IRL: Jeret Schroeder trades golf clubs for Indy 500 dream

LAS VEGAS, Friday, April 21, 2000 - Jeret Schroeder's father, William, always wanted his son to play golf. He bought him a set of clubs when he was 8 and occasionally took him to the Masters. The family also enjoyed tennis, and a...

LAS VEGAS, Friday, April 21, 2000 - Jeret Schroeder's father, William, always wanted his son to play golf. He bought him a set of clubs when he was 8 and occasionally took him to the Masters. The family also enjoyed tennis, and a full tennis court was constructed at their Vineland, N.J. home. Jeret felt he was a better tennis player than a golfer when he entered high school, but lettered four years in golf and once shot a 68. He was a six-handicapper. Young Schroeder finally reached his own "Masters" last May at the Indianapolis 500. But he was looking to win the Borg-Warner Trophy, not a Green Jacket. Instead of becoming a professional golfer or tennis player, he became a race driver. Schroeder, 30, will start the Indy Racing Northern Light Series Vegas Indy 300 Saturday in eighth place in the Armour Swift-Eckrich-Tristarmall.com Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone fielded by Tri Star Motorsports. He leads the series rookie-of-the-year standings with 29 points and is 14th in the overall standings after two races. Schroeder has no desire to seek out Las Vegas' tennis superstar Andre Agassi or attend the SENIOR PGA TOUR tournament that is being played here this weekend. His total sports dedication is to become a winning driver in the 220-mph open wheel Indy Racing cars. "I was asked my goals before the first two races, and I said I wanted to see the checkered flag," Schroeder said. "I saw the checkered flag, but unfortunately we had problems in both races and lost some laps. "So my main goal here is to get a good qualifying spot, stay out of trouble and see the checkered flag on the lead lap." Schroeder started 16th and finished 19th in the Delphi Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway in January and then improved to a fifth place start and 12th place finish in the MCI WorldCom Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway March 19. He completed 368 of 400 laps. Driving for Price Cobb Racing in the Indy 500 last year, he started 21st and finished 15th when an engine problem sidelined him after 175 laps. He had a 14th and a 19th in two 1997 Northern Light Series races driving for McCormack Motorsports. "Last year was a situation, a kind of make-it-or-break-it in Indy car racing," he said about his rookie appearance at Indy. "We were fortunate to go out and run well enough to get some exposure, at least enough for Tri Star to notice me. "I think the experience is invaluable. Prior to Indy car, top speeds are 150 mph in Atlantic. I had some time in the Can Am car, which is good for 190 mph. But in an Indy car going 230 mph down the straightaway at Indianapolis is a thoroughly different ball game." Schroeder is driving for Larry Curry, who, along with partners Tony Stewart, Andy Card and Rick Ehrgott, formed the team 14 months ago. "Larry is a brilliant engineer," Schroeder said. "I come in and tell him what the car is doing, he makes the change and 99 percent of the time he gets me going faster. I think we're building a pretty good rapport, and I think I have a pretty good rapport built with the rest of the team. Actually, they make it easy for me." Schroeder still plays golf occasionally. He's not as good as he was in high school, because of injuries to his feet incurred in a 1993 racing accident. Could he have made the Masters? "I don't know," he responded. "I had another six strokes to improve on. If you want to go beyond that, you're probably looking at another six strokes. It would have been a hard road, but I think if I had applied myself to it I think I could have gone in that direction." His father is an entrepreneur and has consummated many deals on the golf course. As his son got older he would take him along to the course and started him golfing when he was eight. Jeret liked the sport in high school because his friends also played. In high school he was playing in the junior PGA. "I started playing tennis about the same time I started playing golf," he said. "I went to a lot of tennis camps. Both my parents (mother Nadine) played tennis then, but their interest dwindled off. My father was a big time golfer, and he wanted me to go that route. I think at that time, when I was a freshman I was a better tennis player than a golfer." But young Schroeder's interest in both sports dwindled. Shortly after getting his driver's license, his father sent him to a race driving school to learn safe driving. Goodbye Augusta, hello Indianapolis. Schroeder won the Formula 2000 championship in 1995 and later the Jacques Villeneuve award in Formula Atlantic. "I'm ecstatic to be a race car driver," he said. "I do laps in my head in my sleep. This is definitely my forte here."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Jacques Villeneuve , Jeret Schroeder , Price Cobb