IRL: Knapp, Curry Optimistic About New Alliance

For Immediate Release KNAPP, CURRY TAKING REALISTIC APPROACH TO PROGRESS By Dick Mittman PHOENIX, March 26, 1999 -- Steve Knapp, 1998 Bank One Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, and Larry Curry, who headed up...

For Immediate Release


By Dick Mittman

PHOENIX, March 26, 1999 -- Steve Knapp, 1998 Bank One Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, and Larry Curry, who headed up the team for which Tony Stewart won the 1996-97 Pep Boys Indy Racing League championship, met for the first time 10 days ago. Friday was their first day working together at a racetrack, and it ended with the their car hitting into the Turn 2 wall late in the practice, damaging the left rear of the machine. But Saturday is another day. Driver Knapp, team manager Curry and the ISM Racing team hope to rebound in the backup car and do well in the MCI WorldCom 200 on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway. The accident hasn't dimmed the pair's enthusiasm about being united on the ISM team after starting the 1999 season in different situations. "Larry's basically here to make the cars go fast, and he definitely has the experience to do that," said Knapp, who drove to third place as an Indy 500 newcomer last May. Said Curry, who served as team manager for Team Menard through the end of last season, "I think that Steve has got a lot of talent, or I wouldn't want to be involved." Knapp and Curry came face-to-face for the first time in Indy last week when Knapp came down from his Salem, Wis., home for a seat-fitting in the Thermo Tech ISM Racing G Force/Aurora/Goodyear. But it's obvious that each has strong respect for the other's skills and accomplishments. Still, Knapp and Curry are taking a cautious, patient approach as they take on the rest of the competitive Pep Boys Indy Racing League teams. "There are a couple of factors we're not sure about," Knapp said. "Larry has only ever had G Forces here (PIR) so he knows the car, but he's also only been on Firestones here. That's a little bit of a question. I'm sure there will be some learning characteristics involved there, but I'm just going to go out there and stay really focused." Curry said he enters Sunday's race with both an optimistic and a realistic outlook. He said he and Knapp must establish rapport, learn to communicate so that when Knapp tells him what the car is doing Curry can make the proper pit adjustments. This is something that normally comes during testing before races. Friday's two practices were the team's entire test session before Saturday's qualifications. It didn't end the way they expected. Knapp wasn't sure what caused his accident. His car had just re-entered the track on fresh tires. "It felt like the back of the car was steering the front," Knapp said. "I was being cautious. I barely touched the throttle, and it jumped around pretty quick. I probably was only doing 90 or 100 mph. I was on the brakes all the way, but it kept going, going, going. I feel bad for the team." Knapp, who'll be 35 on April 17, made his Indy 500 and Pep Boys Indy Racing League debut driving for ISM as a teammate to Jeff Ward. But then Knapp moved over to PDM Racing for five races after Indy. He still was with PDM when he drove to seventh place in the 1999 season-opening TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway. Meanwhile, Curry campaigned Stewart, driving in his final Pep Boys Indy Racing League season before moving on to NASCAR, and Robbie Buhl for car owner John Menard last year. But Menard released Curry at the end of the year after a long association. The veteran mechanic from Cincinnati then introduced himself as a co-car owner with Stewart and Indianapolis businessman Andy Card at the 1999 season opener. Brazilian Gualter Salles was brought in as driver. Salles crashed on the 92nd lap and finished 23rd. Knapp had continued under contract with ISM since last May and tried to acquire funding for a second car with ISM while driving for PDM. After the 1999 season opener, ISM owners Gary Sallee and Bob Hancher and lead driver Ward parted company. Knapp was brought in as ISM's driver. "There were no hard feelings amongst anybody," Knapp said. "It just seemed everybody wanted to do a little bit of a change of direction, and I am on the receiving end of it." Curry returned from the race in Orlando, Fla., and diligently pursued sponsorship for his newly created team. While making sponsor pitches, Curry received a call from Sallee inviting him to a meeting to discuss the ISM change in direction, and his status and availability. The discourse continued for about three weeks. Finally, Curry had to make a decision. "Sooner or later, there comes a time when you say, 'I tried, I didn't get it done,'" Curry said. "And that's kind of where we got to. "I would like someday to be able to figure out how you put all of this together financially with a sponsor and be able to go out and do it." Knapp and Curry do see bright spots in their alliance. "This gives us some time to work together before Indy," Knapp said. "Larry's been on the front row there. So I really have confidence in what ISM has put together, and I'm really excited to get going." Curry emphasized that a team can have cars, engines, crew members and other components, but it won't be successful without a good driver. "Yes, I did say Tony (Stewart) is the best driver this series has ever seen, and I believe that," he said. "Having said that, also I will reserve judgment as to how good Mr. Knapp is. I haven't had the benefit yet of getting to work with him. "But certainly his track record so far is very impressive. You run third in your first Indianapolis 500 and run competitively up in that area all day long, that certainly says a lot about your talent."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Gualter Salles , Robbie Buhl , Jeff Ward , Steve Knapp