IRL: Homestead: Kelley Racing preview

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (February 25, 2003)-- Kelley Racing and its drivers, Al Unser Jr. and Scott Sharp, are looking forward to getting the 2003 IndyCar Series season underway. For the veteran Indy Racing League (IRL) competitors, this season has a ...

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (February 25, 2003)-- Kelley Racing and its drivers, Al Unser Jr. and Scott Sharp, are looking forward to getting the 2003 IndyCar Series season underway. For the veteran Indy Racing League (IRL) competitors, this season has a number of new elements. The Kelley Racing team has switched to the Toyota engine, has a new Dallara chassis, and a number of new personnel on the team. Vice president of racing operations, Steve Newey, who is also new to the organization, looks at the changes as a positive for the team. "We've made a number of changes at Kelley Racing during the off-season," said Newey. "Despite all the changes that have been thrown at them, our team has been working very well together and we've had very productive tests during pre-season. Our new Toyota engine has been running very well and our engineers seem to be getting a handle on the 2003 Dallara chassis. I'm very optimistic about the chances for Kelley Racing this year and I'm excited about the 2003 season."

For the drivers, they are also ready to see the season get underway. Driver of the No. 8 Delphi entry, Scott Sharp, who is beginning his seventh IRL season, is looking forward to the competition in the IndyCar Series. "The competition level this season is going to be so close," said Sharp. "The cars are all comparable so it will be splitting hairs to find an advantage. The Delphi team will have to have everything together--set-up and team--- to find any big gains, but I'm confident that we will be competitive." Driver of the No. 31 Corteco entry, Al Unser Jr., who is beginning his fourth season of IRL competition and 21st season of open-wheel competition, is also enthusiastic about the 2003 season. "We have all made a lot of changes during the off-season," explained Unser Jr. "We made a move to the Toyota engine and during testing, it ran flawlessly. Add to that the new Dallara chassis as well as some new faces on the team and there has been whole lot of change for the Corteco team. But I like our chances to be competitive this year. I'm really looking forward to getting this season started."

In addition to a busy off-season of testing, Kelley Racing has been busy on the commercial side of the racing business as well. "It's been a very good, but hectic off-season for Kelley Racing," said Jim Freudenberg, vice president of commercial operations. "We have added a number of new partners to our strong sponsor line-up from 2002, including: Kruse International, Eufora credit card, Natural Golf, Bell Helicopters, Motorola, Blair Custom Wear and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. In addition to our new partners, Kelley Racing will also be unveiling a completely new hospitality unit in May. We've got our work cut out for us, but we're looking forward to a strong season with all of our partners at Kelley Racing both on the race track and off."

Kelley Racing will open their season in the first practice for the Toyota Indy 300 on Friday morning at 10:00 a.m. E.T. with a second practice session set to begin at 2:15 p.m. Practice will continue on Saturday morning at 10:15 a.m. with qualifying set to begin at 1:15 p.m. On Sunday, the race will be shown live on ABC beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET.

Kelley Racing Fast Facts

--This will be the sixth season of IRL competition for Kelley Racing.

--Kelley Racing drivers have made 120 starts, scored seven victories and eight poles in IRL career competition.

Al Unser Jr. - No. 31 Corteco/Dallara/Toyota/Firestone Fast Facts

--This will be Unser Jr.'s 309th career start, his 14th IRL start and his second season with Kelley Racing.

--Unser Jr. finished seventh in last year's championship.

--Unser Jr. has raced on two previous occasions at Homestead-Miami Speedway in an IRL entry. In 2002, driving a Kelley Racing entry, he started 19th and finished 13th. In 2001, driving for Galles Racing, he started 19th and finished sixth.

--Unser Jr. has won two Indianapolis 500's (1992, 1994) and two open-wheel championships (1990, 1994).

"The way we ended up our final test at Homestead makes me very excited to get this season started. I logged a lot of miles testing engines for Toyota and the engine performed flawlessly. At the test, I was working on race set-up and my teammate, Scott Sharp, was working on qualifying. At the end of the day, Sharp was running fast and I think things look really good for Kelley Racing to be competitive."

Scott Sharp - No.8 Delphi/Dallara/Toyota/Firestone Fast Facts

--This will be Sharp's 67th IRL start and his sixth season with Kelley Racing.

--Sharp finished sixth in last year's championship.

--Sharp has raced on two previous occasions at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2002, he started 11th and finished 20th after a mechanical failure. In 2001, he started eighth and finished eighth.

--Sharp was the 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion and the 2001 Indianapolis 500 MBNA Pole winner.

"This race is going to be awesome, as will all of the IndyCar Series races this year. The competition level is so close. When you have guys in fast cars that are within hundredths of a second of each other that will be exciting. The cars are all very close and everyone is running on the same Firestone tires. You are splitting hairs and you have to get everything together from a set-up and team perspective to really find any advantage."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Scott Sharp