IRL: Indy 500 Media Tour notebook 2004-03-25

2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour Notebook Scheckter wants to finish Indy job; Taylor climbs to IndyCar Series with friends INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, March 25, 2004 -- Tomas Scheckter looks at his switch to Panther Racing for his third Indianapolis...

2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour Notebook
Scheckter wants to finish Indy job; Taylor climbs to IndyCar Series with friends

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, March 25, 2004 -- Tomas Scheckter looks at his switch to Panther Racing for his third Indianapolis 500 as another chance for Victory Lane.

"I look at it as another '500,'" Scheckter said March 25 at the Panther shop during the 2004 Indianapolis 500 Media Tour. "I've led it the two times I've entered it. I look at it as the possibility of drinking some milk."

His first two trips to Indy were with Red Bull Team Cheever and Target Chip Ganassi Racing in 2002 and 2003, respectively.

"Here it's a little more race-oriented, and they're not concerned so much about being on top of the time charts every day," Scheckter said of Panther, which won the IndyCar(R) Series championship in 2001 and 2002.

And he's moved.

"I've had an apartment here since I've been racing over here," Scheckter said, "but I've lived in the offseason in Miami. I just bought a house in Geist (an Indianapolis area), so now I'm a Hoosier."

***

Climbing the ladder: Mark Taylor's move from the Menards Infiniti Pro SeriesTM to the IndyCar Series for his first Indianapolis 500 hasn't been alone.

Engineer Brent Harvey and subassemblies/gearbox man Kevin Conley have moved with him. The crew chief for the car is Eric Haverson, who served as the crew chief for Paul Tracy's car in 2002 for Team Green and was a mechanic on Jacques Villeneuve's winning car in 1995.

"I enjoy it," Haverson said of his new assignment to form a crew around Taylor. "You get a chance to get some fresh ideas. It's fun to watch a team jell with some really talented people. Indianapolis holds a soft spot in my heart, for sure. It's certainly the pinnacle for open-wheel racing in the United States."

The continuity of Harvey has helped him, Taylor said.

"We had a great rapport last year, and that helps," Taylor said. "That relationship is crucial for any driver in the IndyCar Series."

***

Third Panther car up in air: John Barnes, chief executive officer of Pennzoil Panther Racing, was noncommittal about adding a third car to the team's stable for the "500."

"I don't know," he said. "We'll make an announcement here soon. We have 'til the 31st to decide that."

Panther has eight Dallara chassis in its shop, Barnes said. Six are updated to current specs, with the others in the process.

***

Nanny's place in history: Jamie Nanny, co-owner and chief mechanic for Access Motorsports, has a unique distinction in Indy Racing League history.

As a crewman for Treadway Racing in the fall of 1996, he was the first ever to fire the engine on a G Force IRL car at a racetrack, for Arie Luyendyk at Phoenix.

"That'll never change," Nanny said with a laugh March 25.

"A lot of it was a blur. We'd worked so many long hard hours to get to that test. We'd been waiting on parts. It wasn't the most complete race car, but it was functional."

Now, a little more than seven years later, he's in a key position for the Access team with co-owner/driver Greg Ray and co-owner Ted Bitting.

"I got myself into a position to be a chief mechanic on a small team," Nanny said. "It's been a true education working with Greg over the past 12 months. We stay in our own roles and know each other's strengths and weaknesses. My biggest part of the deal is more of a managerial ownership role. Greg is the one who's kept us going.

"With Greg, one of his strongest points is his passion, his unwillingness to quit. He has great driver feedback, good racing savvy, and he's a very deeply competitive-natured person."

Ray is equally supportive of Nanny.

"For me, seeing Jamie Nanny in the last year go from being a crew chief to a bona fide leader and someone I can converse with and sound ideas off of -- it's very rewarding."

***

Successful transformation: 1999 Indy Racing League champion Greg Ray has made the transformation from driver to co-owner/driver.

"I'm crystal-clear on both of those topics so I don't have to explain it to myself," Ray said. "I'm trying to carry the ball forward in the boardroom and behind the steering wheel. You see such a monumental quest in front of us, then you work real hard, then you look back and see how far you pushed the bar.

"While we want all the things the big teams have, we don't want to change our small team approach. We are the smallest, littlest, newest team out there, and we should be their (the IRL's) poster child.

"(When I came to the series), a good engineer and driver even without resources could make a car go quick. Now, with wind tunnel and sim data, that part has moved quantitatively. We're surrounded by teams that are all on the edge. We're in much deeper water on a competitive basis. The difference between first and 10th is not much."

He was asked about speeds and IRL rules to slow the cars.

"If they hadn't taken away everything they've taken away over the last few years, we'd be lapping Indianapolis at 250 miles an hour," 2000 Indianapolis 500 MBNA Pole winner Ray said.

Ray is in workaholic mode these days.

On March 24, he worked in his office in Texas until 6 p.m., went to the soccer practice of his son Winston, 11, then returned to his office until 2 a.m. At 7 a.m. Thursday, he was on a flight to Indy for the media tour.

***

Kart winners: In the TAG Heuer Karting Challenge on March 24 at Fastimes Indoor Karting Center in Indianapolis, the team of Alex Barron, James Burnes of Intake Weekly and Dave Kallman of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel captured the 40-minute endurance race.

In a 10-minute dash among media representatives, Jeremy Winters of Sports Pedia won, followed by Steve Watson of Westside Community News and Bill Cremering of the "Racing Roundup Show."

***

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-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Jacques Villeneuve , Mark Taylor , Greg Ray , Arie Luyendyk , Paul Tracy , Alex Barron , Chip Ganassi , John Barnes
Teams Panther Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing