David Reininger - Motorsport.com Ward, the seven time motocross champion, and arguably the best driver in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series yet to win a race, will pilot a Mitch Davis prepared G Force in 2001 for Heritage...
David Reininger - Motorsport.com
Ward, the seven time motocross champion, and arguably the best driver in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series yet to win a race, will pilot a Mitch Davis prepared G Force in 2001 for Heritage Racing.
Co-owned by John Mecom III and Jim Rathmann Jr., Heritage Racing will place Ward behind the wheel of a G Force chassis powered by a Team Menard prepared Aurora engine. Davis worked at Menard for the last two races of 2000 after starting the season with Dreyer and Reinbold. Ward spent the 2000 season driving for four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt.
Davis and Ward first raced together in 1997, with Ward earning Bank One Rookie of the Year honors at the Indianapolis 500 driving for Team Cheever.
In 1998, Ward and Davis were paired at ISM Racing where they scored five top-six finishes, including second place at Walt Disney World and Charlotte.
ISM returned for one race in 1999 with Ward scoring a third place finish at the season opener at Orlando. ISM closed their shop after Orlando, leaving Ward and Davis two months to field a team for the next round at Phoenix.
Enter the father and son team of Jack and Allan Pagan.
With less than two weeks to go before the Phoenix race, Davis and the former ISM crew prepared one of Pagan Racing's two Dallaras for the race. With no testing and just enough time to prepare one car, Pagan's team manager Jack Pegues figured the Phoenix race would substitute as the team's pre-season test.
Ward and Davis had different plans. Ward finished second at the Phoenix race, following it up with another second place two months later at the Indianapolis 500. By reuniting with Davis at Heritage Racing for 2001, Ward thinks he has his best chance yet of scoring his Northern Light win. "I feel really comfortable going into this year as my best year for winning races," Ward said. "I've been close in the past. Being reunited with Mitch and the package that we have, I feel really confident that this is gong to be the year for me."
Last week, Heritage Racing spent two days testing at Miami where Ward completed 102 laps, turning in the four fastest time of the test
"I was comfortable as soon as I left the pits," said Ward. "Everything went like clockwork. There wasn't one glitch the whole weekend. We got everything we needed to get done to be prepared when we go back there."
Although Heritage Racing will make their debut at the Pennzoil Copper World Indy 200 in two weeks, many elements of the team's package will be familiar.
"We have a great relationship with G Force," said Davis. "We've worked with the chief designer at G Force since 1997 when Jeff was Rookie of the Year at Indy 500. To compliment that, Len Paskus has been with us as our engineer since '98."
"We've kept our engineering staff intact because, right now, the series is so competitive. We feel to get to the next level in the IRL, we have to have a strong engineering package."
Tim Whiting will join Heritage Racing as the team's chief mechanic. Whiting last worked at Team Pelfrey, allowing Billy Boat to score several impressive finishes for the under funded team.
As a team manager, Davis knows the value of a top chief mechanic like Whiting. "His experience is a big asset to our team," said Davis. "He's a guy we haven't worked with, but at the test, everything went flawless."
The team expects to test once more before the Phoenix event. "We'll test on the 7th and 8th at Phoenix, which is within the ten days of the testing limits," said Davis "We're going to run two days out there with Jeff. Our goal is to go out there, sit on the pole and win the race. We're going to work hard to do that."
Both Davis and Ward are extremely pleased to have their current chassis and engine package. But Davis knows the primary key to the whole package is the fierce determination of his driver Jeff Ward. "Jeff goes out and gives us 100 percent every time he's on the race track. He has never once, not given us 100 percent. His dedication to the sport and his desire to win is second to none."