IRL: Top mechanic to earn $25,000 Pennzoil award this weekend

FORT WORTH, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2000 - Three of the top mechanics in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series will battle for more than the Northern Light Cup this weekend during the Excite 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Dennis LaCava, ...

FORT WORTH, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2000 - Three of the top mechanics in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series will battle for more than the Northern Light Cup this weekend during the Excite 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Dennis LaCava, Kevin Blanch and Owen Snyder, chief mechanics for Buddy Lazier, Scott Goodyear, and Eddie Cheever Jr. respectively, are in the running for the Pennzoil Chief Mechanic of the Year award. The award and a $25,000 bonus are presented to the chief mechanic of the driver who wins the Northern Light Cup. Points leader Lazier must finish 13th or better to win Hemelgarn Racing’s first championship, which would secure the Pennzoil Chief Mechanic of the Year award and bonus for LaCava, who worked for Hemelgarn when Lazier won the 1996 Indianapolis 500. “We’ve got to go out and run our race,” said LaCava. “We’re going to go out and try to win the race. That’s what racing is about. We’re just going as status quo, racing as usual.” It isn’t quite that simple for Goodyear, Blanch and the Pennzoil Panther team, who are in second place trailing Lazier and LaCava, 258-220. “When we went and tested, we went knowing we have to win the pole again,” said Blanch. “We need the three points bad to make the race more competitive, so Buddy doesn’t have to finish down as far as he has to for us to win the championship. We have to go down there and win the pole, lead the most laps and win the race.” Blanch has championship credentials from 1989 when he worked on Emerson Fittipaldi’s car that won the Indianapolis 500 and the CART championship for Patrick Racing. Snyder, chief mechanic for Cheever, won a CART championship with Indy Racing star Al Unser Jr. in 1990 and two Indianapolis 500 wins, with Unser in 1992 and with Cheever in 1998. “To win the championship we need some help,” said Snyder. “Nine times out of 10, when you need help to win something or advance you’re not going to get it, so it’s much better when it’s all left in your hands. If Buddy doesn ’t have a problem, he’s pretty well got it in hand, so it’s really up to us to out-race Scott Goodyear.” While Snyder may not be in the best position to win the chief mechanic award, Team Cheever has done superb work this season in their development of the Nissan Infiniti engine. “The hard thing that people don’t realize is that we’re one of about only two teams trying to develop this engine against all the Oldsmobile Aurora teams,” Snyder said. “We have to feel good that, number one, we won a race this year with the series as competitive as it is, and two, we have been competitive at most races.” The Pennzoil Chief Mechanic of the Year award is just one way the Indy Racing Northern Light Series recognizes its unsung heroes. Earlier in the year, Blanch led the Panther team to first place in the Coors Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge on Carburetion Day in May at Indy. “Personally, everything I gain is because of this team,” said Blanch. “We’ ve won a couple of other awards as a team that I keep here at the shop, because it’s everyone here who wins the award, from the guy who sweeps the floors to the guy who drives the truck. “It’s like I thought about the pit stop competition - it’s not about the money. It’s about being able to go down to Phoenix next year, and everybody knows when we roll out that we won last year. It’s about being the best at what you do.” LaCava shares that sentiment with Blanch. “It would be a great honor, a huge honor,” LaCava said about winning the Pennzoil Chief Mechanic of the Year Award. “To think of all the guys out here like Kevin Blanch and Owen Snyder. To feel that I could stand alongside them and feel somewhat the same would be quite an honor. But you’ve got to realize that all the guys I work with help to make me that.”

EXCITE 500 NOTEBOOK

Schedule: The Excite 500 starts at 1 p.m. (CDT) Oct. 15. MBNA Pole Qualifying starts at noon Oct. 14. Practice sessions start at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Oct. 13, and 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Oct. 14.

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On the air: The Excite 500 will be televised on a same-day delayed basis on ABC at 4 p.m. (EDT) Oct. 15. “Indy Racing 2Day” will be televised at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) Oct. 15 on ESPN2. ESPN2 will televise MBNA Pole qualifying at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) Oct. 14. The Indy Racing Radio Network will broadcast a 30-minute pre-race show at 1:30 p.m. (EDT) Oct. 15, followed by the live race broadcast at 2 p.m. IRRN will broadcast a qualifying summary show at 5:30 p.m. (EDT) Oct. 14. The area IRRN affiliate is WBAP-AM 820, Arlington, Texas. The IRRN race broadcast also will be available live on the Internet at www.indyracing.com as part of a partnership between Indy Racing Online and Yahoo!/broadcast.com. Live streaming video of all practice sessions will be available at www.LiveOnTheNet.com .

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Tickets: Tickets for the Excite 500 are available by calling Texas Motor Speedway at (817) 215-8500, through Ticketmaster outlets or at Ticketmaster Online at www.ticketmaster.com . Ticket information is available at www.texasmotorspeedway.com .

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Buddy Lazier , Scott Goodyear , Emerson Fittipaldi