IRL: Indy 500: Three teams announce drivers

BRACK, LUYENDYK JR., KITE NAMED TO RIDES FOR INDIANAPOLIS 500 INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, May 18, 2005 -- 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner Kenny Brack will replace injured 2004 Indianapolis 500 champion Buddy Rice in the 89th edition of the "Greatest...

BRACK, LUYENDYK JR., KITE NAMED TO RIDES FOR INDIANAPOLIS 500

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, May 18, 2005 -- 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner Kenny Brack will replace injured 2004 Indianapolis 500 champion Buddy Rice in the 89th edition of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing," Rahal Letterman Racing officials announced May 18.

In other driver news, rookie Arie Luyendyk Jr. was named as the driver of the CURB/Agajanian/Beck Motorsports entry, and veteran Jimmy Kite was named to replace injured rookie Paul Dana in the Ethanol Hemelgarn Racing entry.

Brack will attempt to qualify the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone on Third Day Qualifying, Saturday, May 21 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to earn one of the 11 remaining spots for the race May 29.

Rice suffered a concussion and back contusions in a single-car crash in Turn 2 on May 11 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during practice. Five days later, he was not cleared to drive by Dr. Henry Bock, senior director of medical services for the Indy Racing League and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Further evaluation of Rice discovered a partially torn spinal ligament in his mid- to lower neck that is essential to maintaining the alignment of the spine. Doctors have recommended rest and rehabilitation and Rice will be reassessed in about three weeks.

This will be Brack's first Indianapolis 500 start and first IndyCar Series start since 2003. He suffered multiple injuries during the season-ending event in October 2003 at Texas Motor Speedway.

"For me, I feel ready," said Brack, who tested a Rahal Letterman Racing car at Richmond International Raceway last June. "But, you know, to come into this situation like this is obviously a little more challenging than being around for the whole month. But I felt that knowing the team and knowing the players here and we've done great things together, it's a lot easier.

"I've been working out very hard. I'm back to the same physical condition as I was before the crash because I have been basically pounding myself in the gym ever since I got out of the hospital."

Brack wasted little time shaking off any rust during practice Wednesday, as he turned a speed of 220.482 on just his fifth lap on track. He later raised that speed to 225.005 mph during the first hour of practice.

"As a driver, you know what it means -- you dream of winning this race, let alone winning it again or repeating it," team co-owner Bobby Rahal said. "I know Buddy's extremely disappointed, and we're disappointed for him. However, we had to go forward.

"I just thought it's somehow right that I called my friend Mr. Brack and asked if he'd be ready to fill in. The obvious sign is that he was ready to fill in. We're very anxious and excited to have Kenny back driving our car. I think that was one of the key factors -- we wanted to have someone come in who would be as competitive as Buddy, who had experience with our team before and who we felt would work with the other two drivers in making sure we had three equally competitive cars come Race Day."

Luyendyk will drive the No. 98 CURB Records Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. Luyendyk, 23, will make his IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 debut if he qualifies for the race.

Luyendyk's accomplishments include finishing second in the inaugural Menards Infiniti Pro Series championship in 2002, and also finishing third in the 2004 championship.

"I'm very grateful for the opportunity Greg Beck, Cary Agajanian and Mike Curb are giving me to drive in the Indianapolis 500," Luyendyk Jr. said. "It's been a dream of mine to race in the Indianapolis 500, especially because of what my father has accomplished. I've been working toward this chance by racing in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, and feel I'm ready for this important step in my career."

Said team owner Greg Beck: "Arie has done a great job in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series and we felt that he was ready for the challenge of Indy. We have a strong package with Chevy power and a Dallara chassis to help give Arie a great opportunity in his first Indy 500."

Luyendyk's father won the Indianapolis 500 in 1990 and 1997, and holds the single-lap qualifying record and the fastest four-lap average qualifying run. Luyendyk also holds the record for the fastest 500-mile race at an average speed of 185.981 mph.

Kite, 29, a native of Effingham, Ill., has made four career Indianapolis 500 starts, with a best finish of 11th as a rookie in 1998. His last Indy start came in 2003, when he finished 13th for PDM Racing.

He is in his rookie season in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and, for the past three years, has competed in the United States Auto Club Silver Crown Series. Kite will perform a "double" of sorts this weekend, driving in the Craftsman Truck Series event Friday at Charlotte, N.C., and returning to Indianapolis for the final weekend of qualifying starting Saturday.

"Over the years, Hemelgarn Racing has built a great heritage at Indianapolis, and I am honored to be asked to drive the car at Indy," Kite said. "I know Paul really wants to be in the car, and I am going to do my best to make everyone associated with Team Ethanol proud of our effort."

Said team owner Ron Hemelgarn: "I have known Jimmy since the late 1990s, and he has always done a great job here at Indy. He is truly a driver that deserves a break."

Dana suffered a fractured T-7 and T-8 vertebrae in a practice crash May 13 and was not cleared to drive in the remainder of the event. No surgery on Dana's back will be required, as doctors will allow the injury to heal on its own in a brace.

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Tickets: Tickets are available for the 2005 Indianapolis 500 on May 29. 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 Jimmy Kite , Bobby Rahal , Kenny Brack , Buddy Rice , Paul Dana , Arie Luyendyk Jr.