IRL: Indy 500 IMS Media Tour notebook 2005-04-07

2005 INDIANAPOLIS 500 MEDIA TOUR NOTEBOOK George adjusts to role as team owner; Manning prepared for May INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, April 7, 2005 -- Notes from the third day of the 2005 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour: George enjoys new role: Tony ...

2005 INDIANAPOLIS 500 MEDIA TOUR NOTEBOOK
George adjusts to role as team owner; Manning prepared for May

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, April 7, 2005 -- Notes from the third day of the 2005 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour:

George enjoys new role: Tony George, president and chief executive officer of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation and new co-owner of Vision Racing, announced Jeff Ward will drive a second car in the 89th running of the Indianapolis 500 as a teammate to Ed Carpenter.

Team manager Larry Curry said both drivers will have a pair of cars at their disposal to start the traditional month of May on May 10 when veterans take to the track for the first time.

George has been a car owner for only two months since buying equipment from Kelley Racing. He was asked if he would pattern the team after any other owner.

"No, there's no one's style I've adopted," George said, "and they're probably happy I haven't mentioned them by name as having adopted their style."

George then explained why he formed a team and named Carpenter, his stepson, as driver.

"I did it for a number of reasons," George said. "I was not planning to do this last fall when I made the decisions I made. Ed's best opportunity was Panther wanted to run in the deal that Buddy (Lazier) ended up with. He wanted to do that. I felt it wasn't in his best interests to do an Indy-only program at this point in his career. He needed to stay involved on a regular basis.

"And with road racing coming on, it was going to be even more important that he start getting in that mix and that fray at the outset. My wife didn't really want him driving for me on a team, and we said we weren't going to support his racing career when he got out of USAC. He's developed enough relationships on his own, and he has some sponsorship as a result of relationships he's built. I was wanting to establish this team because it would've served no good if all these (Kelley) assets became just part of Hemelgarn and part of Cheever and part of this team and part of that team. It doesn't add to the quality of the (Indy Racing) League. So, I'm doing this, and I'm going to try to make it successful and be a part of it and get it organized and maybe stay in or maybe make it a short-term opportunity.

"Maybe Ed might want to be the owner of this business at some point, and if he's comfortable to do that and wants to do that, I'd be happy to let him do that.

"In the meantime, I'm having fun. I want to get it built up and established, keep this facility together and see where it goes. I've always wanted to do some endurance racing. I have a shot to do that, and I don't have to go out and pay somebody to run it. I can go out and acquire a car and pull it out once or twice a year and go race it if we want to. Doing that kind of stuff will help Ed's road racing because it's a function of getting more experience.

"It really has nothing to do with where he came from in a development program. He ran USAC because it gained him a lot of racing experience -- different kinds -- midget, sprint, Silver Crown, dirt, pavement. He never once ran for a championship. He always ran for experience."

Curry added Indianapolis 500 veteran Roberto Moreno had been hired as a driver coach for Carpenter for upcoming road-course testing at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. He said the team would have a definite plan to practice for the "500."

"I'm excited about getting back over there and I think we will go about it in other operations that I've been in," Curry said. "We won't go out and run just to run. We will have a plan and work the plan, no matter whether it's good or bad, we'll see it through to the end and try to hit our stride when it comes time to go qualifying."

Ward was enthusiastic about returning to the Speedway, where he has been close to winning on two occasions.

"I think it's great," Ward said. "I think they have a good package. I think the Toyota program is now certainly right up there. I've been here many times with a lot less and have done well.

"Some of the other teams I ran for were on a shoestring. This is a much better, highly-run operation. But I've been there before, and a lot of my stuff is like their story, getting put together the week before the first race. Even when Indy came around, we were barely able to survive with our money and program.

"So I'm pretty optimistic about starting the first week of the month and being able to have something set in stone already. That's why I haven't been here the past couple years, because I didn't want to be a second-weekend qualifier in a backup car with 20 laps going into the race. You have no chance with teams out here right now. So we'll start the month, get race setups on the car and get comfortable with the race speeds we need to run. I know how to get around here, so I should be pretty confident when the race comes."

Carpenter is looking forward to his second "500."

"I had a really good month last year, all through ROP (Rookie Orientation Program) up through the month," Carpenter said. "I ran my quickest time in the final practice right before qualifying and as we move don to race setup -- only problem I had was with Mark Taylor in Turn 3 during the race.

