For Immediate Release
'YOUNG LIONS' AMONG 41 ENTRIES FOR INDY 200 AT WALT DISNEY WORLD
ORLANDO, Dec. 6, 1995 -- A bright corps of young lions, getting an opportunity from the formation of the Indy Racing League, will challenge a group of Indianapolis 500 veterans in the inaugural Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Jan. 27, the 41-car entry list showed today.
Formula Atlantic champion Richie Hearn, West Coast supermodified standout Davey Hamilton, former IMSA Driver of the Year Johnny O'Connell and Indy Lights graduate Buzz Calkins will make their Indianapolis-car debuts at the world's newest auto racing facility, the one-mile Walt Disney World Speedway dedicated last Tuesday, Nov. 28.
Added to the young driver cadre is Stephan Gregoire of France, who first saw an Indianapolis car in person just before the month of May leading to the 1993 Indianapolis 500 and wound up leading the race.
They will challenge a group of established Indianapolis 500 standouts, including 1990 winner Arie Luyendyk, 1992 pole winner and reigning track record-holder Roberto Guerrero, 1995 pole winner Scott Brayton, 1992 front-row qualifier Eddie Cheever, 1995 fourth-place finisher Eliseo Salazar, and two-time top-five finisher Johnny Parsons.
There's also Michele Alboreto, a five-time winner in the Formula One ranks, who said earlier this week that, "at my age (39), to still be a rookie is a good feeling."
A total of 41 cars, including 19 1995 models and 11 1994s, have been entered from 21 teams, with 28 Lolas and 13 Reynards. The entry list shows 26 Ford-Cosworth engines, nine Menard V6s and four Buick powerplants. So far, 18 drivers are listed.
IRL Executive Director Jack Long said some teams, not listed here, have indicated their interest in filing one or more entries for the Indy 200. The event entry/invitation form states that entries not received with a Nov. 30 deadline postmark may be accepted or rejected at the discretion of the IRL.
"We're already assured of a quality field for Indy 200 and we're now in the process of considering a qualifying race for the event to achieve our 24-car starting field," Long said. "We expect at least another dozen drivers to be named to existing entries."
Tony George, founder of the IRL and president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, talked about the rookie crop for the inaugural IRL season.
"The '60s produced such drivers as Mario Andretti, Parnelli Jones, Johnny Rutherford, Bobby and Al Unser and Gordon Johncock," George said. "The '70s had Rick Mears and Tom Sneva. The '80s brought second-generation drivers like Al Unser Jr. and Michael Andretti. This is the Class of the '90s, and with the interest we've seen, more seem to be coming."
Hearn, 23, of Canyon Country, Calif., who has been winning races since the age of eight, took five pole positions and three victories en route to last year's Atlantic title. He'll be driving cars for DellaPenna Motorsports, the same team that fielded his Atlantic machines.
Hamilton, 33, of Boise, Idaho, is a four-time Copper World Classic champion at Phoenix International Raceway's Desert Mile. He is a second-generation driver, following in the footsteps of his father, Ken, who made the Michigan 500 field in 1982 after an illustrious supermodified career. Davey is signed with four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt for his debut at Orlando.
O'Connell, 33, of Chandler, Ariz., is a veteran endurance driver who has won races on the Formula Russell, Indy Lights, Atlantic and IMSA circuits. He's a graduate of Denison University with a degree in economics. He will compete for car-owner Clayton Cunningham, for whom he raced with Nissan on the IMSA trail.
Calkins, 24, of Denver, started his career in go-karts at age 15 and worked his way through the Formula Ford, Atlantic and Indy Lights series. He is driving for Bradley Motorsports, which fielded his cars in the 1995 Indy Lights series.
Gregoire, 26, of Vittel, France, went from 15th starting spot to the '93 Indy 500 lead in just 18 laps before finishing 19th in his first experience in an Indianapolis car and first race on an oval. He has joined Hemelgarn Racing for an IRL effort.
Luyendyk will be at the wheel of entries prepared by the newly-formed Jonathan Byrd/Leberle-Treadway Racing team based in Indianapolis. Brayton and Cheever will be the drivers for Team Menard, the Indianapolis-based team which has developed the Menard V6 Indy engine.
Guerrero will again drive for Pagan Racing and car owner Alan Pagan of Corpus Christi, Texas. Salazar, who has been helping several of the rookies during testing at Walt Disney World this week, was entered by Scandia/Simon Racing.
Long said other drivers for already-entered machines are still being determined.
"There's been a lot of interest, particularly from the oval-track set," Long said. "Steve Kinser and Tony Stewart, certainly two of the best short-track drivers in America, have been testing at Phoenix and Disney World. They could easily wind up with rides. The concept of creating opportunities is working faster than we ever imagined."
Other drivers who have been in race cars at Disney World include four-time Indianapolis 500 veteran Lyn St. James and second-generation Indy veteran Buddy Lazier.
The entry list also includes off-road and boat-racing veteran Butch Brickell of Miami, rookie Stan Wattles of Sewall's Point, Fla., and PPG Indy Car World Series veteran Bill Tempero of Fort Collins, Colo.
Pre-season testing continues through this week, and then will start up again Jan. 6-17 at the Walt Disney World Speedway before the track will go dark for inaugural race weekend preparations. The Indy 200 is Jan. 25-27, with the 200-mile inaugural IRL event on Saturday., Jan. 27, to be aired live on ABC Sports television and the IMS Radio Network.