IRL: Phoenix preview

For Immediate Release Calkins, Arizona Drivers Head March 24th Phoenix IRL Field INDIANAPOLIS, March 12, 1996 -- Indy 200 winner Buzz Calkins and the local flavor of three Arizona drivers head a tentative entry list of 25 ...

For Immediate Release

Calkins, Arizona Drivers Head March 24th Phoenix IRL Field

INDIANAPOLIS, March 12, 1996 -- Indy 200 winner Buzz Calkins and the local flavor of three Arizona drivers head a tentative entry list of 25 car-driver combinations for the Phoenix 200 March 24 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Calkins, the 24-year-old rookie from Denver who won the Indy Racing League's inaugural event Jan. 27 at Walt Disney World, takes the series points lead to Phoenix over Tony Stewart, the three-time 1995 United States Auto Club titlist.

Scottsdale's Arie Luyendyk, winner of the 1990 Indianapolis 500 and the 1991 edition of the Phoenix event, heads the Arizona contingent on the entry list. Dan Drinan, a USAC midget and Silver Crown specialist also from Scottsdale, and International Motor Sports Association veteran Johnny O'Connell of Chandler are the other Arizona representatives scheduled to drive. Drinan will bid for his first start in the Indianapolis-car ranks. In addition, former Indianapolis 500 front row starter Eddie Cheever, a Phoenix native, will return to compete on the mile oval.

The field also boasts a pair of Indianapolis 500 pole winners in Scott Brayton (1995) and Roberto Guerrero (1992). Brayton hopes to make his 150th Indianapolis-car start at Phoenix. Guerrero holds the Indianapolis Motor Speedway track record and earned his first championship victory at Phoenix in 1987.

In addition to Drinan, several other drivers hope to make their first-ever Indianapolis-car starts. Spain's Fermin Velez, Mexico's Michel Jourdain Jr. and Jim Guthrie of Albuquerque, N.M., (among the eight newcomers who passed USAC driver's tests at last month's "Test in the West" at the Desert Mile) have been assigned rides and are cleared to drive.

To start, the field will be chasing Richie Hearn, the 25-year-old Canyon Country, Calif., rookie who had the fastest unofficial lap of last month's test at 185.854 miles per hour, the fastest lap ever at a one-mile oval. Luyendyk was close behind at 184.615 mph. Stewart (183.299 mph) and Guerrero (182.926 mph) also broke the 180-mile-per-hour barrier and the existing track record of 181.952 mph set last April by Bryan Herta. In January, Indy 200 pole winner Buddy Lazier became the first IRL driver to better the track standard with an unofficial lap at 184.899 mph.

The Phoenix 200 will be the 52nd appearance of the Indianapolis cars at the Phoenix mile and the second race of the inaugural Indy Racing League season. The race will be aired live by ABC Sports and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network.

Also on the card for the weekend are USAC's U.S. Formula Ford 2000 National Championship Series, the Sports Car Club of America's Shelby Pro Series and the STAR Formula Mazda Series.

The weekend starts with the Phoenix 200 Charity Golf Tournament on Thursday, March 21 at Wigwam Resort in Litchfield Park. Practice starts Friday, March 22 for the IRL machines with qualifying on Saturday and the race at 2 p.m. (Phoenix time) on Sunday.

--IRL 96-05--

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Series INDYCAR