IRL: Indy 500 Media Tour notebook 2004-03-24

2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour notebook (March 24) Manning going from grandstands to cockpit; Brack staying patient during recovery INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, March 24, 2004 -- In 1998, Wym Eyckmans watched his first Indianapolis 500 from a ...

2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour notebook (March 24)
Manning going from grandstands to cockpit; Brack staying patient during recovery

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, March 24, 2004 -- In 1998, Wym Eyckmans watched his first Indianapolis 500 from a grandstand seat as a guest. In 1999, he saw his second "500" from the cockpit, starting 29th in the field of 33.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Darren Manning of England hopes to be the latest to do it this May.

"Last year, I was sitting in the grandstand in Turn 3 with some of my Walker Racing teammates," Manning said March 24 during a press conference as part of the 2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour. "That was my first time (to see the Speedway). I think I drove down 16th Street for about five hours the night before the race. The ladies prepared us some box lunches for the race, so I was just eating my sandwiches and having a good time. It won't be the same this May.

"I guess I only started thinking about it (the "500") over the last few years. I think the first time was when Nigel Mansell came over (in 1993). That was kind of midseason of my career, and that was big news. It's a pretty special place. At the moment, it's another racetrack for me to conquer, but for the month of May, it'll be a different challenge for me. I'm sure, come race weekend, it'll be a pretty daunting place."

Manning already knows what it's like to be the "second Manning" in town, with NFL co-MVP Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts.

"When I got here, I got a jersey from my gearbox mechanic when I first walked in," he said. "I wear it all the time. I'd like to have his (Peyton Manning's) checkbook, as well."

***

No predictions from Brack: Kenny Brack, the 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner, was on hand and made no predictions about his return to the cockpit for May.

Brack suffered multiple fractures in a crash during the season-ending Chevy 500 last October at Texas Motor Speedway in his Team Rahal car.

"Everything's coming along pretty good," Brack said. "It's been a quick recovery. Now it's back to normal functioning in everyday life. The thing I still work on (in rehab) is my right ankle. Some days the ankle feels really good, and some days it doesn't. For a racing comeback, you have to feel strong. If you don't feel that comfortable, I don't think you're going to be able to do your job 100 percent.

"I hope I have the maturity to realize when I'm ready, and I hope I can make a good decision. Subconsciously, you're going to worry about stuff if you're not ready."

Brack was asked if he was able to get a lot of practice playing his guitar while recovering.

"It's lucky I have guitar playing as a hobby instead of golf because golf obviously wouldn't be appropriate in my condition," Brack said.

Golf isn't his sport, anyway, Brack added later.

"The last time I played, it was a sponsor deal in Houston," he said. "They wanted me to play, and I told them I can't play golf. They said at least go hit the ball.

"Not only did I slice the ball and hit a wall in front of the clubhouse, but when I looked down, I broke the head off the shaft of one of those Big Bertha drivers. The guy I borrowed the club from wasn't too happy."

***

Cheever doubtful to drive in May: Max Jones, managing director of Red Bull Cheever Racing, said it's unlikely that 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr. will saddle up a third car alongside Alex Barron and rookie Ed Carpenter this May.

"I'm pretty sure he's not going to drive," Jones said. "He wanted to leave that option open."

Carpenter is the latest to make it to the Speedway from the USAC Sprint and Silver Crown ranks. He won the inaugural Freedom 100 Menards Infiniti Pro SeriesTM event last May at the Speedway.

He said the competition in USAC has helped him prepare for the IndyCar(R) Series.

"The competition we race on the short ovals at USAC is intense," he said. "With the type of series we have with the IRL, with the intense competition we have, (the USAC series) teaches you how to race and how to push."

***

Straight arrow: Last year, Buddy Rice was a familiar figure in the IndyCar Series paddock, always wearing his hat backward.

Scott Roembke, chief operating officer of Team Rahal, was asked whether Rice was allowed to wear it that way while he's a substitute driver for Kenny Brack this year.

"Uhhhhhhhhhh, no," was the reply.

