IRL: Day 6 - Indy 500 - May 8

DAY 6 THURSDAY, MAY 8 Rain and wet conditions delayed the track opening until 3:01 p.m. At 3:35 p.m., Steve Kinser took the ...

DAY 6 THURSDAY, MAY 8

Rain and wet conditions delayed the track opening until 3:01 p.m. At 3:35 p.m., Steve Kinser took the #44 One Call/Menards/Quaker State entry on to the track, marking his first lap at the Speedway since 1981. At 3:56 p.m., Robbie Buhl in the #3 Quaker State Special turned a lap at 213.929 miles an hour, fastest of the day. At 4:06, Buhl turned a lap at 214.521, fastest of the day. At 4:16 p.m., Buhl turned a lap at 214.864, fastest of the day. At 4:56 p.m., Tony Stewart in the #2T Glidden/Menards/Special turned a lap at 215.476, fastest of the day. At 4:55 p.m., Buhl turned a lap at 214.900, second fastest of the day. ARIE LUYENDYK: "Like I said, same as yesterday, we tried to do what we were doing before. To tell you the truth, yesterday's setup was better. We really didn't make much progress today. We'll try again tomorrow. I think we're getting close." (Differences between 1997 and 1996): "I don't have that much time. One difference is you don't have the same people to run against. The competition's the same...I mean, lap times and things like that."

Tony George, president of the Speedway, and Leo Mehl, vice president of the Speedway and executive director of the Indy Racing League, met with the media this morning in the Trackside Conference Room. TONY GEORGE: (about a 33-car field): "Sure, there's going to be 33 cars starting. It's not a prediction. I mean, it's our intent to start a full field of cars. It always has been. You know, I think a lot has been made of the engine situation but we have a lot of challenges that we have to meet beyond a 33-car field. We go on to Texas and Colorado in two-week intervals after the Speedway and those are all challenges, but everyone is enthusiastic about meeting those challenges." (About future CART participation here): "We really want anybody that wants to compete in the Indy Racing League or the Indianapolis 500 to feel that they have an opportunity to do that. I think there is today an opportunity for them to do that, all things being equal. There's nothing keeping them away today. I know I've had several conversations with Al (Unser) Jr., particularly, and he's expressed a lot of his personal feelings to me. And I know there are others out there who feel like they want to be back at Indianapolis. I think we will have Indy-only teams and many of those teams may be what are considered CART teams today, but we welcome anybody who wants to come run here." (About the IRL's progress): "I think we're right where I thought we would be or right where I'd hoped we would be. We're very fortunate to have him (Mehl) on board and so, based on where we started, maybe we're a little bit ahead of where we'd like to be." (About the IRL engine package): "A lot of people who are working on these engines feel very, very strongly that given time to develop within the next six months, which means by the end of our season, these things should be very, very reliable whereby we could, if we had a schedule that required it, would be running week in and week out. That's one of the things we've planned for and it just doesn't happen overnight, but it's around the corner." (About road racing in the IRL's future): "I don't think I've really...held out much hope for road racing. Maybe I did at one point. But we've designed these cars around an oval. I don't think it would be very wise of us to go out and try to run road courses as part of our schedule with all the oval opportunities that are out there. Early on, before we really designed these League cars, we talked to Laguna Seca because they expressed an interest...but really as the plans developed, road courses weren't part of the business plan." (About an added race at the Speedway): "There was an indirect approach to my office. I didn't speak to anyone on this subject but it came to me through one of the people in my office. The question was asked, would we be interested in hosting a CART- sanctioned race in September, as early as this year? We have to look at it as a business decision and I don't think it would make sense for us to do that. We're promoting a golf tournament in September that we're trying to build. As far as additional races at this venue, I would be most interested in possibly pursuing a Formula One race but our open-wheel oval race is in May and that's what I'm interested in trying to continue to build. They're (discussions with Formula One) not ongoing at all at this point. Through the years, we've had a couple of conversations and we've designed what we think would be a great road course for Formula One. We've got different business philosophies that have kept us separate right now, but I think we'd have a great venue for a U.S. Grand Prix. There is a time of year, but with the construction projects we have going on here, we can't be running races here past August."