"Really, I don't think I'm going to change much of how I did anything. It worked well other than what happened in the race. I think I'll be a little more patient in the race than I was last year. I thought I was being patient but maybe I wasn't being patient enough. Between Larry's experience at Indy -- when it was 50 degrees, he was out there running when he was with Menard. He may have more miles around there as a team manager than anybody. I have a lot of faith in Larry, especially going to Indianapolis. It's kind of like when I was running (Infiniti cars) with A.J. (Foyt), A.J.'s synonymous with the Speedway, and his cars are always good there. And I kind of regard Larry with that same type of respect going to the Speedway."

***

Manning ready for May: Darren Manning said he's better prepared for Indianapolis for his second month of May with the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team.

"I went into the first year very open-minded," Manning said. "Now I know what to expect. I'm going to be able to prepare for the emotions, rain and weather delays, Pole Day. I'm already getting nervous about it, and it's a month away. The track's going to be different, the car is slightly different, the engine is slightly different. That's the beauty of Indy. Every day's something different."

Manning is teamed with rookie Ryan Briscoe and former IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon in a three-car Ganassi assault for the trip to Victory Lane.

Briscoe said his first trip to the Speedway came last November, when he first came to Indianapolis to meet the team.

"Mike Hull (team general manager) took me into the infield," Briscoe said. "We were driving between (turns) 1 and 2 and seeing all these grandstands. I thought: 'Where's 3 and 4? This place is huge.' I was out there (Tuesday) to have a look. I think ROP is a good thing. They'll get me up to speed step-by-step. It's certainly a place you don't want to rush into too much.

"It's all happened so quickly, and nothing I've been doing has been directed toward the IndyCar Series. As a kid, you just watched this huge race, and all of a sudden, here I am."

For Ganassi, the "500" is especially meaningful.

"It's like no other feeling in sports," he said. "It begins with walking out of the garage area, looking left and looking right and seeing those throngs of people. You walk out that morning and feel like a gladiator. To end that day with a winning team of gladiators. It is indescribable in sports."

***

Yasukawa aiming high at Indy: Roger Yasukawa has opened some eyes with his first two experiences at the Indianapolis 500 and will make his third mission to the Speedway with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, with rookie Jeff Bucknum as his teammate.

"It feels great," Yasukawa said. "I certainly want to thank the team for the opportunity. Every year that I've been at Indy I've been with a different team, so it's nothing new to me, I guess. Last year was a two-race deal with Rahal, and this year I'm back for a full season. We have a lot of preparation time going into the '500.' So, I definitely think we're looking good.

"This is my third year, and last year I got to prove that I have some speed. It didn't turn out to be good results because of some bad luck during the race. This year, hopefully everything will go smooth. I certainly hope for another top-10 finish, but I need to do better than I have. This year, rather than say top-10, I want to say I want to be in the top five and a top contender throughout the month. The team has the capability of doing it, and I think I've got the speed."

Team co-owner Robbie Buhl, an eight-time Indianapolis 500 starter, is still adjusting to life as an owner since retiring as a driver before last year's "500."

"Obviously there's mixed emotions with not driving," Buhl said. "When we were at St. Pete for the first road course, since I came up road racing, I was very itchy to be in the car there. It's just a function of shifting the same desires and emotions and channeling it into making sure we're the best we can be as a team. I give Roger everything.

"It's different. And I'm still wrestling with how I use my time effectively. That's probably going to be the case for this year as I keep settling into this role."

***

Speedy learning: The media made its last stop of the Tour at Crooked Creek Elementary School in Indianapolis for a briefing on the 500 Festival and Indianapolis 500 Education Program for fourth graders around the state of Indiana.

The program combines classroom instruction and study trips to the Indianapolis Motor speedway in April and May. Participation in the program has tripled in the last year, said Kirk Hendrix, president and CEO of the festival.

The program incorporates 15,440 students from 235 schools and 653 classrooms in 137 communities in 76 Indiana counties.

"We're very excited about the opportunity to participate in this program," said Charlotte Talley, vice principal of Crooked Creek and a member of the education program committee. "It's interwoven into science, math, social studies, and the children can see it as a real-life experience."

The Crooked Creek fourth-graders displayed their "500" projects in a hallway for the media and talked about the "500."

***

Indy 500 tickets: To purchase tickets, camping or parking for the 89th Indianapolis 500, contact the IMS ticket office at (800) 822-INDY or log on to www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com.

-ims-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mark Taylor , Darren Manning , Robbie Buhl , Jeff Ward , Roberto Moreno , Scott Dixon , Roger Yasukawa , Ryan Briscoe , Jeff Bucknum , Chip Ganassi , Tony George , Mike Hull , Ed Carpenter
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing