FORMER F2000 CHAMP KNAPP NAMED INDIANAPOLIS 500 ROOKIE OF THE-YEAR INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 25, 1998) -- Former U.S. F2000 National Champion Steve Knapp was named Bank One Rookie of the Year for the 82nd running of the Indianapolis 500...
FORMER F2000 CHAMP KNAPP NAMED INDIANAPOLIS 500 ROOKIE OF THE-YEAR
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 25, 1998) -- Former U.S. F2000 National Champion Steve Knapp was named Bank One Rookie of the Year for the 82nd running of the Indianapolis 500 today, topping one of the best rookie classes the Speedway has seen in years.
The 34-year-old Salem, Wis. resident was selected the top rookie by a panel consisting of both media and race officials following his spirited drive from 23rd to third, behind Eddie Cheever and Buddy Lazier, in the world's greatest race. Knapp joins an elite group of 50 other drivers who have been named Speedway ROY, including 1997's awardee, ISM Racing teammate Jeff Ward.
In acceptance of his purse awards at the annual Indy 500 Awards Banquet, Knapp thanked sponsors Primadonna Resorts, Miller Milling, Delco, Prolong, Tabasco and Goodyear along with people who had supported his effort in the month of May, including John Miller, Scott Gates and Dan Campbell, all of whom worked with Knapp in his 1996 U.S. F2000 National Championship season. Knapp also thanked IMS President Tony George for his vision, without which Knapp said he would not have had the opportunity to compete in the Indy 500.
"The entire ISM team and organization was great, I can't thank them enough," Knapp said. "It was easy, I saw 180 on the top of the podium and knew it was 20 laps to go and I wish it would have started counting down the other way 'cause I was having a blast."
Knapp dedicated the month of May to his late father Jerry, who died of cancer in 1987.
ISM Racing chief mechanic Gary Armentrout provided Knapp a set-up for the race similar to that in qualifying, which allowed Knapp to move from his 23rd starting spot to 17th by lap 10, 13th by lap 20 and seventh by lap 30. At the 250 mile mark, Knapp remained seventh, before moving into third by lap 120. Knapp fell back to sixth by lap 140, but fought his way back to third by lap 160, where he stayed until the twin checkered flags came out.
Already a Pro Sports 2000 Champion in 1987, Knapp created Elite Engines, a top F2000 engine builder, in the early 1990s before hooking-up with client John Miller for the 1996 U.S. F2000 season, in which he won four races and seven poles to take the title from the likes of fellow Pep Boys IRL pilot Sam Schmidt, KOOL/Toyota Atlantic standouts Andrew Bordin and Matt Sielsky and top CART FedEx Championship rookie Alex Barron. Last season, Knapp moved on to the Atlantic Championship, where he finished sixth before passing his IRL rookie test in one of his cousin Tom Knapp's cars at Las Vegas in November.