INDIANAPOLIS, May 5, 1998 - Notes and quotes from the Pep Boys Indy Racing League:
NASCAR champion eyes Pep Boys IRL: Mike Stefanik, three-time champion of the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour, has his eyes on the Pep Boys Indy Racing League, particularly the June 28 event at New Hampshire International Speedway. Stefanik is hoping to get an opportunity to compete in that event. The Modified Tour is the only open-wheeled racing division sanctioned by NASCAR, and Stefanik, 39, has watched with interest as the Pep Boys Indy Racing League has developed in its three-year existence. "I'd love to give one of those cars a try," said Stefanik, who made NASCAR history last year by winning both the modified and the NASCAR Busch North Series championships, the only driver ever to win two NASCAR titles in the same season. "I think the IRL's concept of giving American open-wheeled drivers a chance to drive Indy-type cars is great." The New Hampshire 200, the only Indy-type race in New England, will be accompanied by a NASCAR modified race, making for a full open-wheel weekend at the 1.058-mile track. "New Hampshire is the perfect place for me," he said. "I've won there in modifieds, and I know the track. And, we're going to be there anyway. "Last year when we were there with the IRL, I spent some time watching them," he said. "I saw how they went through the turns, how they passed and how they drove the track. "I've been driving open-wheel cars for 20 years," he said. "The opportunity to race in an Indy-type car would be very exciting. I hope it happens."
*** That's the ticket: Jimmy Kite made the trek from his native Illinois to Indianapolis Motor Speedway with his father, Gary, countless times as a youth to watch practice and qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. When Kite was 13 and an aspiring racer, his father bought him a race-day ticket. But Kite politely refused his dad's gift. "I said, 'Nope, the first time I'm in it I want to be driving,'" Kite said. "I knew when I was little that I wanted to drive in this race." That dream is approaching reality. Kite, now 22, is one of the top Pep Boys Indy Racing League rookies heading into the 82nd Indianapolis 500 on May 24. He was the fastest driver during the Rookie Orientation Program on April 14-15 at the Speedway, with a best lap of 217.286 mph in the Royal Purple Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. He improved to 221.233 later that week. "There was still lots of wing in it," Kite said of his car. "My trap speed was only 225. I think we've got a good front-row car. "It's just neat because the first time I'm going to the Indy 500, I'm going to be in the seat."
*** IROC update: Pep Boys Indy Racing League standouts Tony Stewart and Arie Luyendyk had a tough day in the second round of the International Race of Champions series May 2 at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif., as Stewart finished seventh and Luyendyk 11th in the 12-car field. NASCAR Winston Cup star Mark Martin won the race among 12 of the world's best drivers from different racing series. The drivers race in identically prepared Pontiac Firebirds. Defending league champion Stewart and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Luyendyk are tied for eighth in the four-race series with 14 points each. The next round of the series is June 13 at Michigan Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich. The final round is July 31 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the first-ever IROC race at the Brickyard.
*** Goodyear fast at New Hampshire: Recent testing showed that the track record for the new IRL cars at New Hampshire International Speedway will be in serious jeopardy during the league's race there June 28. Scott Goodyear and other drivers tested April 28-29 on the 1.058-mile oval in Loudon, N.H. Goodyear completed nearly 400 miles of testing in the Pennzoil Panther G Force/Aurora/Goodyear with a top lap of 23 seconds. That's nearly 5 mph faster than the pole run of 23.717, 160.594 last year by Marco Greco. That speed remains the track record for the new IRL cars. "We did a little bit of speed work Tuesday and worked on getting the car comfortable for longer, race-situation runs on Wednesday," Goodyear said. "I think we have a good chance of starting on the pole at New Hampshire. And as competitive as this series has become, starting at the front is a huge advantage. The cars are so closely matched it is extremely difficult to pass, and if you start too far in the pack it makes for a long day." Goodyear started second and finished 16th last year at New Hampshire.
