PEP BOYS INDY RACING LEAGUE NOTEBOOK Greco plans to make 1999 debut at Phoenix with Galles' help; Calkins featured in SI By Dick Mittman and Paul Kelly indyracingleague.com INDIANAPOLIS, March 11, 1999 -- Phoenix International Raceway has...
PEP BOYS INDY RACING LEAGUE NOTEBOOK
Greco plans to make 1999 debut at Phoenix with Galles' help; Calkins featured in SI
By Dick Mittman and Paul Kelly indyracingleague.com
INDIANAPOLIS, March 11, 1999 -- Phoenix International Raceway has been a good launching pad for Pep Boys Indy Racing League driver Marco Greco. That's why he wants so badly to be there for the MCI WorldCom 200 on March 28.
With the help of the Rick Galles crew, Greco intends to compete in the race after missing the season-opening TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 on Jan. 24 at Walt Disney World Speedway.
"My first race in my life in America was there in an Indy Lights car in 1992," said Greco, a Brazilian who lives in Southern California. "I qualified fourth and finished fourth."
"My first points in CART (11th) came at Phoenix racing for Dennis McCormack (now an Indy Racing League team owner for driver Raul Boesel). And in my first race in an IRL car there (1997) I finished fourth.
"It will be hard for me because it will be six months without driving any car. It will be a great challenge."
Greco had a car and equipment, but the plunging economy in Brazil had cost him his sponsorship. However, when he learned that Galles' sponsor, announced during the "Test in the West" at Phoenix on Feb. 27, never made a payment, Greco contacted his former car owner Galles and asked if he could lease the crew and transporter for a one-race deal.
Greco, who finished third in the 1996-97 Indy Racing League points driving for Scandia and Galles Racing, is familiar with the mechanics and feels that will help them perform well at Phoenix despite a lack of either a race or testing session under their belts. He has a friend who agreed to help with the financing.
"I'm trying to do something to continue my career, which was a little bit damaged last year," said Greco, who finished 10th in the final standings.
Greco, 35, hopes to find a way to race again in the Indy 500, where he has qualified four times, and the remainder of the Pep Boys Indy Racing League season.
"I would love to stay with the championship," he said.
"I am very proud with what I've done. It's my work. It's what I do all my life. When I am not doing it, I get very upset."
Greco also said he feels for and admires driver Davey Hamilton, who has placed second in the Indy Racing League standings the past two seasons. Greco met Hamilton when both were involved with the A.J. Foyt team.
Galles has Hamilton under a retainer and is trying to find him another ride if a sponsor isn't found for the remainder of this season. Galles also has kept the crew employed. "This is a way to stay alive," said Cori Galles, Rick's daughter and team spokesperson, about renting the team out for a race.
Buzz on news stands now: Pep Boys Indy Racing League driver-college student Buzz Calkins is prominently featured in a short piece in the motorsports section of the March 15 issue of Sports Illustrated.
Calkins, winner of the inaugural Indy Racing League event in 1996 at Walt Disney World Speedway, is working on his master's degree in business at Northwestern University. Sports Illustrated dispatched a writer to Evanston, Ill., to spend a day with Calkins, interviewing and following him about the campus. Later, two photographers were sent to Phoenix International Raceway for a day of picture taking.
"Buzz is through with his finals this week," said his father, Brad, owner of the Bradley Motorsports team. "He goes back to school after the race."
The younger Calkins will compete in the MCI WorldCom 200 at PIR on March 28. He qualified his Bradley Foodmarts/Sav-O-Mat Dallara/Aurora/Firestone 11th and finished 17th in the season opener, the TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway on Jan. 24. That was his 22nd Indy Racing League event.
The Bradley team will test next week -- weather permitting -- at Pikes Peak International Raceway, Brad Calkins said. He noted that newcomer Mike Snow will shake down the new G Force. The team hopes to get Snow ready for an Indy-style ride in the near future, Brad Calkins said.
Change in the booth: Bob Jenkins, the longtime radio voice of the Indianapolis 500, will move to the television booth for the 1999 race as the lead play-by-play announcer for ABC Sports.
Jenkins replaces Paul Page, who will call CART events this year for ABC. Al Michaels, play-by-play announcer for "Monday Night Football" on ABC, will serve as the network's host of the Indianapolis 500 on May 30.
Comforting: Driver Tyce Carlson feels comfortable in two ways this Pep Boys Indy Racing League season. First, he weighs 35 pounds less. Second, Greg Beck is giving him a competitive and safe car.
"He adds a ton of experience," Carlson said of Beck. "His preparation and knowledge is second to none. When I get in the car, I know I'm going to go fast and nothing is going to fall off."
Beck, who groomed the car that put Japanese driver Hideshi Matsuda into three Indianapolis 500s with little practice time, joined the Blueprint-Immke team this year. Blueprint and Immke merged for 1999, and brought on Beck and also created an in-house engine program.
In the season opener at Walt Disney World Speedway, Carlson qualified ninth and finished 12th in his Dallara/Aurora/Firestone. Then in the "Test in the West" at Phoenix International Raceway two weeks ago, he turned in the seventh-fastest speed at 172.356 mph.