LEO MEHL: (about IRL rule changes): "When we started the League, I wasn't here of course, but there were contractual arrangements made with the engine suppliers and the chassis suppliers and now we're going to announce (Friday, May 16)...what's going to happen in the future, what the requirements are if you want to build a motor for the IRL. We're going to announce what the engine supply rules will be and we're going to distribute a technical specification. We have worked very closely with them (the manufacturers) on what the spec should be for the future. We don't want the cars to be obsoleted at the end of the year. We want the 97s to be able to be updated to 98s. We know that if I'm an owner and I've got enough money, I'm going to buy myself a 98. So we think that's going to be the strength of the League, that the 97s will stay in service. (About IRL qualifying rules): "The 25 and 8 rule is being discussed right now and has been discussed for awhile. We will announce also what's going to happen to the 25 and 8 rule. It's actually a 23 and 10 rule right now because there're only 23 cars in the point standings that are participating here." (About CART teams running here in 98): "I think that the teams are very interested to see the final copy of the rules to know that they're not going to be changed, or the car builders. They want to have confidence in the rules, exactly what they are. They do know that we will treat them fairly, that if they come, they'll come on the same basis as anybody else..." (About the IRL's future direction): "I figured it out when I was quietly retired one day. There's nearly a billion dollars in investment in the last several years and planned for the future...a billion dollars in investment in racing tracks in the United States and every penny of it has been in ovals. So it's my opinion that there is a place in that billion dollar investment for a very closely competitive, reasonably-priced, open-wheel series that can concentrate just on that. CART has excellent races, you know, a good series...a very diverse series and a good series, but we're looking at an all-oval series and we feel there's a place for that." (About the 98 IRL schedule): "We're looking for 10 races next year and we want to build the thing up slowly and give the teams and the equipment time to develop. We haven't talked very much about road courses although the subject comes up from time to time. Our intent is to be the best oval race and open-wheel series in the world."

At 3:17 p.m., Arie Luyendyk in the #5 Treadway Racing WavePhore Miller Lite entry got loose in the south short chute, did two complete spins over 580 feet to hit the wall with the front in the middle of Turn 2, then came off the wall 60 feet to a stop. The car sustained minor nose cone damage. Luyendyk was examined and released from Hanna Medical Center and was cleared to drive. "I went into Turn 1...wasn't going very hard...it was probably cold tires or the wind could've played a factor," said Luyendyk. "There could've been just a little spot of moisture on the track also. But they'll probably check that. When it came around, I slammed on the brakes hard and when it came down into the grass, that's probably where it picked up speed, but all I'm missing is a nose cone. I should be back out there in a few minutes."

Blueprint Racing has entered into a year-long partnership with Arlington, Texas-based High Opportunity Petroleum Enterprises Inc., driver Sam Schmidt and owner Ed Rachanski announced today at the Trackside Conference Room. The car assigned to Schmidt is now called the #16 HOPE/Blueprint Racing entry. HOPE owners Mark Manuel and Jeff Walker were also on hand for the announcement. HOPE opened in March and markets a Universal Prepaid Fuel Card and a Revolutionary HOPE Fuel Enhancer containing Enviromax Plus, endorsed by three-time "500" winner Johnny Rutherford. In addition, Blueprint driver Jim Guthrie announced Cruisin' America as a sponsor for the #27 Jacuzzi/Blueprint Racing Dallara. JIM GUTHRIE: (about getting started in the IRL for 97): "We borrowed $5,000 on VISA from friends for the down payment on the Dallara. We begged and borrowed parts...we had almost one of everything for Orlando."

Rookies Sam Schmidt, Vincenzo Sospiri, Affonso Giaffone, Jeff Ward and Greg Ray met with the media today in the Trackside Conference Room. AFFONSO GIAFFONE (after telling the media that his "regular" job in Brazil was building bulletproof cars, he was asked if there was a market for it): "Unfortunately in Brazil, (the) crime rate (is) high and (the) market (is) good for me right now." (About starting his career): "When I started my career, I was 18. My dad wouldn't allow me to race until I got into business in university. When in university, I started Formula Fords and put my car in the garage and mom and dad's outside. That's how I got started."

VINCENZO SOSPIRI (about driving style): "I remind myself to turn left. My style of driving (is) to get (as) smooth as possible, get flat(out) and to not change my line."

JEFF WARD (about being at Indy in 95): "Here in 95, it was a big jump for me but I still have to start over. I just want to get on the track like everyone else." (About transition from motocross): "I raced motocross when I was five and raced for 25 years. I started with Kawasaki when I was 16 and stayed with them for my professional career. I wanted to race cars all along the way. I raced motocross longer than most. I raced off-road and celebrity races in cars sometimes. After retiring in 92 from motocross, I immediately started Indy Lights. (about the difference between cars and motocycles): "I felt restricted by the seat belts. You hit harder when you fall off a bike. Mentally, in preparation, you drive to win."

SAM SCHMIDT (asked if he would be here if not for the IRL): "Me, most definitely (would not be here). Like Greg, I didn't start racing till I was older. IRL has helped open doors."

GREG RAY (in response to Schmidt's answer): "I agree wholeheartedly. When I started racing, I set myself a path. Formula One had a clear path. When I started, the Indy cars didn't (have a clear path). The IRL has opened the doors."

Team Menard confirmed today its cars would return to Firestone tires after four days on Goodyear tires. LARRY CURRY (Team Menard director of racing): "The bottom line is we said in the beginning that the plan was to try to run on Goodyears. We ran right at 400 miles (on Goodyears). We weren't able to get the cars to the confidence level we'd like to have for our drivers. It's important that the drivers are able to have confidence in the whole package for the race. We felt that, because of the time that's left, we owed that to the drivers."

