Indy Racing League News and Notes -- Aug. 11, 2004 Today's IRL headlines 1. Foyt, Cheever Find Success As IndyCar Series Team Owners 2. Menards Infiniti Pro Series Rookies Ready For Kentucky Race 3. Luyendyk Jr. Joins AFS Racing 4. Judd To Serve...
Indy Racing League News and Notes -- Aug. 11, 2004
Today's IRL headlines
1. Foyt, Cheever Find Success As IndyCar Series Team Owners
2. Menards Infiniti Pro Series Rookies Ready For Kentucky Race
3. Luyendyk Jr. Joins AFS Racing
4. Judd To Serve As Grand Marshall for Kentucky Race
5. Fisher Visits Indiana State Fair
1. Foyt, Cheever Find Success As IndyCar Series Team Owners: Note: This is part of a series of releases in advance of the IRL IndyCar® Series' 100th race, The Firestone Indy 225 on Aug. 29 at Nazareth Speedway.
A.J. Foyt and Eddie Cheever have transferred their success as race drivers into ownership of successful IRL IndyCar® Series teams.
Foyt, the first man to win the Indianapolis 500 four times, was one of the IndyCar Series' original team owners, fielding cars for Scott Sharp and Davey Hamilton in the inaugural race at Walt Disney World Speedway in 1996.
"The IRL in the early days was more like a family. It grew slowly," said Foyt, whose drivers finished 11th and 12th in that first event. "Everyone did their own stuff to the motors, and it was pretty reasonable. As it grew it became much more expensive, and I think that is one of the things they have to watch, controlling costs."
Cheever, who finished 10th in the first race, just in front of Foyt's two cars, drove in every IndyCar Series race but one before stepping out of the car at the start of the 2003 season to become a full-time IndyCar Series team owner.
"It's been an exciting, difficult time," said Cheever, who currently fields cars for Alex Barron and Ed Carpenter. "The biggest thing has been managing growth and managing our internal expectations. One consistent has been that the racing has been exciting, difficult, and a challenge. But the racing has gotten better and better."
Cheever, who won the Indianapolis 500 in 1998, became an owner-driver prior to the 1996-97 season. Though he said team ownership was something he had to do out of necessity, he said racing in the IRL provided him the opportunity to win races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"It leveled the playing field," he said. "There were monopolies in the other series that have been built over years, and unless you were born a multi-millionaire, or had certain things, it was impossible to compete. The IRL gives everyone an opportunity to start from the same point. We need to remain true to that spirit.
"(Red Bull Cheever Racing) is growing and becoming one of the big teams, so it would be counterproductive for me to say that, but I do believe there has to be new people, new teams, new drivers coming into the series for it to remain vibrant. I am totally against monopolies and certain groups having strangleholds on technology that are only available to them."
Racing in the IndyCar Series also gave Foyt the opportunity to win the Indianapolis 500 as a owner, which he did with Kenny Brack in 1999, and IndyCar Series championships with Sharp (1996) and Brack (1998). Foyt also won the first Menards Infiniti Pro Series^Ù title in 2002 with his grandson, A.J. Foyt IV.
"I have a lot of good memories," Foyt said. "Winning the first championship with Scott Sharp, even though it was a real short season and he was a co-champion, it was still fun. We won it again on our own in '98 with Kenny Brack.
"We would have won it in '99 but we broke a hub with 19 laps to go while Kenny was leading the final race. He finished second in the points. But he did win Indy that year, and that is something he will always be known for so that made up for losing the championship."
Cheever, who said he doesn't have favorite memories of his racing career, says his time in the IndyCar Series has been worth the efforts.
"I enjoyed the go-karting over in Italy as much I did racing in the IRL or Formula One or sports cars," he said. "I would definitely say that I enjoyed the IRL as much as any other type of racing that I did. I like being part of (IRL Founder) Tony (George)'s vision. I hope I'm around when they reach 500 (races)."
Added Foyt: "Looking at the future, I think they just have to watch how they grow, so they don't make the mistakes that CART made. I don't think Tony will let that happen."
2. Menards Infiniti Pro Series Rookies Ready For Kentucky Race: Seven rookies will take the track at Kentucky Speedway on Aug. 14 for the IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series^Ù Kentucky 100. While six of those rookies have competed in previous events this season, Travis Gregg will make his series debut in the No. 5 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.
Gregg, 26, hails from Camden, Ohio, which is less than two hours from the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.
