IRL: Indy500: Jeret Schroeder moved forward in the race

INDIANAPOLIS, May 28 - Jeret Schroeder and the Tri Star Motorsports team achieved their goal of finishing Sunday's Indianapolis 500, battling up from a 29th-place starting spot to finish 14th in the Kroger/SoBe Beverages/Heritage Food...

INDIANAPOLIS, May 28 - Jeret Schroeder and the Tri Star Motorsports team achieved their goal of finishing Sunday's Indianapolis 500, battling up from a 29th-place starting spot to finish 14th in the Kroger/SoBe Beverages/Heritage Food Service Dallara Aurora #6 in the world's most famous and richest auto race.

The 84th annual event, which is also the world's largest single-day sporting event, carried a record purse of $9,476,505. Schroeder's team's share of that was $278,000.

Many aspects of the day went extremely well for the Tri Star Motorsports team, as its pit stops were flawless, Larry Curry made some masterful calls with his race strategy and Schroeder skillfully escaped "about a million close calls." Unfortunately the team struggled with the same lack of power that plagued it in practice and qualifying here, which affected the car's straight-line speed and denied it a top-10 finish. Schroeder, from Vineland, N.J., did advance 15 positions, however, which was the second-highest advancement among the field of 33. Only Billy Boat, who started 31st and finished right behind Schroeder in 15th, gained more positions, and that was only one spot more.

Finishing is always the primary goal in a 500-mile race, and Schroeder, Boat and Eddie Cheever Jr. are the only drivers to be running at the finish of all four Indy Racing Northern Light races so far this season.

Schroeder ran with a different team in last year's race. He didn't finish last year due to a blown engine near the end. Although he did finish this year, ironically he only placed one spot higher. That was partly due to the fact that the 22 cars running at the finish was a series record. The previous mark was 21 last year in a race at Pikes Peak International Raceway in Colorado.

He also gained valuable points to pad his point lead in the competition for the Indy Racing Northern Light series' Rookie of the Year award. He leads that roster with 77 points to Sam Hornish's 64, Doug Didero's 32, Sarah Fisher's 31, Jason Leffler's 28, Niclas Jonsson's 27, Bobby Regester's 10, Jon Herb's eight and Andy Hillenburg's two.

Schroeder is now 11th in the overall national championship point standings, while the Tri Star team is tenth in the entrant standings.

Sunday's race was delayed by rain. Once it got going Schroeder did too, as he advanced from 29th to 22nd by lap 45. He reported that the car was pushing a little by his second pit stop on lap 62, and the team gave him a little more front wing and sticker tires along with fuel on that stop. He had hardly regained his momentum when he had a close call, as defending series champion Greg Ray crashed in turn two and Schroeder cut his car's left front tire when he ran over debris from Ray's crash. He pitted to change tires two laps later, but when the race restarted on lap 71 it only went green for four more laps before Lyn St. James and Sarah Fisher tangled in turn one.

Schroeder stayed in the low twenties position-wise for the rest of the first half of the race, unable to advance any higher. When he was running alone the car was handling perfectly but it had a little push in a pack of cars. The real problem was simply the lack of horsepower, however. "It just didn't get going until it reached about 10,400 RPMs," Schroeder related later. "I had to down-shift every single lap a minimum of two times, and I should have been able to go flat out. Even when I was in a draft the motor didn't pick up. It would push on the exit of the turns and then I had to pedal out of the throttle a little bit, which compounded the problem. We just didn't have enough power today."

On lap 106 Schroeder had another scare when another competitor almost pushed him into the frontstretch wall by the start/finish line. He was 19th by that point, still steadily working his way up.

There was another close call when he pitted shortly after lap 125, as Boat was coming down pit road as Schroeder was going out of the pits. Schroeder tucked in behind Boat, however, and dodged another bullet.

Schroeder had worked his way up to 15th by lap 140 but the car's pushing condition was getting worse instead of better. He adjusted his bars in the cockpit but he had an even bigger problem when Ray crashed for the second time in turn two on lap 144 right in front of him.

Schroeder said the car was handling better before the last adjustment, so Curry went back to the previous set-up when he called Schroeder back into the pits under the yellow for Ray's crash.

Another close call occurred on lap 158 when Hornish crashed in turn two right in front of Schroeder, who was 15th at the time. One more stop was needed to get to the end, which Schroeder made on lap 174 when Stan Wattles blew his engine. He moved up to 14th when a car that was ahead of him ran into trouble, and the rest of the race he had to fight off Boat, who was right behind him. He successfully did that, however, and took the checkered two laps down.

"I'm glad we finished," Schroeder summarized. "That was our goal, and I'm glad we could do that for Kroger, SoBe beverages and Heritage Food Service.

"I had a million close calls; a lot of people were brake-checking out there and some were blocking. One time on a restart one guy brake-checked in front of me in turn four and four or five other guys blew by us both. I got back by most of them pretty quickly, but little things like that take you out of the picture here.

"Our pit stops were great; the Tri Star team did a great job on all of the stops. We made some stops that I wish we didn't have to make, like when we had a left front tire go down when I ran over some debris. That was early, when Greg Ray had his first problem. I was close to his other problem too, and I had a close call when Sam Hornish crashed too. Really there were a million close calls.

"I'm glad we finished the race, and there is nothing like Indy. I'm glad everybody was so supportive of us and I hope everybody was watching and enjoyed the race. But as a team I know we're better than a 14th-place finish. We showed that in the earlier races. We just have to find some more power before we go to Texas and Pikes Peak."

The Texas race is Saturday night, June 10 at Texas Motor Speedway near Fort Worth, and the Pikes Peak race is Sunday, June 18 at Pikes Peak International Raceway in Fountain, Colo. Prior to that Schroeder plans to compete in a Grand American sports car endurance race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this coming weekend with the TRV Motorsport team of Toledo, Ohio.

Tri Star Motorsports' Jeret Schroeder, driver of the Kroger Dallara Aurora #6 Indy Racing Northern Light car, is scheduled to visit Public School #93 at 7151 E. 35th St. in Indianapolis this Tuesday from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. The appearance is being made possible by GTE.

The popular young driver from Vineland, N.J., will show the children his trademark colorful helmet and his driving uniform, give them his 2000 autograph card and talk to them about the importance of staying in school and applying themselves to their studies.

The school serves children from kindergarten through sixth grade.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jason Leffler , Sarah Fisher , Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Jon Herb , Billy Boat , Jeret Schroeder , Andy Hillenburg , Lyn St. James , Sam Hornis