IPS: IRL: Michigan Indy 400 Saturday notebook

Hemelgarn eager for home race; Marlboro Team Penske braces for long haul. BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Ron Hemelgarn, owner of 2000 Indy Racing League champion Hemelgarn Racing, is eager for the inaugural Michigan Indy 400 on July 26-28 at his home track,...

Hemelgarn eager for home race; Marlboro Team Penske braces for long haul.

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Ron Hemelgarn, owner of 2000 Indy Racing League champion Hemelgarn Racing, is eager for the inaugural Michigan Indy 400 on July 26-28 at his home track, Michigan International Speedway.

The 2-mile oval at MIS is just a 40-minute drive from Hemelgarn's home in Toledo, Ohio, but this is Hemelgarn's first race at MIS in a decade.

"It is always exciting to run Michigan since I consider it to be my home track," Hemelgarn said. "For years I ran two or three cars at Michigan, but then I left the CART series and headed for the Indy Racing League. Now, 10 years later, I'm back and looking for great success."

Hemelgarn fields three cars in Indy Racing, the No. 91 Coors Light/Life Fitness/Tae-Bo/Delta Faucet Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone driven by 2000 IRL champion Buddy Lazier in the IRL and two Infiniti Pro Series cars, the No. 91 Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone driven by Aaron Fike and the No. 92 WSA Healthcare Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone driven by series points leader Cory Witherill.

A veteran of open-wheel racing, Hemelgarn has participated in various racing series since 1978. He bought his first Indy-car team in 1984 and joined forces with team manager Lee Kunzman. This successful partnership won the 1996 Indianapolis 500 and 2000 IRL title with Lazier, and it still exists today.

"The last time Hemelgarn Racing participated at Michigan was in 1992 when the first purple Hemelgarn race car was unveiled," Hemelgarn said. "We finished seventh with Buddy behind the wheel."

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The long haul: The Michigan Indy 400 may be the second-longest event on the 2002 Indy Racing League schedule at 400 miles, but Marlboro Team Penske is treating it as a 500-miler.

The Indianapolis 500 is the only 500-miler on the IRL schedule. There are two 400-mile races on the schedule this season -- the Yamaha Indy 400 won by Sam Hornish Jr. on March 24 at California Speedway and the Michigan Indy 400 on July 28 at Michigan International Speedway. Both California and Michigan are 2-mile ovals.

Marlboro Team Penske is the leading team in the series this season, with Gil de Ferran first in the season standings with 347 points in the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone and teammate Helio Castroneves second at 337 points in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

"Marlboro Team Penske will approach its preparation this weekend in Michigan as if the race were 500 miles," said Tom Wurtz, Marlboro Team Penske team manager. "Most of the races we've had this season have been right around 300 miles, so we'll have to take into consideration that extra 100 miles in order to make sure our equipment withstands the demands of the weekend.

"Furthermore, the event will be three days, so we'll most likely be putting more wear on the cars, as well. We'll start with fresh gearboxes and uprights on Friday so they'll be able to withstand the extra mileage Gil and Helio will be putting on the cars. In addition, with a longer race, attrition plays a larger role in strategy -- we want to make sure our equipment is in good shape so we are running at the end."

The race is at 3 p.m. (EDT) Sunday. ABC will televise the race live.

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Coming home: A.J. Foyt Racing Team Manager Craig Baranouski will have a homecoming race this weekend during the Michigan Indy 400.

Baranouski grew up in Quincy, Mich., but has worked with Foyt Racing at the team's Houston-area shop since 1986.

Foyt Racing, owned by four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt, fields four cars in Indy Racing this season. In the Indy Racing League, Foyt enters Harrah's-sponsored Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone cars for 2000 IRL Rookie of the Year Airton Dare, 1999 IRL champion Greg Ray and Eliseo Salazar. In the Infiniti Pro Series, Foyt's grandson A.J. Foyt IV drives a Harrah's-sponsored Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.

"I won't have as much time to spend with my family as I used to when we just had one car in the CART series," Baranouski said. "I have more responsibility now, and we're running with three (IRL) cars, so there won't be any spare time.

"But I am glad to be coming back, plus we've run a lot better in the last five IRL races, so I think we'll give them a run for the money there. The race will be different from the CART race because the aero package is so different on our cars. I think the fans will really appreciate the wheel-to-wheel action the IRL provides."

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Fike stays on hot streak: Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series standout Aaron Fike took the lead in the Badger Midget Series point standings after earning his fifth feature win of the season July 21 at Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, Wis.

Fike, 19, took the lead on the last lap of 25-lap feature. He also won the trophy dash earlier in the evening.

2001 USAC Silver Crown Rookie of the Year Fike will drive the No. 91 Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone during the Infiniti Pro Series race July 28 at Michigan International Speedway.

Fike ran up front for most of Infiniti Pro Series practice on Friday, topping out at 180.293.


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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Greg Ray , Buddy Lazier , Airton Daré , Cory Witherill , Gil de Ferran , A.J. Foyt IV , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske