INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 3, 1999 - Indianapolis 500 veteran Willy T. Ribbs was among the drivers testing this week at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Ribbs drove 20 laps in a PDM Racing car on Sept. 1 on the 1.5-mile tri-oval, site of the Vegas.com...
INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 3, 1999 - Indianapolis 500 veteran Willy T. Ribbs was among the drivers testing this week at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Ribbs drove 20 laps in a PDM Racing car on Sept. 1 on the 1.5-mile tri-oval, site of the Vegas.com 500 on Sept. 26. He made two 10-lap runs with a top speed of 198 mph in windy conditions. He did not attempt to start his Indy Racing League rookie test, which consists of four 10-lap segments at increasing speeds.
"I'll tell you what - he's a natural," PDM co-owner Chuck Buckman said of Ribbs. "He didn't forget anything. He looked really, really good. The guy is a racer."
Indy Racing veteran John Paul Jr. shook down the car for Ribbs.
Ribbs is a two-time veteran of the Indianapolis 500, finishing 32nd in 1991 and 21st in 1993. He is the only African-American ever to drive in the world's most prestigious race.
Other drivers testing at Las Vegas included veterans Eliseo Salazar and Tyce Carlson, and rookies Ronnie Johncox, Niclas Jonsson, Sarah Fisher and Jon Herb.
Fisher could make history: Sarah Fisher still has a chance to make Indy Racing history even though she isn't going to make her debut until at least next month.
Fisher, 18, passed her Indy Racing League rookie test Sept. 1 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but she'll skip the Vegas.com 500 on Sept. 26 at the track to gain more seat time with Team Pelfrey after that event. The season finale is the Lone Star 500 on Oct. 17 at Texas Motor Speedway. If Fisher enters that event, she would become the youngest driver ever to drive in an Indy Racing League event and possibly in any Indy car-type race. Midget-racing standout Fisher turns 19 Oct. 4. The youngest driver to start an Indy Racing event was Mexican Michel Jourdain Jr., who still was 99 days short of his Sept. 2 20th birthday when he started eighth and finished 13th in the 1996 Indianapolis 500. Technically, he was the youngest driver ever to start the "500." But Troy Ruttman, for one, used a relative's I.D. to participate in and qualify for the 1949 Indy 500. His true birth date of March 11, 1930, made him only 19 years, 61 days old. He started 18th and finished 12th, then in 1952 became the youngest "500" champion at 22. The minimum age limit in those days was 21. However, often drivers presented false I.D. and were accepted. Jim Rathmann and Dick Rathmann exchanged identities as well as names, and that allowed Jim, later to become the 1960 Indy winner, also to participate in 1949 while still 20. Current Pep Boys Indy Racing League driver Jimmy Kite was 21 years, 132 days when he qualified for his first league race at Pikes Peak International Raceway on June 29, 1997. Sprint car star Jack Hewitt became the oldest Indy 500 rookie when he qualified in 1998. He was 45 days short of his 47th birthday.
Hamilton heading back to roots: Fresh off of his runner-up finish in last week's Colorado Indy 200 presented by Deloitte & Touche, Pep Boys Indy Racing League driver Davey Hamilton will return to his roots this weekend when he competes in a supermodified at Oswego (N.Y.) Speedway during the 43rd annual Budweiser International Classic Sept. 3-5.
Hamilton, a former winner of the biggest race for supermodifieds, will also sign autographs for fans at a new, interactive Indy Racing display unit that will be on the grounds of the legendary 5/8-mile asphalt oval all weekend. The Indy Racing Mobile Display contains an authentic Indy Racing League race car, as well as the sights, sounds and feel of open-wheel, oval track racing at the highest level. Fans at Oswego Speedway will have an opportunity to walk through the display unit at the Friday night Pit Party, or on Saturday or Sunday when it moves to the track's hospitality area during racing events. Hamilton will be at the display to meet fans from 7-8 p.m. Friday during the Pit Party, and then from 3-4 p.m. on Saturday in the track hospitality area.
*** Indy 500 veterans hit the road: Jeret Schroeder, who drove to 15th place in this year's Indianapolis 500 as a rookie, will rejoin Lyn St. James and Tom Volk in the 10-hour Petit LeMans road race at Road Atlanta on Sept. 18. They drove to fourth place in the 12 Hours of Sebring last March. They will be driving the same Riley & Scott Chevy they used at Sebring, but the TRV Motorsports machine has been rebuilt with some aerodynamic changes made. St. James has driven in six Indy 500s, most by any woman. Schroeder climbed as high as seventh in his Indy debut driving for the Price Cobb-owned G Force-Infiniti-Firestone.
*** Quite a thrill: Automotive journalist Preston Lerner logged 114 miles in The Children's Beverage Group-Team Cheever Dallara/Infiniti/Goodyear Aug. 31 at Pikes Peak International Raceway for an upcoming story in Automobile magazine. The test started with Indianapolis 500 winner and team owner Eddie Cheever Jr. taking Lerner around the 1-mile oval in an Infiniti Indy Q45 production vehicle. Cheever showed Lerner the proper driving line to take in his Indy Racing car. Once Lerner was familiar with the cockpit of the Indy Racing car, he went on track under the guidance of Cheever and Infiniti Motorsports Manager Frank Honsowetz via radio communication. "It was a thrill," Lerner said. "I just want to thank Infiniti and Team Cheever for the opportunity to test the Indy car on an oval. It will make for a really good story."
Ask Eddie: Fans can ask questions of Pep Boys Indy Racing League standout Eddie Cheever Jr. through a new feature offered by Indy Racing Online. Send e-mail to Cheever at firstname.lastname@example.org .