"It took us a year to learn what we needed to be competitive," said Carlson, an Indianapolis native. "We watched all of the teams, took mental notes and put them to use. Both owners stepped up and are doing what it takes."
The team is looking for a good finish in the upcoming MCI WorldCom 200 on March 28 at PIR. Carlson always has enjoyed racing at the oval in the desert, competing there several times in the Copper World Classic driving either a Silver Crown car or a midget. In his first Indy Racing League start there last March, he took a provisional to get into the field as the 27th starter and placed 13th.
"This year I'll be able to go and know I'm going to race," he said.
Nissan ready to challenge: Jeff Sinden, co-owner with Joe Kennedy of Sinden Racing Service, thinks the Nissan Infiniti engine has made enough progress that it can be competitive in the coming Pep Boys Indy Racing League races.
"It's had growing pains," said Sinden, whose driver, Robbie Buhl, was eighth fastest in the recent "Test in the West" in preparation for the MCI WorldCom 200 on March 28 at Phoenix International Raceway.
"The engine is really looking good. It has good power and good straightaway speed. I think it has got to the point where it can go for a win."
At the "Test in the West" on Feb. 26-27, Buhl turned a top lap of 172.109 mph. His was one of 11 cars to get into the 20-second bracket.
"We're right in the ballpark," Sinden said.
One of the keys to improvement is that Buhl and Kennedy are working well together, Sinden said. Buhl joined the team after driving for Team Menard the past two seasons.
PR seminar: Ruthie Culbertson of Treadway Racing, Jana Griffith of Panther Racing and LeeAnne Nash of Nienhouse Motorsports will present a Racing Press Management Seminar from 1-5 p.m. April 5 at the Brickyard Crossing Conference Center in Indianapolis.
Among the speakers will be AP motorsports writer Mike Harris and TV racing commentator Bob Jenkins.
The seminar is for auto racing public relations personnel only. The cost is $35. For further information, contact Culbertson at (317) 387-0888; Griffith at (317) 334-9500; or Nash at (765) 482-3548.
Busy, busy: Kelley Racing teammates Scott Sharp and Mark Dismore will be busy in the South this weekend.
Dismore will join NASCAR star Jeff Gordon March 11 at a Technicians Appreciation Day appearance in Atlanta. More than 800 organization members will attend. Dismore's MCI WorldCom Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear will be on display. The car, along with Sharp's Delphi Automotive Services machine, will be placed in position for fan viewing this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway during the NASCAR weekend there.
The Pep Boys Indy Racing League conducts the Atlanta 500 Classic on July 17 at AMS.
Sharp and Dismore both will be at Sebring, Fla., driving in the 12-hour race this weekend. Sharp will be at the wheel of a Corvette, while Dismore will drive a Ferrari 333SP.
Radisson picks charity for Pikes Peak race: Radisson Hotels Worldwide will stage a variety of fundraising activities to benefit The Children's Hospital of Denver leading up to the Radisson 200 Pep Boys Indy Racing League event June 27 at Pikes Peak International Raceway.
Funds raised will benefit the hospital's Cancer Center, the leading treatment and research center in the Rocky Mountain region.
Radisson and Pikes Peak International Raceway officials will work with 1998 Bank One Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Steve Knapp in many fundraising activities during race week, including silent and live auctions, a golf tournament and VIP dinner.
Pit stops: KTCT-AM in San Francisco, KALQ-FM in Alamosa, Colo., and WAOV-AM in Vincennes, Ind., have joined the growing list of national radio stations carrying the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network program "Track Talk." ... Treadway Racing driver Sam Schmidt and Byrd-Cunningham driver John Paul Jr. will sign autographs at the World of Wheels Show this weekend in Tucson, Ariz., part of the promotion of the MCI WorldCom 200. A Pep Boys Indy Racing League car will be on display at the Phoenix International Raceway booth at the show. Indianapolis-based KECO Coatings is sponsoring the display. KECO also will sponsor an online chat with Paul from 4-7 p.m. March 13 and 10 a.m.-noon March 14. The chat area can be found at www.exhibitonline.com . ? Pelfrey Racing driver Robby Unser spent Thursday promoting the MCI WorldCom 200 at Phoenix International Raceway in his hometown of Albuquerque, N.M. ? The Metro Racing Systems car driven by Stan Wattles will be on display at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend during the NASCAR Winston Cup Cracker Barrel Old Country 500 at the track, a promotion for the Atlanta 500 Classic Pep Boys Indy Racing League event July 17 at the track. ? Jonathan Byrd, owner the of Byrd-Cunningham Racing car driven by John Paul Jr., is building a new Hampton Inns and Suites hotel in Goodyear, Ariz. (a western suburb of Phoenix). It will be completed by September and become his second hotel in the area. ... If the weather in Indianapolis clears, A.J. Foyt Racing drivers Kenny Brack, defending Pep Boys Indy Racing League champion, and Billy Boat will test March 17-18 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.