"Travis tested with us twice," said Michael Crawford, team manager for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. "He tested with us in the fall of 2003 in Las Vegas, and he was fantastic. We were really, really pleased with his comfort and skills in the car. He was outstanding. He tested with us again on May 1. We really had fun with him. He's a really likeable fellow. We think he'll do well in Kentucky, and we have high hopes for him in the future."
Gregg began racing go-karts when he was 7 years old and moved into SCCA Formula Atlantics for two seasons in the late 1990s. He's spent the past several years racing sprint cars on dirt tracks primarily in Indiana. He recorded two feature wins at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway.
"I'm going to try and make it a learning weekend," Gregg said of his plans for his first race weekend in a Menards Infiniti Pro Series car. "We still want to try and be fast, but we don't want to jump ahead of ourselves and get into trouble. You can see that worked well with P.J. Chesson who was able to win in his fourth race."
Chesson, a 25-year-old World of Outlaws veteran, debuted in the series at Kansas Speedway on July 4 with an eighth-place finish for Mo Nunn Racing. Two races later, he recorded his first podium finish with a second-place effort at Milwaukee. Chesson comes to Kentucky following his first victory at Michigan on Aug. 1.
"We're still riding the high from the victory in Michigan and hope to keep the momentum going this weekend," Chesson said. "Kentucky represents another new track for me, so we'll need to take it slow initially and build up our confidence. As a team, we've come an incredibly long way in such a short period of time. I'm looking forward to getting on track this week."
Another newcomer eyeing Victory Circle is Al Unser, son of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. Like Chesson, Unser entered Menards Infiniti Pro Series competition at Kansas. The third generation racer has recorded three third-place finishes in his first four races, and is coming off his first pole position at Michigan.
"This basically says we can do it," said Unser of his Western Union Speed Team entry. "We can get out there. I'm having lots of fun racing here and everywhere we go with the IRL series."
All of the rookies will have to contend with series points leader Thiago Medeiros who is looking to build on his 86-point lead in the points standings.
"Kentucky is another speedway where there will be some very close racing," Medeiros said. "We know going in that we'll have a good setup for the weekend. We're still fighting for the championship, which is one reason we didn't push too hard in Michigan. We're looking to get the maximum number of points every time out."
Medeiros established an IRL record earlier this season when he won four consecutive races. The 22-year-old Brazilian finished second in two other races, including the race at Michigan, in the No. 11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports entry.
Gregg moves into the No. 5 car vacated by Arie Luyendyk Jr. Luyendyk, fourth in the points standings, will drive the No. 27 AFS Racing entry for the remainder of the season.
3. Luyendyk Jr. Joins AFS Racing: Arie Luyendyk Jr. will drive the No. 27 AFS Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone for the remainder of the 2004 IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series season, team officials announced Aug. 11.
Luyendyk, who competed in seven Menards Infiniti Pro Series events for Sam Schmidt Racing in 2004, tested for AFS Racing at Kentucky Speedway on Aug. 6.
"The test went really well," Luyendyk said. "(Chief mechanic) Wilbur (Bunce) and I worked well together. We communicated really well. Everything was very positive.
"I think this is the change that I needed. It's good to have some stability for the rest of the season. I'll be able to concentrate on the results on the track."
Bunce has a long history with the Luyendyk family, having worked with Luyendyk's father, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk Sr., in the Super Vee series in the 1980s.
"All of us at AFS Racing, Inc. are very excited about having Arie driving with us through the end of the season," said team owner Gary Peterson. "With good equipment, good driver coaching, and Arie's natural talent, we should have some good races."
4. Judd To Serve As Grand Marshall for Kentucky Race: Actress Ashley Judd will serve as grand marshal of the IndyCar Series Belterra Casino Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway on Aug. 15.
"Our ownership group, administration and fans are proud of our Kentucky heritage and will be honored and excited to welcome one of our own as the honorary grand marshal of this year's Indy Racing League event," Kentucky Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Mark F. Cassis said. "Being an eighth generation Kentuckian, a University of Kentucky graduate and one of America's top actresses, Ms. Judd is certainly the perfect choice to join us for a showcase event at Kentucky's largest motorsports facility. That she is willing to participate in our event is a testament of her allegiance to our great state."
Judd is married to IndyCar Series driver Dario Franchitti, who is entered in the No. 27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda/Firestone.
5. Fisher Visits Indiana State Fair: IndyCar Series driver Sarah Fisher will sign autographs from 1-2 p.m. (EST, local time) Aug. 14 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Gazebo Gift Shop at the Indiana State Fair.
The IRL's two-seat race car also will be on display at the gazebo during Fisher's autograph session.