IRL: Charlotte Saturday Notes

Ken Plotkin and David Reininger -motorsport.com - Motorsport News International Charlotte, NC, May 1 - The rains in North Carolina finally stopped, leaving just enough cloud cover for pleasant afternoon shade. Twenty-eight Indy Racing League...

Ken Plotkin and David Reininger -motorsport.com - Motorsport News International

Charlotte, NC, May 1 - The rains in North Carolina finally stopped, leaving just enough cloud cover for pleasant afternoon shade. Twenty-eight Indy Racing League teams spent a quiet afternoon in the garage, preparing for the final "happy hour" practice and tonight's VisionAire 500.

In the final IRL practice, Greg Ray maintained his status as speed demon of Charlotte, with fast practice speed of 221.83 mph, just shy of his 222+ mph pole speed. Second fastest was Eddie Cheever, with a speed of 220.579 mph, almost four mph faster than his qualifying speed. Eddie quipped to his crew that in the future they will qualify on full tanks.

John Hollansworth's fortunes improved. After failing to post a qualifying time last night, he set the fifth fastest time of today day at 219.753 mph. "Yesterday was a bad day for us. We didn't get to qualify. We had all kinds of electrical gremlins. We had to get an exorcist here to get rid of them." Despite a spin due to a missed shift, the exorcism has worked. "We have everything working right, and the car is fast."

There were two important sponsor/team announcements this afternoon.

Nienhouse Motorsports announced a primary sponsorship from Fubu sports apparel for both the VisionAire 500 and the 83rd running of the Indianapolis 500. Fubu began in 1992 when Daymond John began marketing hats made in his home in Hollis, Queens. Teaming with three friends and working from sound business and marketing methods, Fubu is now one of the hottest names in hip-hop sports apparel. The move to racing is a natural extension. Daymond explained "In this year's collection we had slated a racing portion. We feel this would add authenticity to our line as we did when we associated with NBA for our athletic line."

Daymond is looking forward to seeing how the market expands among race fans. "It's something totally new for us. I'm definitely hitting a new marketplace. We'll just have to see the reaction. We'll place the product out and see how the races go. It's really new." Fubu grew by knowing its current market, and Daymond is positive that they will become interested in racing. "After we start doing the product placement and they understand it is a Fubu car on the track people will be tuning in to see how it turns out, how it looks, everything behind it. So a lot of our market will definitley start to acknowledge the racing scene."

In a second team press conference held this afternoon, TeamXtreme Racing announced that it has hired Mike Groff to drive the No. 46 LINC Capital / Mi-Jack Dallara in the 83rd running of the Indianapolis 500. Groff, "Fastest Rookie" in 1991, will be attempting his sixth Indianapolis 500 start. Mike will be supported by crew chief Rob Stark and engineer Mark Weida.

"To say the least, it's very exciting to be involved with TeamXtreme," said Groff. "Working with John's been great. After this event we're going to be headed for Indianapolis for two days of testing. I feel real good about that. As John mentioned, Mark Weida's our engineer. Mark and I have a very successful past. We've won a lot of races together and we're hoping that we can continue things.

"This means a lot to me.  We've had some good efforts at Indy, some good
times.  Indy to me has been one of those places where I've had a few good
shots, and that kind of keeps me coming back.  Indy is the greatest race in
the world as far as I'm concerned.  Nothing's ever changed with that.  As a
driver, that's where you want to be.  That's certainly where I want to be."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever