INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, March 7, 2002 - A.J. Foyt has hired 2000 Indy Racing League Rookie of the Year Airton Dare to drive the No. 14 Harrah's entry for the rest of the 2002 IRL season. Dare, 24, substituted for the injured Donnie Beechler in...
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, March 7, 2002 - A.J. Foyt has hired 2000 Indy Racing League Rookie of the Year Airton Dare to drive the No. 14 Harrah's entry for the rest of the 2002 IRL season.
Dare, 24, substituted for the injured Donnie Beechler in the No. 14 Harrah's/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone in the season-opening 20th Anniversary Grand Prix of Miami on March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Dare finished 10th after an accident on Lap 195 ended his day, but he ran as high as second during the race.
"I was very impressed with Dare," Foyt said. "He had never driven a Dallara chassis before, only the G Force, and then he qualified at over 196 mph after just a couple of warm-up laps on a tricky track with strong winds. Then he drove a great race.
"When you figure that he hadn't been in a race car since Texas in October, well, it's hard not to be impressed by him."
Beechler suffered a concussion in a practice crash March 1 and wasn't cleared to drive by Dr. Henry Bock, Indy Racing League director of medical services. Beechler will not be cleared to drive at the upcoming Bombardier ATV Copper World Indy 200 on March 17 at Phoenix International Raceway, Bock said.
Dare drove for TeamXtreme Racing in 2000 and 2001, finishing 16th in the series standings in 2000 and 10th last year. TeamXtreme ceased operations after last season. Dare, a Key Biscayne, Fla., resident, has two top-five finishes in 23 career starts, including a career-best second in 2000 at Pikes Peak International Raceway.
Foyt informed Beechler of the decision and offered him a ride in a third car for the Indianapolis 500.
"I spoke to Donnie and just told him he needed to take some time to heal up," Foyt said. "He took a very hard hit, and it doesn't make sense to take chances. He is one of the nicest guys in the sport, and I'll admit it, I feel bad for him. He took it well and understood that we have his best interests at heart. I am looking forward to working with him at Indy."
Beechler first drove for Foyt last year at Indianapolis. He started 27th and raced in the top 10 until an oil fitting broke late in the race, ending his day in 25th.
Foyt then fielded a car for Beechler for the next eight races, and Beechler scored six top-10 finishes, including a career best of third at Kansas.