***

Yasukawa prepared: Roger Yasukawa has joined Team Rahal for his second venture at the Indianapolis 500. He said it will be a big difference than being a rookie, as he finished 10th in 2003 as a rookie with Super Aguri Fernandez Racing.

"From living to coming to the track to racing to adapting to different conditions," he said. "Now I know where the rest rooms are, the way to the track without any hassles.

"Every time I went out on the track last year, I was a little bit nervous because I didn't know what conditions would be like. Now, I know what to expect. Last year, maybe I was leaving something on the table.

"Last year, walking out of the garage, when I looked up at the grandstand, I said, 'Holy cow!' Standing at the start-finish line on the grid, I tried not to look at the main grandstand. It was something I really didn't expect.

"The start of the race is just enormous. What you see in the grandstand, the turbulence -- you don't see it at any other race."

***

Penske plans two cars: Tim Cindric, president of Marlboro Team Penske, was asked if the team might enter a third car at Indy.

"No, we don't have any plans for that," he said. "We talk to different teams, and sometimes we have the resources to help out, but we don't want to do anything to divert from anything we've planned."

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and two-time IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. are the team's drivers.

***

Changes: Two-time IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr., who switched from Pennzoil Panther Racing to Marlboro Team Penske in the offseason, was asked how his hometown friends in Defiance, Ohio, would find things different during the month of May.

"A couple of people said it's going to be hard to root for you because Penske Racing wins so often," Hornish said. "They're used to rooting for the underdog. But I think they'll have just as much fun. Especially if I can lead a couple of laps. I've led something like 1,800 laps in IRL competition but never led a lap here."

***

Carnegie's favorite: Tom Carnegie, the legendary public-address announcer since 1946 at the Speedway, was interviewed at one of the afternoon sessions, after which he got a standing applause from the media in attendance.

He was asked who his most memorable figure was in his decades at the track.

"I've always been frightened of A.J. (Foyt)," Carnegie said. "You know, if I go and want to talk to him, I don't just step right up. I see how he's treating other people for a while, and if he's fired up and bombastic that day, I'm not talking to him.

"But he is my No. 1 character."

Mike King, the Voice of the "500" on the IMS Radio Network, said it surprised him.

"I don't think of Tom as being intimidated by anybody," King said with a laugh. "Now I know it's OK to do it the same way."

***

Easy change: Milt Woods, a development engineer for Speedway Engine Development, said the new 3.0-liter engines mandated by the Indy Racing League starting at the Indianapolis 500 will not present a radical challenge for engine builders.

"The crank(shaft), rods and pistons will need to be changed, but there'll be no major design change in the rest of the engine," Woods said. "Building it would be no different than a standard build. It'd be the same amount of time as a normal build.

"It's not a huge change. We already have a lot of experience in the subassemblies of these Chevy Indy V8 engines.

"If you have the reliability at the Indianapolis 500, you won't have problems anywhere else. The (race) distance, the length of time the driver is on full throttle -- big long straightaways where the engine is working hard for a long time, the RPM band. If you can get the engine to live here, the engine will live anywhere.

"The thing is, when you get to the '500,' you want to be sure the engine is consistent so the aero engineers can optimize to the engine."

***

Hot laps: More than 120 media members registered for the two-day tour to preview the 88th running of the "500" -- Robbie Buhl, Alex Barron and Ed Carpenter were among those who gave rides to media representatives around the 2 ½-mile oval in the 2004 Corvette Convertible Pace Cars and impressive new Impala Indy SS cars.

***

Tickets: Tickets are available for the 2004 Indianapolis 500 on May 30. For information, log on to www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com, or call the IMS ticket office at (800) 822-INDY or (317) 492-6700.

-ims-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Eddie Cheever , Robbie Buhl , Helio Castroneves , Kenny Brack , Nigel Mansell , Alex Barron , Roger Yasukawa , Buddy Rice , Chip Ganassi , Max Jones , Sam Hornish Jr. , Ed Carpenter
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Team Penske