PEP BOYS INDY RACING LEAGUE NOTEBOOK Open-wheel racers fill front row at Daytona INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 11, 1999 - Open-wheel racers are beaming this week. Two graduates from their ranks will be sitting on the front row of NASCAR's Daytona...
PEP BOYS INDY RACING LEAGUE NOTEBOOK Open-wheel racers fill front row at Daytona
INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 11, 1999 - Open-wheel racers are beaming this week. Two graduates from their ranks will be sitting on the front row of NASCAR's Daytona 500 on Sunday. Jeff Gordon, a three-time Winston Cup champion and first two-time winner of the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, is on the pole. Tony Stewart, a Daytona rookie who won the Pep Boys Indy Racing League championship in the 1996-97 season, will start alongside of Gordon. Both grew up in central Indiana and launched their major league racing careers in USAC open-wheel cars. Gordon lived in Pittsboro, Ind., during his formative racing years, while Stewart was born in Columbus, Ind., and has called both Rushville and Indianapolis home. Stewart was born May 20, 1971, Gordon Aug. 4, 1971. Though both drove and won USAC championships before moving up to Winston Cup and Pep Boys Indy Racing League racing, they did not compete much against each other. Both drove and made the feature in two January RCA Dome midget races in 1992-93. Jeff had the better results each time with a second and an 11th to Tony's 23rd and 13th. Gordon drove his first sprint races in 1988, midget races in 1989 and Silver Crown races in 1990. He won the national midget title in 1990 and the Silver Crown title in 1991. Stewart competed in national midgets for the first time in 1991 and Silver Crown in 1992. He made an unprecedented sweep of the Silver Crown, sprint and midget championships in 1995 and also won the midget national crown in 1994. Gordon moved on to become a champion in Winston Cup, while Stewart did likewise in Pep Boys Indy Racing League competition. Gordon drives a Chevrolet Monte Carlo for Hendrick Motorsports, while Stewart is at the wheel of a Pontiac Grand Prix for Joe Gibbs Racing. USAC also can brag that Ken Schrader, third-fastest qualifier, is a former champion. He won the Silver Crown title in 1982.
*** Cool Raul doing double-duty: At age 41, this may finally be Raul Boesel's year. Boesel, a veteran from Brazil, followed up his fifth-place finish in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway with an excellent CART test at Homestead, Fla., as a one-race fill-in for suspended Paul Tracy. Indy Racing League team owner Dennis McCormack gave permission to CART team owner Barry Green to use Boesel in Tracy's Honda for the March 21 race at Miami-Dade Homestead Motorsports Complex, which comes the week before the Indy Racing League's MCI WorldCom 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. Boesel, who joined the Pep Boys Indy Racing League at the start of last season, was also allowed to participate in CART's Spring Training last week. He responded with the eighth fastest speed of 212.556 mph, faster than Al Unser Jr., Mark Blundell and Mauricio Gugelmin, among others. "I was surprised I got back and adapted so quickly," said Boesel, who raced in CART from 1985-97. "I guess going back and forth (between series) didn't affect my feeling for the car." Boesel said the weight distribution is the primary difference between the cars. He said the weight on the back of an Indy Racing League car makes it move more. "I'm pleased he went so fast," said McCormack, who with wife, Felicia, owns Boesel's TransWorld Racing-McCormack Motorsports G Force/Aurora/Firestone car. "With all the good drivers they have over there, they only have seven ahead of him. I think it is beneficial for him to drive as much as he can." Boesel drove for Green in 1996, and Green wanted someone with experience and someone he had confidence in to take Tracy's seat. "I think if I am competitive I can fight for the front," Boesel said. "Everybody was very curious about the difference between the (CART and IRL) cars, what I think about the IRL. "I feel both series are very competitive when you see the times. The fields are very tight. From the drivers' perspective on both sides, it is very competitive. I hope to do the IRL (open) test (in Phoenix). I want to be in position to fight for the championship." McCormack said he will take Boesel's car to Phoenix for the Test in the West.
*** Foyt, LaMance to cheer on Brack in Daytona: Car owner A.J. Foyt and team manager Tom LaMance flew Feb. 11 to Daytona Beach, Fla., to provide backing for defending Pep Boys Indy Racing League champion Kenny Brack when he competes in his first International Race of Champions race Feb. 12 at Daytona International Speedway. LaMance said they will hang out with Winston Cup veteran Geoffrey Bodine and his car owner, Joe Bessey, also a NASCAR Busch Series driver. Power Team is the sponsor of Brack's Indy Racing League car as well as those of Bodine and Bessey. In other A.J. Foyt Racing news, the team expected to receive delivery Thursday of its second new Dallara chassis for use in the Indianapolis 500. The team will test the cars at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway March 17-19. Foyt Racing will participate in the league's Test in the West Feb. 26-27 with the updated cars. Last Sunday, Foyt and crew were at the high-banked Texas World Speedway in College Station to watch A.J.'s son Larry win the F2000 national club race. This was a preparation event for the pro race at Phoenix, one of the support events to the MCI WorldCom 200 on March 28. *** Unser giving the boss a break: Robby Unser, Team Cheever's test driver, will fill in one day for his boss, 1998 Indianapolis 500 champion Eddie Cheever Jr., in the Feb. 26-27 Test in the West for Pep Boys Indy Racing League teams at Phoenix International Raceway. "Eddie's got a commitment," said crew chief Owen Snyder III. "It will help Robby out. He hasn't run an IRL car at Phoenix." The team still is searching for the finances to run a second car. Unser is free to sign with another team like he did in the opener at Walt Disney World Speedway. He drove for Team Pelfrey in the TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200, starting 21st and finishing 15th. Snyder is looking ahead to the test for another reason. Brother-in-law Steve Kinser, winningest driver in World of Outlaws history, will be racing at another Phoenix-area track, Manzanita, that same weekend. Snyder left Feb. 10 for Daytona Beach, Fla., to root for his boss in the International Race of Champions race Feb. 11 at Daytona International Speedway.
