IRL: Buzz Calkings Heads to Orlando With Winning Desire

CALKINS ENTERS SEASON OPENER WITH RENEWED DESIRE TO WIN LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Jan. 15, 1999 - As Buzz Calkins pursues his master's degree in business administration at Northwestern University, he's also returning to the books as a Pep...


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Jan. 15, 1999 - As Buzz Calkins pursues his master's degree in business administration at Northwestern University, he's also returning to the books as a Pep Boys Indy Racing League driver. His first grade will come Jan. 24 in the season-opening TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway, and he hopes its more than just passing. In fact, he hopes to do a lot of passing during the race. "This year I feel confident we're going back up to where we need to be -- running competitively and hopefully getting our chance to do it (win)," said Calkins, a Denver native. "You can't guarantee it's going to happen, but I think if you run up front consistently, it's going to happen again. Hopefully, a couple of times." Calkins has been a regular in the Indy Racing League since its inception in 1996 and has the distinction of winning the first league race ever, the Indy 200 in Orlando in January 1996. Calkins also shared the first league championship with Scott Sharp. But tough times have struck recently. Calkins has six top-10 finishes since May 1996, a ninth at Phoenix being his best during the 1998 season. The low point of Calkins' 1998 season came at Dover, Del., when his father-car owner Brad Calkins decided to withdraw the team and retrench for two races. During the interim, the team hired former Team Scandia crew chief Jeff Braun to handle similar duties with the team. Calkins the driver would have preferred to stay and race that weekend but later admitted he understood the reasoning behind his father's decision. "It was getting where we were at a bottom, and we needed to do something to turn things around," he said. "At that point, it made sense to go and make some changes." He said there were a couple of performances at the end of the season (11th and still running at both Texas and Las Vegas) that hinted at improvement. Reflecting on the entire season, he said none of his races were very remarkable. He felt the Indianapolis 500 probably was his best outing. He led four laps in the race and finished 10th, completing 195 laps. The car seemed to fall off in performance as the track heated up late in the race. Mechanical problems were the major bugaboo. He said that whenever the team would get a little momentum something would break or something would happen that was out of his control. "Hopefully, we'll minimize that this year," he said. Calkins notes that when a driver wins the first time out and claims part of the first championship, it is difficult to improve on that. He said the longer he goes without winning, the stronger the desire becomes. "I think the desire is renewed not only for me, but I think there is kind of a renewed desire from everyone on the team," he said. "They realize how the situation's changed and what's coming along with new people that we've brought on, and again, I think it's pretty encouraging." Calkins will be driving a new Bradley Food Marts/Sav-O-Mat G Force/Aurora on a track that he says is different from the other 1-mile ovals the Pep Boys Indy Racing League competes on due to "undulations or elevation changes." "I think a lot of those little quirks make it challenging to set up a car," he said. "That's one of the things a lot of people struggle with here and makes it interesting. But I think this is one of the most fun tracks we go to anywhere." Calkins has been enrolled at Northwestern since September. He was graduated from the University of Colorado with a 3.1 grade average with a double degree in economics and history. He was accepted to Northwestern's prestigious graduate program and decided to take on the added challenge. He said he would not have taken on the additional burden of advanced studies if he hadn't felt he could handle both school work and racing. He calls it a realistic approach to his future. "If I can be racing for the next 15, 20 years, that's great," he said. "I think you always have to be prepared if something doesn't work out or if something happens, you get hurt. You're always thinking about some life after racing." Though his family owns oil and grocery businesses, he wants to try to start something on his own. And this could be in racing, since so many business opportunities in the sport have opened up in recent years. "I enjoy the racing in all regard, and I'll probably remain staying in it forever," he said.


Let's get ready to rumble: Announcer Michael Buffer, famous for his call of "let's get ready to rumble!" at boxing matches, will introduce every driver in the starting field Jan. 24 during prerace ceremonies. *** Schedule: The TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 starts at 1 p.m. (EST) Jan. 24. PPG Pole qualifying starts at 12:30 p.m. Jan. 23. Practice sessions take place at 10:15 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. Jan. 22, and 9:45 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Jan. 23. The USAC Coors Light Silver Bullet Series race, held in conjunction with this event, starts at 2:30 p.m. Jan. 23. *** On the air: ABC will televise the TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 on a one-hour delay basis starting at 2 p.m. (EST) Jan. 24. SpeedVision will televise PPG Pole qualifying live at noon Jan. 23. The IMS Radio Network will broadcast the race live at 1 p.m. Jan. 24, with a prerace show starting at 12:30 p.m. A qualifying highlights show will be broadcast on the IMS Radio Network at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 23. Tickets: Tickets for the TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 are available by calling (800) 822-INDY.

Source: IRL/IMS

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Buzz Calkins , Scott Sharp