Wheldon going to school in St. Louis

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (August 5, 2003) -- Heading to a new Indy Racing League (IRL) venue, rookie Dan Wheldon is going to be learning some new things as he prepares for the Emerson Indy 250 at Gateway International Raceway.

The 1.25-mile layout near St. Louis presents some new challenges to the 25-year- old pilot of the #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone. Despite being a winner at the track in Indy Lights, Wheldon has had to change his driving technique to help him get through the turns quicker in and IRL IndyCarTM Series machine.

"It is a totally different technique driving on the short tracks," said Wheldon. "Coming up through all of the other series, the cars were never powerful enough for me to have to brake and downshift in the corners. It's very unnatural to me because in Europe you brake with your right foot because you're using your left on the clutch.

"I've won many titles coming up through the ranks so I should be able to pick this up pretty quickly, but it is still difficult having to brake and downshift at the same time. I gained a lot of confidence at the test and things seemed to get better as the test went on, so I don't think I'll have any problems this weekend."

Wheldon thinks that he will need all the speed he can get, especially during qualifying.

"This race is going to be a lot different than the last couple we have had," said Wheldon. "It won't be like a superspeedway at all. Qualifying is going to be very important and race strategy is also going to play a big part. Passing is going to be difficult during the race so you will have to start near the front and use a good pit strategy to keep the track position. We should be competitive, we had a good test there and we worked on a lot of things."

Team manager Tony Cotman has seen a lot of promise in Wheldon and he is sure his driver will be competitive in St. Louis.

"Dan showed a lot of improvement at our test at Gateway and we also learned a lot at Richmond," said Cotman. "There is no doubt that Dan is good on the superspeedways and we just need to work on his technique a little bit on the shorter tracks. He has been keen and willing to learn all year so I don't think he will have any problems this weekend. We really need a solid finish this weekend to put this bad luck behind us. Dan has been running really well, but we just don't have the finishes to show it."

Qualifying for the Emerson Indy 250 will take place on Saturday at 6:15 p.m. (EDT). The race is set for Sunday 3 p.m. (EDT) and will be broadcast live on ABC.

- AGR -