GOODYEAR ENJOYS VIEW FROM TOP ENTERING PIKES PEAK FOUNTAIN, Colo., June 23, 1999 -- The pieces have always been in place for Scott Goodyear to win races. And despite being winless in his first 20 Pep Boys Indy Racing League starts, ...
GOODYEAR ENJOYS VIEW FROM TOP ENTERING PIKES PEAK
FOUNTAIN, Colo., June 23, 1999 -- The pieces have always been in place for Scott Goodyear to win races. And despite being winless in his first 20 Pep Boys Indy Racing League starts, Goodyear knew that. Now everyone else does. Goodyear has won two of the first four races this season, at Phoenix and Texas. He also leads the Pep Boys Million championship points race by 19 over second-place Jeff Ward heading into the Radisson 200 on June 27 at Pikes Peak International Raceway. "I'm not sure I'm doing anything all that different from before," Goodyear said. "But it's nice to know the competition is probably scratching their heads right now. But the pressure isn't off, because it's been expected that we will win races. We were in disbelief and disappointment last year when we didn't win." After coming so close in 1998 -- he finished in the top five four times -- Goodyear knew there was no need for a major overhaul of his second-year program. But there was still something keeping Pennzoil Panther Racing from Victory Lane. Instead of brooding in the frustration, Panther Racing went to work. There was no break between the 1998 and 1999 season -- just a lot of testing and strategy sessions. Panther considered switching from a G Force chassis to a Dallara, since Dallara chassis won eight of the 11 league events last year. But the team was pleased with the '99 update kit and decided to stick with G Force. "G Force made such an improvement on the chassis from last year," Goodyear said. "Now we feel we're very competitive with the Dallara, so that's a big step. And then the tires are great, so that's another step. "When you have that, you have the confidence as a team and as a driver to be able to get to the next level." After thrashing through the offseason, Goodyear fully expected to start his second season with Panther Racing with a win at the season opener in Orlando. He finished second in the Pennzoil Panther G Force/Aurora/Goodyear. "When we left Orlando this year, everybody in this building was disappointed," Goodyear said. "We'd done so much testing over the winter, making a lot of small improvements that have resulted in a big gain. It wasn't a case of will we win a race, it was when. And now that we've won two, it's, OK, great, we want more. "We've got so much more experience with the crew and our new engineer, Andy Brown. When you walk in the building now, it's different. We're probably more driven now." That's because the championship is a realistic goal. Goodyear has finished on the podium in three of the season's first four races, including his two wins. "We just have the right chemistry and the right situation, and right now I'm probably enjoying what I do more than I ever have before," Goodyear said. "We're out there for the wins, and if we win enough races, the championship will take care of itself." Still, with six races left on the circuit, Goodyear knows his points lead is anything but secure. "In my estimation, the lead doesn't mean a whole lot until the last race," Goodyear said. "It just takes one DNF. If we don't finish at Pikes Peak this weekend, we'll be out of the lead." There was never any doubt that Goodyear had the talent to win races. He had won two earlier in his career - the 1992 and 1994 Michigan 500 - and he came in second at the Indianapolis 500 in 1992 and 1997. Nor was there any doubt that he had the financial backing, the people, the chassis, the engine or the tires to win. Everything, it seemed, was on his side. Except maybe luck. "I felt the frustration of not winning as any driver would, but I never looked at it as bad luck," Goodyear said. "I looked at it and said, 'What do we need to change?' You learn from the positives and the negatives, and I didn't think there was a whole lot we were doing wrong." Especially not for a brand-new team. Panther Racing was formed in late 1997 by a group of Indianapolis businessmen and NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh, and Goodyear came on board in November of that year. He said he was immediately impressed with the quality of his new team, but he was worried about how quickly they would mesh. Those fears quickly subsided. "I knew we were ready three months later at Orlando," Goodyear said. "It rained there, and we didn't get to qualify, so it went by car entrant points. We were a new team, so we didn't have any points, and we started at the very back. "We ended up getting to the front and challenging for the lead, which was a very good sign. There was a good chemistry from the beginning here." Although Goodyear is enjoying his best season in Indy Racing, he's hesitant to say he's at the peak of his career. "I wouldn't say I'm coming into my prime," Goodyear said. "I think we've always been competitive. As a driver, you look for signals that you do have the ability, and that started to come as early as '92 or '93. "A lot of this in our sport is being in the right place at the right time. Sometimes I have, and sometimes I haven't." But Goodyear knows that racing is about more than just luck. It's about turning all factors in your favor, and about eliminating negative influences. That's why the team's testing schedule has been so rigorous, and all the unknowns have been removed from the equation. It's also why Goodyear has been determined to simplify his life. He has snipped his personal-appearance schedule by nearly 75 percent to concentrate more on his racing and his family, the two most important things in his life. "I used to do so many appearances and speeches on race weekend that by the time I got in the car, it was time to rest," Goodyear said. "I just felt it was expected of me. That probably stems back from not having the corporate support when I started back in Canada, so I probably went overboard at the beginning. I've learned to find a balance." And now that he's a few months shy of 40, with a wife and three kids whose childhoods he doesn't want to miss, he's learned to balance racing with the rest of his life. His only regret is that he didn't learn how to say no sooner. "I'm happier now when I get to the racetrack," he said. "A lot of times I'd get there and it would almost be like a slowdown period, and you can't have that. I was getting there and thinking, 'Finally, now I can slow down and get some proper rest.' It just can't be like that. "And I think that probably had something to do with why we weren't winning. There probably have been races I should have won." Goodyear never wants to be able to say that again. Not after celebrating in Victory Lane, watching the joy and elation of his crew members. Not after watching car co-owner John Barnes rendered speechless by his first win. Not after making Panther Racing a championship contender. "That was a great feeling," Goodyear said. "Now let's go back and do it again."
RADISSON 200 NOTEBOOK
Schedule: The Radisson 200 starts at noon (MDT) June 27. PPG Pole qualifying starts at 1 p.m. (MDT) June 26. Practice sessions start at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. (MDT) June 25, and 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. (MDT) June 26. *** On the air: The Radisson 200 will be televised live at 2 p.m. (EDT) June 27 on FOX Sports Net. SpeedVision will televise PPG Pole qualifying live at 3 p.m. (EDT) June 26. The Indy Racing Radio Network will broadcast a 30-minute prerace show at 1:30 p.m. (EDT) June 27, followed by the live race broadcast at 2 p.m. IRRN also will broadcast a qualifying highlights show at 5:30 p.m. (EDT) June 26. The area IRRN affiliates are KRDO-AM 1240, Colorado Springs, Colo.; and KKFN-AM 950, Denver. 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 broadcast.com, the world's leading Web broadcast site. *** Tickets: Tickets are available for the Radisson 200. Call (888) 306-7223 or (719) 382-7223 for more information. Ticket information also is available on the World Wide Web at http://www.ppir.com/ticketing .