IRL: Pep Boys Indy Racing League: Notebook 1999-07-01

PEP BOYS INDY RACING LEAGUE NOTEBOOK Haley McGee welcomed home INDIANAPOLIS, July 1, 1999 - Haley McGee went home June 25. Haley, 9, was injured in the tragic accident May 1 during the VisionAire 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. She...

PEP BOYS INDY RACING LEAGUE NOTEBOOK Haley McGee welcomed home

INDIANAPOLIS, July 1, 1999 - Haley McGee went home June 25. Haley, 9, was injured in the tragic accident May 1 during the VisionAire 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. She spent nearly two months in Charlotte-area hospitals during her recovery. About 75 people - family, schoolmates, neighbors, relatives and members of her church - greeted Haley when she returned to her home in Conover, N.C., about 50 miles northwest of Charlotte. Haley played excitedly and ate pizza with her friends during the celebration. The family home was decorated with a welcome-home banner signed by members of the family's church. Her bed and much of the floor were covered in donated Beanie Babies, cards, letters and dolls of her favorite character, Tweety Bird. A box and two laundry baskets of cards and letters from well-wishers from all over the world also was presented to Haley. Doctors believe that Haley will be well enough to return to school in the fall. She will continue to attend physical-therapy sessions during the summer.

*** George entered in USAC race: Pep Boys Indy Racing League founder Tony George is ready to make his first appearance in a USAC race since 1996 as he is entered in the Summer Sizzle '99 USAC midget race July 7-10 at 16th Street Speedway in Indianapolis. George will drive the #3T TG Racing/Glidden Paints - Menards - Clabber Girl - Oliver Trucking/Gaerte car. His last USAC race came in the Thunder at the Dome midget special event in 1996 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. George also drove in that event in 1986 and 1988. He was entered in the USAC midget race in April 1999 at Kokomo, Ind., but that event was rained out. George won a Legends' feature on Opening Night at 16th Street Speedway in 1997. The Summer Sizzle '99 will be a family affair for George. His son, USAC regular Eddie Carpenter, also is entered in a TG Racing/Glidden Paints - Menards - Clabber Girl - Oliver Trucking/Gaerte car. George and Carpenter will join a field competing for the largest purse in the history of midget racing. The event pays a total purse of more than $140,000, with the winner's share at more than $20,000.

*** Cheever a believer: 1998 Indianapolis 500 champion Eddie Cheever Jr. had nothing but good words for his Nissan Infiniti engine after driving to a solid fourth-place finish in the Radisson 200 on June 27 at Pikes Peak International Raceway. Cheever is the only driver on the Pep Boys Indy Racing League circuit presently using the engine. "Infiniti did a super job," he said. "We had an engine that could have won today. Infiniti should feel very proud of its engine. We let them down." Cheever was first to pit in the race and then got out of sync with the rest of the front-runners when a yellow came out shortly thereafter. He felt that cost him the race. Losing radio contact with his crew at mid-point also made it difficult to make up the lost lap, he said. Still, he managed to get the lap back and finished on the same lap with winner Greg Ray, Sam Schmidt and Davey Hamilton, while holding off a hard-charging Buddy Lazier. The finish moved him up to fourth in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League point standings heading into the Kobalt Mechanics Tools 500 presented by MCI WorldCom at Atlanta Motor Speedway on July 17. "Points are for sissies," Cheever said jokingly. Then he added seriously, "Winning races wins championships. I'm here to win races. Bring on Atlanta."

*** More competitive: Car owner Bob Brant and driver Raul Boesel are happy to be returning to the 1.5-mile, high-banked Atlanta Motor Speedway on July 17. "We're excited to be racing at Atlanta," said Brant about the Kobalt Mechanics Tools 500 presented by MCI WorldCom night race. "The Riley & Scott chassis performs best on the 1.5-mile high banks." Boesel drives the only American-built chassis - the b-Fast Shopper/Brant Racing/R&S MK V -- on the Pep Boys Indy Racing League circuit. He holds down 14th in the league point standings. "We have a lack of downforce in the car on the flat, short, 1-mile oval tracks," Boesel said. "We need to do some work to make the car a little more competitive on these kinds of tracks. "But we'll be more competitive in the Kobalt Mechanics Tools 500, because the Atlanta Motor Speedway is a high banked track similar to the Texas Motor Speedway."

*** Honored: Greg Ray, winner of the Radisson 200 at Pikes Peak International Raceway on June 27, was named as the Dallas Morning News Motorsports Person of the Year at a banquet June 29 in Dallas. He was honored at the annual Dallas Morning News/Dallas All Sports Association Awards Banquet. It was the first time in the 33-year history of the banquet that motorsports was included in the awards selection. Ray, a Dallas native who lives in Plano, Texas, beat out among other nominees sports car great Carroll Shelby, three-time Indy 500 champion Johnny Rutherford, Rutherford's wife, Betty, (for her charity efforts) and drag racing superstar John Force. Other honorees included 1998 Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams, former Texas football coach Darrell Royal, Kansas City Chiefs owners Lamar Hunt Sr. and Dallas Stars and Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks.

