IRL: Indy Racing notebook 2002-10-03

Indy Racing Notebook: Scheckter wants to stay in IRL; Langhorne pleased with Supercup drive. INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2002 -- Indy Racing League rookie phenom Tomas Scheckter says he intends to return to the league in 2003. "For sure,...

Indy Racing Notebook:
Scheckter wants to stay in IRL; Langhorne pleased with Supercup drive.

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2002 -- Indy Racing League rookie phenom Tomas Scheckter says he intends to return to the league in 2003.

"For sure, that's where I want to be," Scheckter said as he visited Formula One friends in the paddock last weekend during the SAP United States Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"I've had some good races there this year. I want to carry on doing the same job I did this year, but a little bit more consistent."

Scheckter, son of 1979 F1 champion Jody Scheckter, came to the IRL as a teammate to owner-driver Eddie Cheever. Scheckter then crashed into his boss in the season-opening race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, starting a rocky relationship between the newcomer and his team owner/teammate.

During the Indianapolis 500, Scheckter led four times for 85 laps, almost triple of any other driver, but he ended up in 26th place after crashing on Lap 173 while leading. He won three MBNA Poles (Texas, Kansas and Michigan) and won at Michigan with a spectacular drive through the field over the last 30 laps to go from 11th to first.

But Scheckter decided not to drive for Red Bull Cheever Racing in late August, just before the Gateway Indy 250 at St. Louis. His last start for the team came in early August at Kentucky, and he sat out the final three races of the season.

Still, the spirited Scheckter said he sopped up much oval-driving experience in his inaugural season of driving Indy Racing cars for Cheever.

"I learned a lot, many different situations, and it showed me what to do and how to do it," Scheckter said. "My first year in oval racing I learned an unbelievable amount. I need to put that all together and hopefully have a dominant performance."

Scheckter said the stirring victory at Michigan got the attention of European racing and his homeland, including his hometown of Cape Town, South Africa.

"I was on the 7 o'clock news in South Africa, which is great," Scheckter said. "My whole country seems to have supported me a lot more since I've been here in America. Much more. My mother says you won't realize it.

"It's done a lot for me in every way, and that's why I want to stay here and that's why I'd like to have another go at winning the 500 and the championship."

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Langhorne shows versatility: Indy Racing League rookie Will Langhorne was the top American finisher Sept. 29 in the second Porsche Michelin Supercup race during the SAP United States Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Langhorne finished 12th in the second race for the prestigious, single-marque series. He did not finish the first race Sept. 28 on the 2.606-mile road course due to engine overheating.

He drove a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car for the elite Kadach Tuning + Service team as a teammate to series champion Stephane Ortelli, a former winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours.

"It was fun," Langhorne said. "Kadach did a great job, and I appreciate Grill-2-Go being here this weekend. They are a huge IRL supporter. It is great to be here this weekend with them. I was fortunate to be able to duel out there with a legend, Bill Adam, and so fortunate to drive out there against these drivers, good American drivers and good European drivers.

"There were some guys with some car problems that dropped in back, but those guys are the best in the world at massaging these cars. I think it would take me a weekend more or two to get on their pace."

Langhorne, who has a road-racing background, wasn't choosing sides when asked if he preferred racing on ovals or road circuits.

"I love them both," Langhorne said. "Four wheels and a motor, and I'm a happy man."

While Langhorne enjoyed racing on the road circuit at Indy, his next . goal is to make his first Indianapolis 500 start. He made his first . three IRL career starts in the 2002 season "It was a lot of fun, and I . am looking forward to coming back and running the other direction at . the Indianapolis 500," Langhorne said .

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Howdy Wilcox dies: Howard S. "Howdy" Wilcox, son of the 1919 Indianapolis 500 winner of the same name and longtime USAC board member, died Sept. 30. He was 82.

Wilcox, a Carmel, Ind., resident who moved to the Lake Wawasee area in Northern Indiana in later years, formed one of the first major public relations firms in Indianapolis and was founder of both the Indianapolis 500 parade and the famed Little 500 bicycle race at Indiana University from which the movie "Breaking Away" was adapted. He was a veteran member of the 500 Oldtimers Club.

Memorial contributions may be made to the I.U. Student Foundation in care of the Little 500 Scholarship Fund.

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Hot laps: It has been calculated that Sam Hornish Jr. beat Al Unser Jr. by 7 ½ inches at Chicagoland (.0024 of a second) and Helio Castroneves by 28 inches at Texas (.0096 of a second) to clinch his second straight championship for the Pennzoil Panther Racing team. A yardstick would have covered both finishes -- Sam Hornish Jr., who led 654 laps during the 2002 IRL season, needs to lead only 59 more laps next season to pass Tony Stewart's total of 1,515 and become the league's all-time lap leader.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Tomas Scheckter , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Helio Castroneves , Stéphane Ortelli , Will Langhorne , Jody Scheckter , Sam Hornish Jr. , Bill Adam
Teams Panther Racing