AL SPEYER (Bridgestone/Firestone director of motorsports): "We are delighted to have Team Menard back with Firestone. This is where we thought they belonged all along. We now are eager to do our part to help them toward their goals of winning a third straight pole and following that up with a victory in the Indianapolis 500."

STU GRANT (General manager of racing worldwide for Goodyear): "There are fundamental differences between brands of tires. The Menard teams ran over 3,000 miles in testing at Indy for the competitor. Unfortunately, two days of practice was not enough time to find the right setup with our tires."

Alessandro Zampedri and the #34 Mi-Jack Scandia Royal Purple entry brought out the caution at 5:23 p.m. when the car caught fire. Zampedri stopped the machine just past the scoring pylon. "It just blew right out of (Turn) 4," Zampedri said. "All day we've been waiting for this rain to stop and then this happens. We've been struggling. I think I only have a total of 16 laps and not even up to speed. I was lucky it blew coming out of the turn and not in the entrance."

Steve Kinser completed the first phase of his driver's test at 5:03 p.m. today. Rookies will practice 9:30-11 a.m. Friday.

The second annual Women's Invitational Golf Tourney to benefit the USAC Benevolent Foundation is scheduled for Tuesday, May 20 on the West Nine at Eagle Creek Golf Course, sponsored by Raybestos. The event is a best-ball scramble with check-in at 7 a.m. and a shotgun start at 8 a.m. Lunch will be catered by Don Pablo's Mexican Restaurant. For further information, contact Bill Marvel, the foundation's executive secretary, at 317/247-5151.

Parnelli Jones, the 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner, will host a special dinner at Indianapolis Raceway Park to benefit the Brain Injury Association of Indiana. The inaugural event, "On the Right Track...The Race to Prevent Brain Injury" will be one of the events surrounding the USAC Coca Cola 100 Silver Crown Championship race the same evening at IRP. Parnelli's son Page received critical brain injuries in an accident while leading a sprint-car race in September, 1994, continues to improve daily and is expected to join Parnelli at the event. For further information, contact the Brain Injury Association of Indiana at 317/356-7722 or IRP at 317/291-4090.

22 cars were on the track today, running 489 laps. Cars on track today: #2 and #2T Stewart; #3 Buhl; #3T Robbie Buhl, Quaker State Special; #5 Luyendyk; #6 Goodyear; #10 M. Groff; #12 Calkins; #16 Schmidt; #17 Giaffone; #18 Paul; #21T Guerrero; #22 Marco Greco, Side Play International Scandia Alta Xcel; #27 Guthrie; #30 R. Groff; #34 Zampedri; #40 Miller; #42 Gordon; #44 Steve Kinser, One Call/Menards/Quaker State; #77 Stephan Gregoire, Chastain Motorsports; #90 St. James; #91 Lazier.

Claude Bourbonnais, Scott Harrington, Johnny O'Connell and Johnny Parsons passed driver physicals today, bringing the total to 45, according to Dr. Henry Bock, Speedway medical director.

A total of 41 cars are now at the Speedway, 30 have passed technical inspection and three are in the process. 28 drivers have been on the track to date. There were eight yellows for 1 hour, 5 minutes. (Rain delay: 3 hours, 5 minutes.) At 5:05 p.m., the temperature was 70 degrees with winds 16 miles an hour out of the west. Track temperatures from Goodyear tire engineers were 106 degrees at 3:15 p.m., 97 degrees at 5 p.m. and 81 degrees at 6 p.m.

TOP 10 DRIVERS OF THE DAY

1  5        Arie Luyendyk        Treadway Racing WavePhore Miller Lite                G/A/F        217.318
2  2T        Tony Stewart        Glidden/Menards/Special                                G/A/F        215.822
3  3T        Robbie Buhl        Quaker State Special                                G/A/F        215.708
4  90        Lyn St. James        Lifetime TV-Cinergy                                D/I/F        212.565
5  42        Robby Gordon        Coors Light                                        G/A/G        212.229
6  18        John Paul Jr.        Klipsch Tnemec Overhead Door Pyle V-Line Earl's        D/A/G   211.640
7  12        Buzz Calkins        Bradley Food Marts                                G/A/G        211.248        
8  21T        Roberto Guerrero Pennzoil-Pagan Racing Dallara Infiniti                D/I/G        210.664
9  6        Scott Goodyear        Treadway Racing Nortel                                G/A/F        209.966
10 16        Sam Schmidt        HOPE/Blueprint Racing                                D/A/F        209.864

G=G Force; D=Dallara; A=Aurora; I=Infiniti; G=Goodyear; F=Firestone

--IMS --

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Robby Gordon , Buzz Calkins , Robbie Buhl , Stephan Gregoire , Jeff Ward , Arie Luyendyk , Jim Guthrie , Scott Goodyear , Roberto Guerrero , Johnny O'Connell , Sam Schmidt , Lyn St. James , Parnelli Jones , Steve Kinser , Scott Harrington , Jeff Walker , Tony George , Johnny Parsons , Claude Bourbonnais , John Paul , Vincenzo Sospiri , Johnny Rutherford