IRL: Indy Racing League Weekly Notebook

INDIANAPOLIS, March 16, 1998 Calkins staying focused: Pep Boys IRL driver Buzz Calkins admits that looking at the schedule right now can be a dangerous thing. The Dura-Lube 200, the second of 11 events in the series...

INDIANAPOLIS, March 16, 1998

Calkins staying focused: Pep Boys IRL driver Buzz Calkins admits that looking at the schedule right now can be a dangerous thing.

The Dura-Lube 200, the second of 11 events in the series this year, takes place March 22 at Phoenix International Raceway. But looming next is the world's richest and most prestigious race, the Indianapolis 500 on May 24 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Drivers and teams sometimes put too much focus too soon on Indianapolis, resulting in a poor showing at Phoenix, Calkins said. That not only hurts teams in their quest for the Pep Boys IRL championship, but it also stifles momentum heading into the Brickyard.

"There's definitely the temptation to do that, but you've got to try to stay focused," Calkins said. "(The races) all go hand-in-hand. If you can get a hold of stuff at Phoenix, you can get a hold of stuff at Indy. If things are going well after Phoenix, your confidence is up going into Indy."

Calkins should have plenty of confidence heading into Phoenix. His quickest time during recent testing at the 1-mile oval was 20.947 seconds in the Bradley FoodMart/Sav-O-Mat G Force/Aurora/Goodyear, better than the track record.

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Clear vision for Schmidt: Pep Boys IRL driver Sam Schmidt, once legally blind without corrective lenses, recently underwent surgery that improved his eyesight to 20/10.

"I was sick of wearing glasses and the problems that driving with them created," Schmidt said. "Now that the surgery has been completed, I can't believe I waited this long. Everything is so unbelievably clear. "In fact, my eyes have now been tested for 20/10 vision, and you know what that means. Yep, any style, any color, any pair of Arnette shades I want. You'll probably see me sporting 14 different styles a weekend."

Schmidt, who drives for LP Racing, is selling Arnette sunglasses to help raise funds for the team.

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Skiing legend to represent new team: Former alpine skiing legend Franz Klammer will begin his role as a spokeman for the new rsm Marko team at the Dura-Lube 200 on March 20-22 at Phoenix International Raceway.

rsm Marko and its driver, Dave Steele, both will make their Pep Boys IRL debuts at Phoenix.

Klammer, 44, won 26 World Cup races between 1973-85. His most memorable victory came in the 1976 Winter Olympics, where he won the gold medal in the downhill before his home fans in Innsbruck, Austria. Klammer also won five World Cup overall titles, 1975-78 and 1983.

After his skiing career ended, Klammer began a standout auto racing career. He won the European Touring Car Championship for rsm Marko, owned by fellow Austrian Dr. Helmut Marko, in 1989 and 1990 in a Mercedes-Benz 190. He finished second in 1991.

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Goodyear frozen out of Indy: Goodyear will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway March 27-29 for a scheduled test after cold weather forced the cancellation of its tire tests last week at the Brickyard.

Five teams will test for Goodyear at the Speedway: Hemelgarn Racing (driver Buddy Lazier), A.J. Foyt Enterprises (Billy Boat, Kenny Brack), Kelley Racing (Scott Sharp, Mark Dismore), Team Cheever (Eddie Cheever Jr.) and Pagan Racing (Roberto Guerrero).

Goodyear's first round of tests at the Speedway this year, originally scheduled for March 10-12, were delayed until March 13-15. But continued cold weather forced company engineers to scratch those tests.

Temperatures in the mid-30's also forced Firestone to cancel its test at Texas Motor Speedway near Fort Worth, scheduled for March 9-11.

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Close quarters: Open-wheel veteran Raul Boesel, who moved to the Pep Boys IRL this season after many years in CART, is learning quickly just how close the competition is in the IRL.

Boesel finished 18th in his debut with McCormack Motorsports at the season-opening Indy 200 in late January near Orlando, Fla. He was the 12th-quickest driver during the "Test in the West" on Feb 25-26 at Phoenix International Raceway, site of the Dura-Lube 200 on March 22. But Boesel's best time of 21.343 seconds on the 1-mile oval was within eight-tenths of a second of Scott Sharp's top clocking of 20.584, an unofficial track record. "The competition is really quite unbelievable here in this series," Boesel said. "We tested at PIR along with other drivers and teams at the end of February, and the speeds some of the guys were running were extremely quick. My strategy for the race will be to try and focus on speed and consistency. I really feel that's going to be the key for our success."

Past experience also should help. Boesel has completed 1,427 laps of racing in open-wheel cars at PIR. He finished second in an open-wheel race in 1993 at PIR.

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Continuing the tradition: Jimmy Kite hasn't even completed a full season in the Pep Boys IRL, but his success with Team Scandia is helping to create more opportunities in the series for talented USAC drivers.

Kite was hired from the USAC ranks by Team Scandia in June 1997, becoming the precursor of a recent wave of USAC standouts who have jumped to the Pep Boys IRL. Just as Kite followed in the tire tracks of USAC stars Tony Stewart, Davey Hamilton and Billy Boat to the IRL, this year's rookie crop of Brian Tyler, Dave Steele and J.J. Yeley took the same path as Kite to the league. Two-time defending USAC sprint car champion Tyler finished 19th in his IRL debut in the Indy 200 in January near Orlando, Fla., and USAC stars Dave Steele and J.J. Yeley are scheduled to make their league debuts March 22 in the Dura-Lube 200 in Phoenix.

"My main comment when I came into the IRL was that Billy Boat, Davey Hamilton, Tony Stewart, those guys are the reason that I got my shot," Kite said. "Hopefully, I've performed well enough to give other people from USAC and those little cars a chance. Tony has obviously done so well, and hopefully I've done my part, that it's created some opportunities."

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Back to school: Higher education will take an interesting twist later this month and in April when Indianapolis Motor Speedway historian Donald Davidson will teach a non-credit, college-level class about the history of the Indianapolis 500.

The class, taught by Davidson since 1986, is offered by Indiana University/Purdue University at Indianapolis as part of its Continuing Education Program.

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Harbaugh helps out: NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh, part owner of the Panther Racing Pep Boys IRL team, helped Mari Hulman George, Indianapolis Motor Speedway chairman of the board, present a check for $100,000 to the American Red Cross' Disaster Relief Fund on March 10 at Orlando, Fla. The American Red Cross is the official charity of the Indy Racing League. The Orlando area was devastated by tornadoes this winter. Harbaugh and George toured the storm-ravaged areas before presenting the check to the Red Cross.

"My home is only a few miles away from where one of these tornadoes touched down," Harbaugh said. "You just can't imagine what kind of damage a storm like that can do until you see it first-hand."

Harbaugh, 1997 Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson, Florida State and Auburn University football players and renowned golf instructor David Ledbetter accompanied the Red Cross for a visit March 14 to children in Kissimmee, Fla., one of the hardest-hit areas. They distributed electronic toys to the children. The toys were donated by Roger Shiffman, owner of Tiger Electronics in Chicago and a close friend of Harbaugh.

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Next event: Dura-Lube 200, March 22, Phoenix International Raceway. Tickets are available by calling PIR at (602) 252-2227.

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World Wide Web: http://www.indyracingleague.com

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Buzz Calkins , Buddy Lazier , Davey Hamilton , Scott Sharp , Billy Boat , Mark Dismore , Roberto Guerrero , Jimmy Kite , Raul Boesel , Sam Schmidt , J.J. Yeley , Dave Steele , Brian Tyler , A.J. Foyt
Teams A.J. Foyt Enterprises , Panther Racing