The people are incredible," she said.

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IRL supports grassroots karting: The Indy Racing League will serve as a sponsor in 2003 of Whiteland Raceway Park, a karting facility in Whiteland, Ind.

Whiteland Raceway Park, home of the Chainbreaker Kart Club, opened in 1958 and recently completed its 45th season. It's believed to be the oldest kart racing track in the United States.

Such Indianapolis 500 veterans as Tony Stewart, Mark Dismore and John Andretti have cut their racing teeth at Whiteland Raceway Park, owned by motorsports broadcasting personality Gary Lee.

The Chainbreakers Kart Club has 557 members, and an average of 114 entries compete in each event at Whiteland Raceway Park, one of the most vibrant facilities in the country. There are 53 youngsters between the ages of 5-8 competing in the Kid Kart program.

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SAFER Barrier earns praise: The SAFER Barrier energy-absorbing wall system at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was named in the Auto Tech category as one of the "Top 100 Tech Innovations" for 2002 in the December 2002 issue of Popular Science magazine.

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Kanaan wins kart event: Tony Kanaan, who will move to the IRL in 2003 with Andretti Green Racing, was on the winning team in Brazil's most prestigious karting event Nov. 10 near Sao Paulo.

Kanaan teamed with Brazilian Formula One stars Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Masses to top the 64-team field in the 500 Milhas da Granja Viana de Kart, a 500-mile event. It was Kanaan's fourth victory in the race.

The winning team covered the 746-lap distance in 11 hours, 56 minutes and 46 seconds.

Indy Racing League star Felipe Giaffone had mechanical problems, and his team fell out of the race with 12 laps to go. Giaffone teammed with his brother, Zeca, former Japanese F3 champion Paolo Carcasci and Brazilian Formula Renault champion Marcos Gomes.

Rising IRL star Vitor Meira also competed on another team.

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Hot laps: Packing for the first Indy Racing event in Japan could be tricky for some IRL teams as they prepare for the race at Twin Ring Motegi in April 2003. Aerosol products -- a staple of any team's pit cart -- are not allowed to be transported into Japan, said IRL Director of Operations John Lewis -- Paul Menard, son of Indy Racing League team owner John Menard, ended his 2002 racing season with a victory Nov. 7 in the Featherlite 125 NASCAR Southwest Tour race at Phoenix International Raceway. Menard edged NASCAR Winston Cup veteran Ken Schrader with a pass just before the start of the final lap.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Ken Schrader , Rubens Barrichello , Sarah Fisher , Felipe Giaffone , Mark Dismore , Tony Kanaan , Laurent Redon , Skip Barber , Paul Menard , John Lewis , Sam Hornish Jr. , Vitor Meira , Marcos Gomes
Teams Panther Racing , Conquest Racing