IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League notebook 2003-04-30

Indy Racing League Notebook Ward staying sharp for Indy; Castroneves standing on brink of Indy history. INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, April 30, 2003 -- Veteran Jeff Ward has made no starts in the IRL IndyCarTM Series this season, but he is staying ...

Indy Racing League Notebook
Ward staying sharp for Indy; Castroneves standing on brink of Indy history.

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, April 30, 2003 -- Veteran Jeff Ward has made no starts in the IRL IndyCarTM Series this season, but he is staying sharp for any possible Indianapolis 500 rides by returning to his roots -- motorcycle racing.

Ward has stayed fit with a daily training regiment that includes two hours of cycling per day, 200 miles per week. He also kept his reflexes and competitive spirit sharp by winning a Supermoto race recently at California Speedway.

Supermoto pits riders from various motorcycle racing disciplines, including motocross, road racing and flat track, on a hybrid racecourse consisting of asphalt and dirt sections. Ward won seven AMA national titles between 1984-92 during his combined Supercross and motocross career.

At California Speedway, Ward beat top riders such as seven-time AMA Supercross champion Jeremy McGrath, freestyle motocross godfather Mike Metzger and former 500cc world road-racing champion Kevin Schwantz in the Open category. The class final turned out to be a scintillating race between Ward and McGrath, the two former motocross champions battling inches apart at every turn. On the final lap, Ward put a breathtaking pass on McGrath to take the victory.

"I'm not just sitting home on the couch," Ward said. "I've been going out and doing what I can to keep myself in competitive shape. Riding Supermoto is about as extreme as you can get as far as that goes. I just wanted to show that I'm in as good a shape as anybody on the IndyCar Series circuit, and to beat someone with the credentials of Jeremy McGrath, I think that proves that I am still able to be competitive at 41."

1997 Indianapolis 500 Bank One Rookie of the Year Ward plans to be at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to start the month of May, and he is optimistic that he can find a ride for the 87th Indianapolis 500.

"I've never been in the position before, but I'm confident that someone will give me a chance," Ward said. "Every year, a lot of drivers are picked up in last-minute deals, and I know that there will be a lot of good rides available this year. As far as driving in the Indianapolis 500 goes, I hope that my credentials speak for themselves."

Ward finished second in 1999 and third in 1997 at Indianapolis.

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Castroneves ready for Indy: Helio Castroneves is one of only five drivers to have won consecutive Indianapolis 500-Mile Races and is looking to make history in 2003 by being the first driver in history to win three straight "500s."

But Michael Andretti, who will retire after the 87th Indianapolis 500 on May 25, is the odds-on favorite according to a recent report in the Las Vegas Sun. The report says Station Casinos has set Andretti as the race favorite at 7-1 odds. Castroneves' odds are 10-1.

"Sorry, Michael, we are going to do as well as we can," Castroneves said. "He will be trying very hard with this being his final '500,' but so will we."

Despite the intense media and fan focus on his third consecutive victory, Castroneves is looking forward to the month of May.

"I enjoy every single second at Indianapolis, practice and going through the month step by step," Castroneves said. "As long as we stay consistent, the team will be able to do our job.

"The first win was incredible. The second was out of this world. The third, well, only the Man up there (pointing upward) knows. Records are made to be broken. It's tough, but it's there.

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Cheever still reveres Indy: 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr. is skipping the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" as a driver this year for the first time since his rookie year at the Speedway in 1990, but his love for the event and the track remains unchanged.

Cheever decided not to compete in the 87th Indianapolis 500 to concentrate on his many business interests, including ownership of Red Bull Cheever Racing and a partnership with fellow IndyCar Series owner John Menard in MCT, a racing technology and development company. Red Bull Cheever Racing will field the No. 52 Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone at Indianapolis driven by IndyCar Series young star Buddy Rice.

"We have been focusing on Indy all season," Cheever said. "As a race team, we're improving with each race. The car is getting stronger with each race, so we're hopeful about our chances at Indy.

"We're trying hard to catch up. We've just got to keep trying to make the car better every day. I think you're going to see the pace of our improvement increase rapidly at Indy. We'll have a lot of days and hours to work on the car and make it better.

"Indy will be a big help in moving this thing forward toward its fruition."

The responsibility of that improvement and guiding his other businesses made Cheever's decision to not drive at Indy this year academic.

"This decision happened by itself," Cheever said. "Hard part might be living with it. I was one small mistake, on the last few laps, from winning last year. But business must come first or there will not be any business at all."

Still, Cheever can't wait to feel the magic of May at Indy, even if the experience differs from his driving career at the Speedway.

"Indianapolis is a magical stage for anybody who loves racing," Cheever said. "Fan, driver, mechanic or sponsor. So much history. So many stories.

"I am sure this month of May will be different than I expect it to be. Most things in life have been so far, and I see no reason why that would change now."

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Busy day for Carpenter: IRL Infiniti Pro Series standout Ed Carpenter faces a busy and interesting day Saturday, May 10.

Carpenter will graduate from Butler University in Indianapolis that morning and then drive in a USAC Weld Racing Silver Crown race that evening at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

It's also the start of a busy seven-day stretch for Carpenter, who will drive in the inaugural Freedom 100 Infiniti Pro Series race May 17 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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Rite of passage: Indianapolis 500 rookie A.J. Foyt IV achieved two rites of passage during testing April 21-23 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

First, he passed the Rookie Orientation Program. Second, when Foyt turned an unofficial lap of 228 mph in his No. 14 Conseco entry, the voice of his grandfather and car owner, four-time Indianapolis 500 A.J. Foyt, crackled on the radio, "Congratulations, you finally went faster than I did at Indy."

Foyt IV will accompany his grandfather at the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 3 at Churchill Downs before heading to the Speedway for Indianapolis 500 Opening Day, Sunday, May 4.

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On the air: The Indianapolis 500 and IRL IndyCar Series will be featured on three broadcasts of national television shows during May.

Actor Anthony Edwards and the Kelley Racing Cure Autism Now car driven at Indianapolis by rookie Tony Renna will be on NBC's "Today" show May 14 and also later that evening on the morning of May 14, and on later that evening on NBC's "Late Night with Conan O'Brien."

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves is scheduled to appear on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on May 19.

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In print: Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves is featured in the May issue of Latina Magazine in a story entitled "Imported from -- Hot Men." Castroneves reveals what he looks for in a woman, what a woman can do to attract him and the craziest things he has done in the name of love.

The entire May issue of Indy Men's Magazine will feature the IRL IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500. The May issue of Indianapolis Monthly includes a feature story about A.J. Foyt IV by award-winning racing writer Dave Argabright.

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Kevin Schwantz , Eddie Cheever , Jeff Ward , Helio Castroneves , Michael Andretti , A.J. Foyt IV , Jeremy McGrath , Buddy Rice , Tony Renna , Ed Carpenter