IRL: IRL notes 98-08-03

PEP BOYS INDY RACING LEAGUE WEEKLY NOTEBOOK Boat back on track, fast at Atlanta: Just four weeks after suffering a broken leg and pelvis, Billy Boat returned to the cockpit with authority July 28-29 during a Goodyear tire test at Atlanta...

PEP BOYS INDY RACING LEAGUE WEEKLY NOTEBOOK

Boat back on track, fast at Atlanta: Just four weeks after suffering a broken leg and pelvis, Billy Boat returned to the cockpit with authority July 28-29 during a Goodyear tire test at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Boat drove the Conseco-A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear to a fast lap of 220.955 mph July 28 during evening testing on the 1.5-mile oval at Atlanta. It was his first time in the car since suffering a broken left thigh bone and pelvis during a crash in the New Hampshire 200 on June 28 at Loudon, N.H. His leg bone was repaired with an L-shaped plate and screws.

"It felt good to get back in the race car," Boat said. "Within five laps at Atlanta I was running 215 (mph). I don't think the accident hurt my confidence at all.

"The only thing it does hurt is the longer you are out, the more apt you are to be a little rusty when you get back. That is why it was important to me to get back as quickly as I could."

Boat plans two more days of testing before making his return to the Pep Boys Indy Racing League at the Radisson 200 on Aug. 16 at Pikes Peak International Raceway.

Boat, from Phoenix, was enjoying a strong season when he was hurt. He won the pole for the Indianapolis 500 and won the True Value 500 on June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway, pushing him to third in the season point standings. He fell to 12th with 122 points after missing two races due to injury.

"Missing two races definitely hurt our chances to win the championship this year," Boat said. "Right now we have to just go out and try to pick up as many points in each race as we can. We have to qualify up front, finish up front and complete every race. If we can do that, then that is the most we can ask for."

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Arie OK for Colorado: Arie Luyendyk plans to compete in the Radisson 200 on Aug. 16 at Pikes Peak International Raceway despite a harrowing crash July 31 during the True Value Firebird International Race of Champions event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Luyendyk suffered a slight concussion after Tom Kendall's Pontiac Firebird Trans Am brushed the wall when exiting Turn 4 and then hit Luyendyk's car, running beside him. Luyendyk's car then careened across the track and hit the inside retaining wall before the pit entrance, becoming the first car to hit the Speedway's new PEDS Barrier safety system.

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Luyendyk stayed overnight at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis for observation. He was released Aug. 1 and returned to his native Holland to spend time with his family.

"I feel just fine, actually," Luyendyk said the day after the accident. "I'm just bruised here and there, but its nothing that won't go away soon.

"I never expected to have such a big shunt in an IROC car. We were traveling pretty fast, and because the car was so heavy the impact was hard. I was really happy that the barrier worked as well as it did, but I really didn't want to be the first one to try it out.

"Everyone at the hospital was great, and I think I am ready for Colorado."

The IROC series pits 12 elite drivers from different forms of motorsports into identically prepared Pontiac stock cars. The final round of the four-event series took place at Indy.

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Roberto returning: Roberto Guerrero will return to the Pep Boys IRL at the Radisson 200 on Aug. 16 at Pikes Peak International Raceway with CBR-Cobb Racing, team spokesman George Giles said.

Guerrero started the first four races of the season for Pagan Racing but was replaced by Stevie Reeves in July. Jim Guthrie drove the CBR-Cobb G Force/Aurora/Firestone last month in the Pep Boys 400K at Dover, Del., and the VisionAire 500 at Charlotte, N.C.

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Goodyear fast at Atlanta: Scott Goodyear posted the fastest speed, 223.508 mph, during testing July 28-29 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Goodyear led a group of drivers preparing for the Atlanta 500 Classic presented by MCI on Aug. 29, the league's debut on the 1.5-mile oval at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Other teams at Atlanta worked with Goodyear Tire on tire compounds, but Panther Racing and driver Goodyear concentrated on race and qualifying setups for its Pennzoil Panther G Force/Aurora/Goodyear during the evening test.

"I think that this race will be very similar to Charlotte and Texas in the respect that race speeds may be a little faster than those in qualifying," Goodyear said. "When we get in the draft, the speeds go up a little.

"The difference between tracks is that the corners are so wide here that the drivers won't hesitate to go three-wide. You'll see some great racing." Other top speeds from Atlanta: -- Kenny Brack, 221.185 -- Billy Boat, 220.955 -- Buddy Lazier, 219.304 -- Eddie Cheever Jr., 218.393 Defending Pep Boys IRL champion Tony Stewart posted the fastest speed in Atlanta Motor Speedway history, 228.505 mph, during the league's Open Test last month.

"We weren't expecting to go that fast," Cheever said. "Scott's speed was deceptive because he wasn't working with the tire engineers. I'm confident that we'll qualify at more than 225 mph, and you may see someone reach 230 mph."

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Wattles back earlier than expected: Stan Wattles and his Metro Racing Systems team will return to competition at the Radisson 200 on Aug. 16 at Pikes Peak International Raceway, one race earlier than planned.

Wattles didn't race last month in the Pep Boys 400K at Dover, Del., or the VisionAire 500 at Charlotte, N.C., instead concentrating on development of his Riley & Scott/Aurora/Goodyear car on 1-mile tracks. In late June, Wattles said he would compete in just two more races in 1998, the Atlanta 500 Classic presented by MCI on Aug. 29 and the Las Vegas 500K on Oct. 11, both on 1½-mile tracks.

But Wattles decided to rejoin the league at Pikes Peak because of limited testing opportunities this month and good test results last September on the 1-mile oval at Pikes Peak.

"There are no 1-mile ovals available for testing right now except Dover," Wattles said. "We're not ready for that track yet, so we figured a race would be just as good.

"We tested well at Pikes Peak last year. I'm looking forward to a good run and gathering lots of good information from the track."

Wattles' best finish this year was 10th at the True Value 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

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Leffler struts stuff at Indy: USAC standout Jason Leffler continues to show why he landed a contract with top Pep Boys IRL team Treadway Racing as he won the DuPont 100 USAC Silver Crown race July 29 at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

Leffler led all 100 laps of the feature. Defending Pep Boys IRL champion Tony Stewart finished fifth after starting 21st. Leffler's lead in the USAC Silver Crown national point standings grew to 388-351 over second-place Brian Tyler, an IRL rookie.

Treadway recently signed Leffler, 22, as a test driver until the team could find sponsorship for a second car.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Jason Leffler , Eddie Cheever , Buddy Lazier , Arie Luyendyk , Billy Boat , Jim Guthrie , Scott Goodyear , Roberto Guerrero , Kenny Brack , Tom Kendall , Brian Tyler , Stan Wattles , Stevie Reeves , A.J. Foyt
Teams Panther Racing