IRL: Indy 500: Jimmy Kite pre-race notes

Kite Strings -- News and Notes on Jimmy Kite No. 91 Ethanol-Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/ Toyota/ Firestone unique notes * Jimmy Kite is the only driver from the 1998 rookie class to be participating in this year's '500'. * The greatest...

Kite Strings -- News and Notes on Jimmy Kite
No. 91 Ethanol-Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/ Toyota/ Firestone

unique notes

* Jimmy Kite is the only driver from the 1998 rookie class to be participating in this year's '500'.

* The greatest number of positions ever gained in the '500' was 32 by Zeke Meyer (1932). A victory by Kite, starting 32nd, would be the first time in history that the race has been won from the last row.

* No driver living in the state of Georgia has ever won the '500', only two born in Illinois have won the race.

* Hemelgarn Racing's 1996 victory with Buddy Lazier is the only Indy 500, to-date, that a car numbered 91 has won the race.

* The last 'replacement' driver to win the Indianapolis 500 was Al Unser Sr. in 1987. Unser replaced Danny Ongias after Ongias suffered a concussion on May 7th that year. Kite replaces Ethanol Hemelgarn Racing regular Paul Dana (St. Louis) after Dana sustained a concussion in a May 13th accident.

* Seven drivers have won Indy at age 29 including: legendary racer AJ Foyt who won his second of four '500s' (1964) at that age. Howdy Wilcox (1919), Tommy Milton (1923), Bob Sweikert (1955), Parnelli Jones (1963) and Jim Clark (1965) have also won the year before they turned 30. Finally, Mario Andretti won his only Indy 500 at age 29 in 1969. No driver in the last 30 years has won the race at 29.

bio brief

Jimmy Kite began his career racing quarter-midgets at the age of eight and worked his way up through mini-sprints, USAC midgets, sprint cars and Silver Crown cars to the IndyCar Series. He has countless victories, five national championships in various open-wheel divisions and 23 career IndyCar starts. Kite's first major success in professional motorsports came in the Silver Crown feature of the 1997 Copper World Classic. Starting from the back of the field in his first Phoenix International Raceway appearance, Kite passed open-wheel legend Chuck Gurney on the last turn of the last lap to win the prestigious event. He carried that success onto the series Rookie of the Year title and his first race in the IndyCar Series later that year. Kite is currently racing the No. 06 MRD Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and the No. 5 Westcon Elevator/ Westcon Racing Bloomer-Engines Beast chassis in the Silver Crown Series.

family ties

Jimmy is not the only Kite with direct ties to the Speedway. Kite's father, Gary, is a former Indianapolis crew member for Gordon Johncock and others. The younger Kite learned to race on the quarter-midget tracks of the Midwest and Southeast with his father, who got his own racing start working on the drag and Indy cars in Farmington, Missouri, crewing for his son. The greatest skills that were taught to Jimmy were the ability to read the car's setup, how to drive around handling issues and to correct the setup when he returned to the pits. Gary taught his young son these important skills by purposely setting-up the car improperly and expecting Jimmy to realize the problems, overcome them and tell Gary how to best fix them.

truckin'

Jimmy Kite is the only NASCAR 'regular' to be competing in this year's Indianapolis 500. When the month of May opened this year, Kite was not expecting to find himself in the "500". In fact, he only stopped at the Speedway in early May to see friends on his way to Charlotte for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Lowe's Motor Speedway. However, with the injury to Ethanol-Hemelgarn Racing's regular driver Paul Dana (St. Louis), Kite was asked to race the No. 91 Dallara/Toyota Sunday by team owner Ron Hemelgarn (Toledo, Oh.) and team sponsor Ethanol.

Kite has raced in two Craftsman Truck Series races this year earning two top-20 finishes, on the lead lap, in the No. 06 MRD Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado. He will next contest a NASCAR race for MRD at Texas Motor Speedway in early June. The last driver who regularly competed on any of NASCAR's circuit to win the Indy 500 was Danny Sullivan (1985) who had a select number of NASCAR Nextel Cup starts in the mid-'90s. Prior to Sullivan, Gordon Johncock ('73 and '82) made regular appearances in the stock car series' top division in the 1960s and '70s. Other Indy car drivers that have NASCAR success include "500" winners AJ Foyt, Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford and Mario Andretti. Drivers who have previously competed in NASCAR and Indy in the same month include John Andretti, Robby Gordon and Tony Stewart.

last row... no problem

Jimmy Kite will start from a career low 32nd in this year's '500'. It marks the second time in his career that Kite has started from the middle of Row 11- most recently in 2003. The 218.565 mph four-lap average that put Kite into the field was the slowest average speed that he has ever qualified the Speedway. It is nearly a mile an hour slower than his rookie qualifying effort in 1998. The '98 effort, which came on the last weekend of qualifying, put him into the race as the "Fastest Rookie Qualifier", 26th on the grid. Kite has qualified well above 220 mph in his other starts here including a 224.195 average in 2003.

lightning strikes

Jimmy Kite has long used a lightning bolt as his personal logo. A lightning bolt has replaced the 'i' in Kite for a number of years in the logo that appears on Kite's helmet and other branded items.

familiar faces

Sunday's Indy 500 will mark Jimmy Kite's first time driving with Ethanol Hemelgarn Racing. However, he is surrounded by familiar faces. Included is Tim Wardrop, team engineer for the No. 91. Wardrop helped engineer Kite to the lead of the 2000 IndyCar Series event at Kentucky Speedway. Kite dominated that event before an engine failure ended his day, in the lead, following the Missouri-native's second pit stop.

No. 91 number 1 for great drivers

Jimmy Kite joins an impressive list of drivers that have wheeled entries carrying the Hemelgarn name in the 28 years that Ron Hemelgarn has been a part of activities at Indy. Included is Buddy Lazier who won both the '96 Indy 500 and 2000 IndyCar Series championship with Hemelgarn. Others include a personal hero of Kite's two-time Indianapolis winner Gordon Johncock, 1990 and '97 Indy champ Arie Luyendyk, '83 "500" victor Tom Sneva, multi-time Indy pole sitter Scott Brayton and USAC standouts; Stan Fox, Rich Vogler and Billy Vukovich III. Paul Dana is the 2005 IndyCar Series driver of the Ethanol No. 91.

-jkm-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers John Andretti , Tony Stewart , Robby Gordon , Buddy Lazier , Arie Luyendyk , Jimmy Kite , Mario Andretti , Jim Clark , Bobby Unser , Tom Sneva , Parnelli Jones , Danny Sullivan , Paul Dana , Gordon Johncock , Johnny Rutherford