INDY RACING LEAGUE READY FOR NEW START AT DELPHI INDY 200 LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2000 - It's a preseason motorsports litany that borders on cliche: Regardless of the series, drivers always talk about fresh starts as...
INDY RACING LEAGUE READY FOR NEW START AT DELPHI INDY 200
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2000 - It's a preseason motorsports litany that borders on cliche: Regardless of the series, drivers always talk about fresh starts as the new season approaches. It's no different in the Indy Racing League, but this year the words have real meaning. The 2000 season truly is one of new beginnings for the Indy Racing League, its teams and competitors, in more ways than one. The season starts Jan. 29 with the Delphi Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway, located just outside the gates of the famed Magic Kingdom near Orlando, Fla. The 200-lap, 200-mile race is the first of 10 stops en route to the Indy Racing League championship. Orlando resident Eddie Cheever Jr. is the defending champion of the race, while Greg Ray is defending series champion. One new aspect of Indy Racing affects all teams this season - the new chassis and engine package. All competitors will be powered by a 3.5-liter engine, reduced from the 4-liter configuration used since the start of the 1997 season. The new engine 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. Oldsmobile Aurora and Nissan Infiniti will continue to produce V8 engines for the series. The new chassis produced by manufacturers Dallara, G Force and Riley & Scott have a number of aerodynamic and safety enhancements. New safety features on the 2000-model chassis include: a wider cockpit to allow more headrest padding, additional anti-intrusion barriers on chassis sides to improve side-impact performance, an improved SWEMS wheel-retention system, higher and longer sidepods for safety, a lighter transmission with a new sequential shift pattern and an improved rear attenuator attachment. Another change that will affect some teams is Firestone's role as the only tire supplier in the series. Goodyear withdrew from the Indy Racing League and CART after the 1999 season. Firestone will be able to produce a consistent, durable tire that should make the close competition of the league even tighter in 2000. There will be new faces behind the wheel in 2000, starting with arguably the most prominent new addition ever to the league, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. Unser rejoins team owner Rick Galles and his Galles ECR Racing after a long career in CART. Unser and Galles teamed up to win a CART championship in 1990 and scored an Indianapolis 500 victory in 1992. That pedigree, combined with the skills of Galles' team, will make Unser an instant contender for his third Indy victory and first Indy Racing League season title in the team 's G Force/Aurora/Firestone. A handful of prominent drivers will arrive in Orlando with new teams, including two former Indianapolis 500 rookies of the year. Jeff Ward, Indy's top rookie in 1997, moved from Pagan Racing to one of the most coveted seats in the league with A.J. Foyt Racing. Ward will try to earn the first Indy Racing victory of his career in the Harrah's A.J. Foyt Racing G Force/Aurora/Firestone. Foyt's team shared the Indy Racing season title in 1996 and won it outright in 1998, so Ward will have the skill and support to bring him to victory lane. Robby McGehee, 1999 Bank One Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, moved from Conti Racing to Treadway Racing to drive the Energizer Advanced Formula-Energizer Motorsports G Force/Aurora/Firestone. Treadway Racing has prepared race-winning cars for Arie Luyendyk and Sam Schmidt in past seasons, so McGehee will be in good company as he aims for his first Indy Racing victory. Two-time league runner-up Davey Hamilton will drive for Sinden Racing Services with continued backing from Spinal Conquest for his Dallara/Aurora/Firestone. 1998 Indy Racing League Rookie of the Year Robby Unser moves from Team Pelfrey to Tri Star Motorsports, co-owned by 1996-97 league champion and 1999 NASCAR Winston Cup Series Rookie of the Year Tony Stewart. Unser will be a teammate to rookie Jeret Schroeder. Other rookies include Sam Hornish Jr. with PDM Racing, Niclas Jonsson with Blueprint Racing Enterprises, Jon Herb with Jonathan Byrd-McCormack Motorsports, Doug Didero with Mid America Motorsports and Airton Dare, who will be veteran John Hollansworth Jr.'s teammate on TeamXtreme. Two veteran drivers also will be making significant equipment changes in 2000. Both Cheever and 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier will drive the new American-made Riley & Scott chassis, built with technical assistance from legendary open-wheel constructor Reynard. Change is no stranger to Cheever. He switched engines from Aurora to Infiniti last April and will continue to be the flag bearer for the Infiniti Indy V8. Even defending league champion Ray has two changes to his championship-winning team. First, Conseco joined Team Menard as its major sponsor earlier this month. Second, Chris Sumner replaced John O'Gara as Ray 's chief mechanic. O'Gara left Team Menard to join Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and driver Robbie Buhl.
DELPHI INDY 200 AT WALT DISNEY WORLD SPEEDWAY NOTEBOOK
Schedule: The Delphi Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway starts at noon (EST) Jan. 29. Pole qualifying starts at 12:30 p.m. Jan. 28. Practice sessions start at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Jan. 27, and 10 a.m. and 4:15 p.m. Jan. 28.
An autograph session with all Indy Racing drivers is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Jan. 28 in the Midway outside Turn 3 at the track.
The USAC Coors Light Silver Bullet Series 50-lap feature starts at 2:30 p.m. Jan. 29, with qualifying for that event at 2 p.m. Jan. 28.
On the air: The Delphi Indy 200 will be televised live on ABC at noon (EST) Jan. 29 on ABC. The debut of "Indy Racing 2Day" will be at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 29 on ESPN2.
ESPN2 will televise pole qualifying at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 28.
The Indy Racing Radio Network will broadcast a 30-minute prerace show at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 29, followed by the live race broadcast at noon. The area IRRN affiliate is WQTM-AM 740, Maitland, Fla.
The IRRN race broadcast also will be available live on the Internet at www.indyracingleague.com as part of a partnership between Indy Racing Online and Yahoo!/broadcast.com, the world's leading Web broadcast site.
Tickets: Tickets are available for the Delphi Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway by calling (800) 822-INDY or by visiting tickets.com at http://www.tickets.com . Ticket information also is available on the World Wide Web at http://www.indy200.com .