INDIANAPOLIS, May 14, 2003 - It's no fun walking the garage area at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the month of May when you have no work. But that's what Alex Barron has done since the Speedway opened for practice on May...
INDIANAPOLIS, May 14, 2003 - It's no fun walking the garage area at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the month of May when you have no work. But that's what Alex Barron has done since the Speedway opened for practice on May 4th.
But still, once the first weekend of time trials was complete, Barron had no ride for the 87th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. Penske's two drivers, de Ferran and polesitter Helio Castroneves qualified for the race, but Roger said he had no intention of fielding a third car. Barron was walking the garages, helmet in hand.
It just goes to show how important it can be for a driver to simply Be There, as veteran Arie Luyendyk had to give up his seat in the #20 Meijer Panoz G Force/Toyota after a crash last Friday that still causes the two- time Indy 500 winner to have pain. Lots of upper back pain. Dr. Henry Bock wouldn't clear the Dutchman to drive. Team owner Morris Nunn had to find a replacement.
And there was Alex Barron. He has experience with the package Nunn's team is using, experience with the Indy Racing League's new engines and chassis. Could there have been a better choice?
"It wasn't a very difficult decision, when you really think about it," Nunn agreed. "The first thing we did when we found out Arie wasn't going to be able to drive was to talk with our sponsors and see what they wanted to do. They said, simply, they wanted a driver who could step in and give us the best possible chance to win the 500.
"We feel Alex comes to us with the highest credentials available." Barron finished fourth in this race last year and secured his first IndyCar Series victory at Nashville in 2002. "He tested here. He raced this package in Japan. I have every reason to expect that we can keep working toward our goals in the relatively short time we have left," Nunn said.
Can you hear the sigh of relief from the 32-year-old Californian? "I'm very happy because this is a terrific opportunity for me with a first-rate team and a great engine-chassis package I'm really familiar with." When practice resumes tomorrow, Barron will work to get a good baseline for the #20 Meijer car and "move forward. We should be in good shape," as his new teammates - Tora Takagi and Felipe Giaffone - were first and third today in practice at the Brickyard.
"I hope we can carry on with the team's goal of fielding a potential race- winning effort. My learning curve should not be a steep one. I'll definitely be inspired by thinking of all those great things Arie has done here over the years," Alex continued. All that's left to do, since he already has a seat that will fit perfectly in this tub, is to get the pedals and steering wheel situated to Barron's satisfaction. "It's just the small stuff," he said. Exactly.