HAMPTON, Ga., Aug. 28, 1998 -- Felicia McCormack grew up in the Bronx in New York City and later became a high school business teacher. Her life had direction. Then came a big left turn when she met and married ...
HAMPTON, Ga., Aug. 28, 1998 -- Felicia McCormack grew up in the Bronx in New York City and later became a high school business teacher.
Her life had direction.
Then came a big left turn when she met and married Dennis McCormack. Auto racing was as foreign to her as Indiana cornfields, but today she's involved in the former and lives in the middle of the other.
Brazilian driver Raul Boesel qualified 15th Friday at 218.414 mph for the inaugural Pep Boys Indy Racing League Atlanta 500 Classic presented by MCI on Saturday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He drives a car, the TransWorld Racing-BELOIT-McCormack Motorsports G Force/Aurora/Goodyear, co-owned by Dennis and Felicia McCormack.
"I went along for the ride," she said. "It's turned out to be a lot of fun."
Dennis and Felicia met in Scituate, Mass. He became involved in racing in 1968 working with Cam Am and Trans Am cars. By the time he convinced her to come to the races with him, he had joined the Warner Hodgdon Indy car team. Jim McElreath and the late Roger McCluskey were the drivers.
"Warner would send a Lear jet to pick me up," she said. "After we left him, we started going to the races in a station wagon."
She chuckled at the thought of the drop in status.
Dennis McCormack then worked for Californian Frank Arciero. When Arciero decided to back off in the racing end of his business operations, he told the McCormacks he would lend them his equipment for two years and see how well they could function as car owners.
"That was our springboard," Felicia said. "He left the stuff in the front yard and told us to sink or swim."
The McCormacks have done a lot of dog paddling over the years, but they have survived to become a regular on the Pep Boys Indy Racing League championship trail. Their drivers in the past have included Mark Dismore, Michael Chandler, Roger Mears, Tony Bettenhausen, Derek Daly and Fabrizio Barbazza, who finished third in the 1987 Indianapolis 500 and was named rookie of the year.
"At the beginning, I looked at it as a five-year plan," said Felicia, whose business background helps her handle all of the team's paperwork.
"By the end of the five years, it's your life. It just became for me something I knew we were going to keep doing. It really takes a lot of commitment, a lot of good planning. We've done what we could to get to the level we want to be at. It took a lot of years."
Felicia says the sacrifice hasn't bothered her. The McCormacks have a daughter, Lauren, 16, who is a junior at Brownsburg (Ind.) High School, and "we dragged her along." Lauren works at the shop during the summer and the school year when time allows.
The Pep Boys Indy Racing League was a perfect fit for a team like the McCormacks. The year before the Indy Racing League was born, McCormack Racing missed a number of races because the commitment to run an Indy-style car full time had become too expensive. Additionally, McCormack's sponsors wanted their car racing in the Indianapolis 500.
"When the IRL came along, we had affordable equipment," she said.
Over last winter, the McCormacks talked with veteran Boesel and signed him just before the season started. Felicia admits it hasn't been the kind of season the team wanted. An eighth at Phoenix has been the only top-10 finish. Accidents and engine failures have been the primary gremlins.
Boesel agrees that the Pep Boys Indy Racing League has been very competitive and that it has been a tough season thus far. "It's been improving a little bit, the car," he said. "Improve the team. Been qualifying up front lately. But I do not see the checkered flag. My expectations were to come here and do well. There's nothing I can do. It's out of my control. It's not out of the McCormacks' control. Instead of sitting back and bemoaning their woes, they have made several recent moves to strengthen the team.
First, Brad McCanless, who had worked with Team Scandia, Dick Simon and Fred Treadway in the past, was hired last month as team manager, freeing Dennis McCormack from some of his front-line duties. Phil McRobert, a key man, according to Felicia, continues as crew chief.
In preparation for the Atlanta race, McCormack Racing changed to another engine builder.
"The sponsors have been wonderful," Felicia said. "They see us all working hard and taking steps in trying to fix these problems. We're looking for success. We have all the ingredients.
"We're really looking for a good finish," she said about the final three races. An extensive plan of offseason testing and development indicates how dedicated the McCormacks are toward becoming a winning team. They want to hit the 1999 season opener next January at Orlando, Fla., ready to challenge for victory.
"We're going to have a very busy group of men over the winter," Felicia said.