IRL: Battle lines are drawn; who will cross first?

Al Unser Jr. returns to Phoenix. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., one of the legendary names in American motorsports, will compete at Phoenix International Raceway for the first time since 1995. Unser switched from CART to...

Al Unser Jr. returns to Phoenix. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., one of the legendary names in American motorsports, will compete at Phoenix International Raceway for the first time since 1995. Unser switched from CART to Indy Racing this season, driving for Galles ECR Racing. He has never won at Phoenix during his Indy-style career, with a best finish of second. Can he make it to the winner's circle this time?

Rivalry between Al Unser Jr. and Scott Goodyear resumes. Al Unser Jr. edged Scott Goodyear for victory in the 1992 Indianapolis 500 by .043 of a second, the closest finish in Indy history. Unser and Goodyear didn't race against each other from 1997-99, as Unser competed in CART and Goodyear in the Indy Racing League. Now that Unser has joined the Northern Light Indy Racing Series in 2000, the rivalry is back on. Can Goodyear, the defending champion of this event, turn the tables on Unser and exact some revenge this season?

Sarah is on track: Sarah Fisher, 19, will make her Walker Racing debut at this event. Fisher, a former short-track standout from Ohio, made her Indy Racing debut at the 1999 season finale at Texas Motor Speedway. She showed exceptional talent and poise for her age, which caught the attention of veteran Indy-style car owner Derrick Walker, who signed Fisher in late January to race the entire Indy Racing schedule in 2000.

Scott Goodyear. Goodyear enters the defense of his MCI WorldCom Indy 200 title with momentum, as he finished a solid fourth in the season-opening Delphi Indy 200 at Walt Disney World in January. Goodyear is among the favorites to claim the Northern Light Indy Racing Series championship this year, and another win at Phoenix could propel him into a title bid.

Greg Ray. Ray won the 1999 Indy Racing League championship with Team Menard in his first full season on the circuit. Can the streak continue in 2000 with Ray becoming the first driver to win more than one Indy Racing championship in the history of the league? Can Ray rebound from a 17th-place finish at the season-opening Delphi Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway?

Robbie Buhl. Indy Racing veteran Buhl formed Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Racing with businessmen Dennis Reinbold and Eric DeBord in late December 1999, and one month later the team was in the winner's circle at the season-opening Delphi Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway. Can Buhl continue his magic-carpet ride with a victory in the MCI WorldCom Indy 200 at Phoenix, extending his lead in the point standings?

Sweet new sound. All Indy Racing drivers at this event will be powered by 3.5-liter engines produced by Oldsmobile or Nissan Infiniti, smaller than the 4-liter powerplants used since 1997. The new engines also will have a much sweeter, more traditional Indy Racing sound thanks to new crankshafts that change the engine firing order and alter the pitch and tone of the engine significantly.

Rookies. Seven of the 24 drivers entered in this event are rookies, as Indy Racing continues to fulfill its mission of developing young talent. The rookies range in age from 19-year-old Sarah Fisher to 39-year-old Doug Didero and have a variety of backgrounds ranging from dirt-track ovals to European formula racing.

LIFESTYLES

IRL Kids and IRL Ministries. Finding day-care and church services can be tough at a racetrack, but the Indy Racing League has it handled. IRL Kids is a mobile day-care center for drivers' children that travel to each race. IRL Ministries Chaplain Mark Wingler conducts prayer services at every Indy Racing League race and helps all league drivers and officials with any and all spiritual matters.

Silicon Valley whiz kid. 1999 Indianapolis 500 Bank One Rookie of the Year Robby McGehee also is a rising star in the business world, as he is the president of a computer-software company despite being only 26 years old. McGehee drives for Treadway Racing, which won the 1997 Indianapolis 500 with Arie Luyendyk behind the wheel. This will be McGehee's first race at Walt Disney World Speedway, as he made his Indy Racing debut at the Indianapolis 500 last year.

Miles of Hope: Truscelli Team Racing is starting its involvement at this event with Miles of Hope, an organization dedicated to finding missing children across America. The hallmark of the program is large decals featuring the faces of missing children affixed to the rear of tractor-trailers that transport goods across the interstate highways of America, creating plenty of exposure and awareness of these missing children. Rookie Bobby Regester will drive for Truscelli Team Racing at this event.

Running men. Indy Racing League standouts Buzz Calkins and Stephan Gregoire also are avid long-distance runners. Calkins has completed the New York and Chicago Marathons, and Gregoire completed the 26.2-mile Chicago Marathon in less than three hours last year. How do they incorporate their distance running with their preparations for long-distance, high-speed Indy Racing events?

BUSINESS

Indy Racing takes center stage on ABC, ESPN2. Every 2000 Indy Racing League event will be televised live on either ABC or ESPN, with qualifying shown on ESPN2 as part of the league's new five-year contract with those networks.

IRL/IMS

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Buzz Calkins , Robby McGehee , Sarah Fisher , Greg Ray , Al Unser Jr. , Robbie Buhl , Arie Luyendyk , Scott Goodyear , Al Unser