PEP BOYS INDY RACING LEAGUE NOTEBOOK Knapp, Curry join ISM; Truscelli signs Moreno By Dick Mittman and Paul Kelly indyracingleague.com INDIANAPOLIS, March 18, 1999 - In a homecoming of sorts, Steve Knapp has returned to ISM Racing as...
PEP BOYS INDY RACING LEAGUE NOTEBOOK Knapp, Curry join ISM; Truscelli signs Moreno
By Dick Mittman and Paul Kelly indyracingleague.com
INDIANAPOLIS, March 18, 1999 - In a homecoming of sorts, Steve Knapp has returned to ISM Racing as the driver of the team's entry in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League, and the team hired former Team Menard boss Larry Curry as general manager. Knapp made his league debut with the team at the 1998 Indianapolis 500, where he finished third and was named Bank One Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year. Knapp will be behind the wheel of the team's Thermo Tech-Prolong-ISM Racing G Force/Aurora/Goodyear starting at the MCI WorldCom 200 on March 28 at Phoenix International Raceway. "I am elated to be chosen to drive the ISM Racing entry in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League and the Indy 500," Knapp said. "I have worked my whole life to get a shot at being a full-time Indy-car driver. I definitely enjoyed my previous experience with ISM, and I am excited to build upon that relationship. "Hopefully we can pick up exactly where we left off at Indy in '98." Knapp returns to ISM after driving for PDM Racing for most of the second half of 1998 and at the 1999 season opener at Orlando, Fla., where he finished seventh. Curry guided Team Menard and driver Tony Stewart to the 1996-97 Indy Racing League championship. He has more than 24 years of experience in the Indy-style racing ranks as a mechanic and team manager. Knapp replaces Jeff Ward, who will drive for Pagan Racing at Phoenix.
Truscelli finds its man: Formula One and CART veteran Roberto Moreno will drive for Truscelli Team Racing starting with the MCI WorldCom 200 on March 28 through the Indianapolis 500 on May 30, team owner Joe Truscelli announced. "We feel very fortunate to be able to have such an experienced driver like Roberto on our team," Truscelli said. "Roberto has a great attitude and brings a lot to our team." Moreno tested in the team's G Force/Aurora/Goodyear on March 12-13 at Phoenix International Raceway in preparation for the MCI WorldCom 200. Moreno finished 19th in the 1986 Indianapolis 500.
J. Lazier to make debut: Jaques Lazier plans to make his Pep Boys Indy Racing League debut at the MCI WorldCom 200 on March 28 at Phoenix with DR Motorsports, owned by his father, 1981 Indianapolis 500 veteran Bob Lazier. Jaques Lazier will drive the #15 Tivoli Lodge G Force/Infiniti/Goodyear, with Ron Clark as chief mechanic. If Jaques and his older brother, 1996 Indianapolis 500 champion Buddy Lazier, both qualify for the race, it will be the first time that brothers have competed in the same Indy Racing League event since the Indy 200 in January 1998 at Orlando, Fla., where Mike and Robbie Groff were on the starting grid. *** New team to announce affiliation with national foundation: Barnhart Motorsports, a new team in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League, will announce its affiliation with the Kent Waldrep National Paralysis Foundation on March 24 at Phoenix. The team will make its league debut at the MCI WorldCom 200 on March 28 with standout Davey Hamilton behind the wheel of its Barnhart Motorsports-Spinal Victory Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. Barnhart Motorsports will be "Racing For Spinal Victory" during the season to raise money for the foundation, which has raised millions of dollars to fund research to find a cure for paralysis. Waldrep started the foundation in 1985. He became a quadriplegic after suffering a broken neck in the TCU-Alabama college football game in 1974. Those interested in more information or donating to the foundation can call (877) SCI-CURE (724-2873).
Touching gesture: Pep Boys Indy Racing League driver Eliseo Salazar faced a long, tough road to recovery following injuries suffered in a crash last July at Dover, Del., during practice for the Pep Boys 400K. But his rehabilitation was made a bit easier by the support from thousands of fans in his native Chile. Salazar received thousands of letters and e-mails to his Web site, encouraging him to return to the cockpit in 1999. Salazar fulfilled their wishes, making a rapid recovery and signing earlier this year as the driver for Nienhouse Motorsports. "The people of Chile were unbelievably supportive," Salazar said. "They wrote that I can overcome this, that I can get back and win again, that I have been an inspiration for their children. "Some of these letters really brought me to tears," Salazar said. "They were very powerful. Then I began to heal and see some of the races on television, and I thought maybe ? I believe, too, that Indy-car racing requires a lot of experience, and it would have been a waste to throw away the last several years, to throw away a chance to win the Indy 500. "Before my accident, I would run to the hospital on a hurt finger. I never would have guessed that I would have had the strength to come through this ordeal. Knowing that I have that strength is priceless. I think that strength has not only made me a better person but will also make me a better driver."
Moving up: French driver Stephan Gregoire hopes to make another advancement in finishing position at the MCI WorldCom 200 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 28. In his last three races at PIR, Gregoire, who now lives in Indianapolis, has placed seventh, fifth and fourth. "I really like to race at Phoenix," he said. "It is a wide track with room to pass other drivers if you have a good handling car." Gregoire is driving the Mexmil G Force/Aurora/Firestone for owner Dick Simon and team manager Rich Simon, Dick's son. Roush Engineering builds the team's engines. "Our main goal at Phoenix is to qualify and finish in the top 10 as Phoenix is a very tough track," Dick Simon said. "Our long-term goal is to be solidly in the top 10 in points by the time we get to Indy and leave with a top five finish at the 500."
History lesson: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Historian Donald Davidson will once again present his "History of the Indianapolis 500" classes April 6, 13, 20 and 27 at the Brickyard Crossing Inn. The non-credit class is part of the continuing education program of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
Pit stops: Pep Boys Indy Racing League driver Andy Michner and the Brant Motorsports team will visit Littleton Elementary School near Phoenix with their race car and transporter March 25, three days before the MCI WorldCom 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. Michner will promote reading to the students, and a decal of the "Little Firebirds" will be affixed on the nose of the race car, where it will stay all weekend ? Pep Boys Indy Racing League driver Robbie Buhl will visit Phoenix Children's Hospital on March 25 on behalf of national charity Racing For Kids. This will be Buhl's ninth visit to children's hospitals in the Phoenix area as national spokesperson for Racing For Kids.