*** No. 15: Greg Ray became the 15th different winner in 29 Pep Boys Indy Racing League races since the league was founded by Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Tony George and conducted its first season in 1996. Ray saw his first checkered flag from the front of the pack on June 27 in the Radisson 200 at Pikes Peak International Raceway, becoming the second new winner of the 1999 season. Scott Goodyear earned his first career Pep Boys Indy Racing League victory in March at the MCI WorldCom 200 at Phoenix.

Drivers who have won their first major open-wheel race in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League are Buzz Calkins, Eddie Cheever Jr., Jim Guthrie, Buddy Lazier, Scott Sharp, Robbie Buhl, Richie Hearn, Eliseo Salazar, Tony Stewart, Billy Boat, Kenny Brack and Ray. Arie Luyendyk, Goodyear and John Paul Jr. each earned at least one win in CART. Here's a list of first-time Pep Boys Indy Racing League winners at various tracks, followed by the season in which they earned the victory: INDIANAPOLIS - Buddy Lazier, 1996. LAS VEGAS - Richie Hearn, 1996-97; Eliseo Salazar, 1996-97. LOWE'S (Charlotte) - Kenny Brack, 1998. NEW HAMPSHIRE - Scott Sharp, 1996-97; Robbie Buhl, 1996-97. PIKES PEAK - Tony Stewart, 1996-97; Greg Ray, 1999. ORLANDO - Buzz Calkins, 1996; Eddie Cheever Jr., 1996-97. PHOENIX - Arie Luyendyk, 1996; Jim Guthrie, 1996-97; Scott Goodyear, 1999. TEXAS - Billy Boat, 1998; John Paul Jr., 1998.

Atlanta Motor Speedway became a part of the Pep Boys Indy Racing League circuit in 1998. Brack won and went on to capture the Pep Boys Million for the league championship.

*** Work on the pits: Pit-stop problems have hurt the PetroMoly-Team Pelfrey team and driver Robby Unser in the last two Pep Boys Indy Racing League races, so they are focusing on that area before the next league event at Atlanta. In the last three races, Unser, son of three-time Indy 500 champion Bobby Unser, has finished eighth at Indy, sixth at Texas and sixth at Pikes Peak International Raceway. Unser, whose best career finish was a second in the Lone Star 500 last fall, might have had a shot at winning the two races following Indy this year. But tough pit stops cost the team each time. At Texas, the car was sent out without the locking nut attached on the left rear wheel. After repairs, Unser wound up two laps down at the finish. Then at Pikes Peak, Unser pitted too far out from his marks during a yellow. The air hose could not be connected. Unser had to drive around and return to the pit for refueling, losing a lap in the process. "We're going to do some pit stop practice next week for the team and the driver," team manager Greg Paull said. "We've kind of shot ourselves in the foot." The pit-stop problems are more of a concern to Paull and crew than the fact owner Dale Pelfrey has the team up for sale so he can focus more on his other expanding business interests. "The team won't break up, it won't be changing," Paull said as preparations are being make for the next Pep Boys Indy Racing League race, the Kobalt Mechanics Tools 500 presented by MCI WorldCom on July 17 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. "We're together. We'll be around, we'll be around next year."

*** Hot laps: Infiniti Motorsports Manager Frank Honsowetz will drive a Nissan 240SX this weekend in round three of the semi-pro SCCA NASPORT Series at Portland (Ore.) International Raceway. Honsowetz designed and built the road-racing car at his El Segundo, Calif., home. He is third in the series point standings despite missing round two, which fell on the same weekend as the Indianapolis 500 ? Don't be surprised if Pep Boys Indy Racing League points leader Scott Goodyear and second-place Jeff Ward put some distance between themselves and their pursuers at the Kobalt Mechanics Tools 500 presented by MCI WorldCom on July 17 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Atlanta is a good track for both, as Goodyear led 93 laps and Ward 64 at last year's event, 1-2 on the lap leaders' chart. But Kenny Brack won the event with a late pass of Ward.

Source: IRL/IMS

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , John Force , Buzz Calkins , Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Robbie Buhl , Eliseo Salazar , Buddy Lazier , Jeff Ward , Davey Hamilton , Scott Sharp , Arie Luyendyk , Billy Boat , Jim Guthrie , Scott Goodyear , Raul Boesel , Kenny Brack , Richie Hearn , Sam Schmidt , Bobby Unser , Tony George , Robby Unser , John Paul
Teams Williams