INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, April 6, 2000 -- Tyce Carlson has driven 346 competitive laps in the Indianapolis 500 and several hundred more in testing. But they don't come close to how many he has driven mentally. "There's not...
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, April 6, 2000 -- Tyce Carlson has driven 346 competitive laps in the Indianapolis 500 and several hundred more in testing. But they don't come close to how many he has driven mentally. "There's not a day goes by that I don't run laps in my mind," said Carlson, an Indianapolis native who hopes to start in his third Indianapolis 500 on May 28. Carlson plans to physically prepare for Indy during the Indianapolis 500 Open Test April 7-11 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway April 7-11. Rookies will make their orientation runs April 7-8 and then the veterans, including past winners Eddie Cheever Jr. (1998) and Buddy Lazier (1996), take to the track the next three days. A majority of these same drivers also will participate in the third Indy Racing Northern Light Series race of the season - the Vegas Indy 300 - on April 22 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway before beginning quest for victory in the 84th annual Indianapolis 500 when practice opens May 13. "I want to win Indy," said Carlson, who grew up only a few blocks northeast of the world's most famous auto racing facility. "It would change everybody's life. The way I look at it, I've worked pretty much all of my life to get here. I want to give back to my family and the people who helped me get here. I plan to give back as much as I can." Part of Carlson's giving is participating extensively in the Indiana Children's Wish Fund. At each Indy Racing event he meets with Wish Fund children, talking to them and signing autographs. Carlson, a 29-year-old father of two, has come a long way since he drove in his first Indy Racing race at New Hampshire on Aug. 18, 1996, starting 16th and finishing 11th. He now has driven in 21 series races and pushed his career earnings over the $1 million mark with a 15th-place finish in the MCI WorldCom Indy 200 last month at Phoenix. Also, he now is competing for a second straight season with basically the same team. Last year it was called Blueprint-Immke Racing; now it carries the name Hubbard-Immke Racing. Jim Immke has joined forces with Ross and Diana Hubbard to provide a solid team that also includes crew chief Greg Beck. "We've got a five-year plan and a three-year commitment to win the 500," Immke said. Immke was involved with Australian driver Vern Schuppan in the late 1970s (Schuppan finished third in 1981) and feels Carlson has the same driving skills. "I watched Tyce and was very impressed with his driving style," Immke said. "We're trying to get together and chase our dreams." Carlson is driving a new Dallara powered by an Oldsmobile engine. The team switched to Firestone tires a year ago, giving it a valuable year of experience before Firestone became the sole supplier of tires in the series. The team intends to take advantage of all three days of testing for veterans at the Speedway. The main goal is for Carlson and the crew to get comfortable with the car and the track. Carlson has learned in his two previous races at Indy that the race through the first 400 miles is against the track itself, keeping the car stable so it can be competitive down the stretch. The test also will allow Carlson a chance to learn how the car handles in heavy traffic. "The speeds will be down a little," he said about the move to the smaller 3.5-liter engine. "Not that much - 217 to 220. I think the racing will be better. I don't think one car will be able to pull away. "A lot of the rookies will have to learn how to draft. Indy is different. Sitting on the pole makes the odds better. It builds energy throughout your crew." Carlson needs to find some luck, too. He was running at the end of season's first two races, but had finishes of 15th (after a sixth-place start) at Phoenix and 13th at Walt Disney World Speedway. At Disney he made up three laps after tangling with another driver, while at Phoenix the emergency shutoff switch did its job without him touching it. "This doesn't show our potential," Carlson said. "We've been fast wherever we go. That's our goal. All we can do is continue doing what we do -- working as hard as we can, racing as hard as we can." This year's Indy Racing cars are more competitive and more comfortable, he said, which means they're running closer together and a driver must be more focused. A pass must be made at the appropriate time and not be a forced move around someone in front. Finishing well at Las Vegas will help with team confidence, he said. And he feels he has the right stuff to follow up with a possible winning performance at Indy. "Until I'm solidly in the field I will not feel comfortable," he said. "Look at Penske (Racing). They had just won a race (in 1995) and didn't make it." And should he win the Indianapolis 500, does he have a victory speech prepared? "I've been practicing for 28 years," he said. He was serious.
OPEN TEST NOTEBOOK
*Schedule: The Rookie Orientation Program will take place from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. April 7-8 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Veterans will test on the 2.5-mile oval from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. April 9-11.
*Fans welcome: Spectators are welcome to watch the Rookie Orientation Program and Open Test every day from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., free of charge. Seating will be available in the South Terrace bleachers on the inside of the track adjacent to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.
*Autograph session: A driver autograph session is planned for April 9, during the noon lunch break. Drivers will be shuttled over to the South Terrace stands, where tables will be set up for fans to get autographs from their favorite drivers.