*** Talk about the passion: The Indianapolis 500 is the richest and most prestigious race in the world, but that's not what drives Pep Boys Indy Racing League team owner Allan Pagan to work so hard for a victory in the race. Pagan fields the Pagan Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear driven by Roberto Guerrero. His father, Jack Pagan, is co-owner of the team. "I want to win the race, plain and simple," Pagan said. "People have a lot of different reasons for wanting to win at Indy. Fame, money, prestige, you name it. It's different for me. "I promised my dad a long time ago that I would win one for him at this place, and I plan on making good on that promise."
*** New paint job coming for Pagan: Pagan Racing will unveil a new paint scheme for its Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear on May 10, the opening day of practice for the Indianapolis 500. Indiana native Brian Olson will design the new paint job for Pagan's cars, driven by Roberto Guerrero. His company, Brian Olson, Inc., has won more than 200 best-appearing awards for paint schemes on dragsters and motorcycles. This is Olson's first project with an Indy-style car team. Pagan's cars were painted white for the first two races of this season. The new paint scheme will be silver, black and red, team spokesman Mike King said. "That's not a car," Olson said as he looked at the team's white car last month. "That's a canvas, a blank canvas. We don't paint cars; we create pieces of art in our shop. When that car rolls out, heads will turn to catch a glimpse of it. "What better place to make your debut than the biggest race in the world? It's a thrill, it really is. This is also a challenge, a challenge we're all looking forward to."
*** Symbol of success: The Pep Boys Indy Racing League is growing in more areas than the increasing number of cars and teams in the garage area. A record number of spaces will be needed for race team motorhomes at the 1998 Indianapolis 500. Teams combined to request parking spaces for 89 motorhomes. The previous record was 80, the capacity for the motorhome parking area at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The overflow of motorhomes will be accommodated by an expansion of the existing lot.
*** Tyler, Yeley stay close in USAC: Brian Tyler holds a 14-point lead over fellow Pep Boys Indy Racing League rookie J.J. Yeley after the completion of the "Border Wars IV" USAC sprint car races last weekend at Rossburg, Ohio, and Winchester, Ind. Tyler won his third consecutive "Border Wars" title by finishing 11th at Rossburg and second at Winchester. Kevin Doty edged Yeley for the victory at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, and Armstrong beat Tyler to the checkered flag at Winchester Speedway. Tyler leads Yeley, 375-361, in the national standings. Both drivers passed the Rookie Orientation Program for the Indianapolis 500 last month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
*** Heads-up raffle: One lucky fan will win the helmets worn by all 33 starters in this year's Indianapolis 500 in a raffle benefiting the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. A raffle ticket costs $250. Tickets can be purchased by credit card only. Call (888) 333-9422 to buy tickets. The drawing is May 31. Pep Boys Indy Racing League driver Scott Sharp and Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials devised the raffle, also presented by Riley Hospital for Children, Simpson, Bell Helmets and Pep Boys IRL drivers. "We (Sharp and his fellow drivers) thought this would be a great way to raise money to help the critically ill and injured children in Indiana," Sharp said. Riley Hospital for Children is among the 10 largest children's hospitals in the nation.
*** St. James puts kids on fast track at IMAX show: Pep Boys Indy Racing League driver Lyn St. James spoke to more than 800 elementary-level students from central Indiana on May 4 at the IMAX 3D Theater in downtown Indianapolis. St. James' speech dovetailed nicely with the students' afternoon activity, watching the film "Super Speedway" on the six-story IMAX screen. The movie puts viewers in the cockpit of an Indy-style car traveling 200 mph. St. James was named Bank One Rookie of the Year after finishing 11th in the 1992 Indianapolis 500. She is the only woman entered in this year's race, May 24. She will drive the Lifetime Television for Women-Biomet G Force/Infiniti/Goodyear.
*** Dr. Jack honored by Indianapolis mayor: Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith honored Pep Boys Indy Racing League driver Dr. Jack Miller by declaring May 4 as "Crest Racing and Education Program Day" in the city. Miller has performed countless dental-health clinics for children in Indianapolis and Pep Boys IRL markets around the country since joining the league in January 1997 with Crest as his primary sponsor. "Dr. Jack Miller, Indy Racing League driver and practicing dentist, along with the real Crest Indy race car, heightens children's interest and provides them with the motivation needed to become drivers of their own oral care," Goldsmith said.
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