Another chance: Truscelli Racing will give rookie Greg Gorden a chance for more experience in a Pep Boys Indy Racing League car during the Test in the West on Feb. 26-27 at Phoenix International Raceway. Gorden, 1998 American Indy Car series champion, passed his Indy Racing League rookie test in 1998, but was held out of the 1999 season-opening race in Orlando, Fla., so he could gain more seat time in testing. He was replaced by Brian Tyler, who qualified the G Force/Aurora/Goodyear 24th and finished 14th. Team owner Joe Truscelli still intends on making Gorden his full-time driver. Meanwhile, Truscelli has announced that the team headquarters has been moved from Colorado Springs to Pikes Peak International Raceway, 15 miles south of the city and site of two Pep Boys Indy Racing League events this season, June 27 and Aug. 29. "We're very excited about the opportunity PPIR is giving to our team," Truscelli said. "It's a wonderful facility, and we're looking forward to continuing to promote the track as well as motorsports in Colorado."
Fastest at Vegas: Kelley Racing teammates Mark Dismore and Scott Sharp were 1-2 in Goodyear tire testing speeds recently at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Dismore of Greenfield, Ind., recorded a top lap speed of 211.5 mph in his MCI WorldCom Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear, and Sharp was just a tick behind at 211.1 in his Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. Scott Goodyear turned a fast lap of 209.9 mph in the Pennzoil Panther G Force/Aurora/Goodyear.
Gentlemen, start your pens: Mark Dismore of Kelley Racing, Billy Boat of A.J. Foyt Racing and Tyce Carlson of Blueprint-Immke Racing will sign autographs at a Pep Boys Indy Racing League booth Friday at the Super Show in Atlanta.
Greg Ray recently appeared with the Team Menard Dallara/Aurora/Firestone on behalf of associate sponsor Mitsubishi at the ProMat '99 show in Chicago.
Magazine test: Cobb Racing did a different type of testing this week. The team took its Infiniti-powered G Force and driver Roberto Guerrero to Texas Motor Speedway for a two-day session with Motor Trend magazine. Veteran Guerrero set up the car Feb. 10. On Feb. 11, writer Mac Demere was to drive the car (at reduced horsepower) and later write a road test article for publication.
On TV: Pep Boys Indy Racing League fans who want to see drivers Brian Tyler and Jason Leffler win the Coors Light Silver Bullet and MCI WorldCom Midget races Feb. 7 at the 22nd Copper World Classic at Phoenix International Raceway can tune in to TNN at 3 p.m. (EST) on Sunday, Feb. 28 for the delayed broadcasts. ***
Improving all the time: Brant Motorsports continues to see improvement in the Riley & Scott chassis as driver Andy Michner completed one testing session at Las Vegas and prepares for the Pep Boys Indy Racing League Test in the West on Feb. 26-27 at Phoenix International Raceway. "Our progression continues, and the car seems to improve with every lap," said Bob Brant, team co-owner with brother Ted. "Strong winds prevented us from conducting some aerodynamic testing we had planned in Las Vegas, but overall we were pleased with the test and the development of the team and the car." Said Michner, "The car got dialed in quickly and by the end of the two days, it felt very good, particularly in the turns." Michner drove the B&J Distributing midget in the Copper World Classic on Feb. 7 at Phoenix, then flew on to Vegas for the tire testing session. He'll round out his week by flying from his Ann Arbor, Mich., home to Daytona Beach, Fla., on Feb. 11 to participate with the Brant owners in some marketing activities Feb. 12.
Test in the West lineup: Following is the list of teams and drivers scheduled to participate in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League Test in the West Feb. 26-27 at Phoenix International Raceway: A.J. Foyt Enterprises (Kenny Brack, Billy Boat) Byrd-Cunningham Racing (John Paul Jr.) Bradley Motorsports (Buzz Calkins) Kelley Racing (Mark Dismore, Scott Sharp) Brant Motorsports (Andy Michner) McCormack Motorsports (Raul Boesel) Larry Curry Racing (Gualter Salles) Nienhouse Motorsports (Eliseo Salazar) Dick Simon Racing (Stephan Gregoire) Pennzoil Panther Racing (Scott Goodyear) Galles Racing (Davey Hamilton) SRS (Robbie Buhl) Guthrie Racing (Jim Guthrie) Team Cheever (Eddie Cheever Jr., Robby Unser) Harrington Motorsports (Scott Harrington) Team Menard (Greg Ray) Blueprint-Immke Racing (Tyce Carlson) TeamXtreme (John Hollansworth Jr.) ISM Racing (Jeff Ward) Treadway Racing (Jason Leffler, Sam Schmidt) Truscelli Team Racing (Greg Gorden) Team Pelfrey (TBA) Metro Racing (Stan Wattles)