TYLER READY TO HIT THE DIRT, ASPHALT THIS WEEKEND LAS VEGAS, Oct. 9, 1998 -- Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart both used the USAC Silver Crown championship as the final springboard to major league auto racing success. Pep Boys Indy...
TYLER READY TO HIT THE DIRT, ASPHALT THIS WEEKEND
LAS VEGAS, Oct. 9, 1998 -- Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart both used the USAC Silver Crown championship as the final springboard to major league auto racing success.
Pep Boys Indy Racing League rookie Brian Tyler hopes he can follow in their footsteps. That's why he'll be driving two races in two totally different cars in two different cities within 18 hours this weekend.
Tyler, from Parma, Mich., will try to take another step toward winning the USAC Silver Crown championship Saturday night in Sacramento, Calif. This comes after he qualifies in his Pep Boys IRL car at noon earlier that day for Sunday's Las Vegas 500K at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Tyler, winner of USAC's last two sprint car championships, carries a 474-463 lead in the Silver Crown series into the 100-mile race in California's capital city. One race remains after that one at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill.
The 29-year-old Tyler will be driving in his ninth IRL race in the Team Pelfrey/Baytan/Enginetics Dallara/Aurora/Firestone. His best finish thus far was 12th at Dover, Del., and he ranks second to Robby Unser (162-112) in the Sprint PCS Rookie of the Year standings.
"Tony Stewart, he wins the sprint car championships, he wins the Silver Crown championship and he's off to bigger and better things," Tyler said. "That's kind of the road I'm trying to go down.
"It means a lot to do well at both races. If I could win over there Saturday night and come in here all pumped up and ready to go racing, I think it would be to my advantage. It would help. I would like to have a good top-five run in both cars, and I'd be real happy with it."
Tyler's whirlwind racing weekend started Thursday with unveiling of a new sponsor, Baytan, for his IRL car. He was accompanied by two girls from the popular television show "Baywatch" as he met with the media and took a ride in the 1916 Indy-winning Peugeot race car. He said if all goes well in Sunday's race, Baytan would become a full-time sponsor for the 1999 season.
"Things are really starting to look up," he said.
Tyler made his Pep Boys IRL debut in the Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway in January driving the Chitwood Motorsports Dallara. He started 13th, but an accident on Lap 122 knocked him out in 19th place.
At Phoenix he started in last place in the Syan Racing Dallara and improved his finishing position to 17th. He was running at the finish but 32 laps down. Tyler missed the Indy 500 and Texas, next two on the circuit, before returning at New Hampshire with Team Pelfrey. He started 25th and finished 14th. His finishes in the remaining races have been 12th, 16th, 16th, 21st and 13th for 112 points and 21st in the standings.
At the same time, Tyler has been racing Silver Crown, sprint and midget cars. He said he committed to the full season with car owners Rich & Carol Hart of Los Angeles and their team, who have never won a championship before.
"They're all pretty pumped up," he said, "I'm pretty excited about it because it's another feather in my cap and something that looks good on a resume. I'm doing everything I can to be at every race and at least go for the championships. We're leading it right now with two races to go, and I think we've got a pretty good shot at winning it."
Tyler is moving up through the open-wheel ranks in the way Tony George envisioned when he formed the Indy Racing League. Tyler said winning back-to-back sprint car titles earned his initial IRL rookie test.
"It's just kind of been a roller coaster ride since then," he said. "You never know what to expect around the next corner."
Tyler will be jumping back and forth from pavement to dirt to pavement during his one-day, dual-race chase. This doesn't bother him. He said it only takes a couple laps to get re-accustomed to a particular surface and car.
"Actually, over the years I've jumped in and out of so many different cars and so many different surfaces, it's kind of like second nature now," he said. "Sometimes it's mental more than anything else."
He feels he must keep Leffler within sight throughout the Silver Crown race to set up a shootout for the title in the final race. The Las Vegas 500K IRL race will provide him with more knowledge to carry into 1999.
"Every time I get in one it's a big learning experience," he said. "The big thing is having patience, not trying to get up in there and get too rammy too quick, learning the draft, getting as much seat time as possible.
"I think next year when we go to these tracks where this year I had never been before, it will be a little bit of an advantage. I think we'll be a whole bunch more prepared."
Guthrie replaces injured Michner
Jim Guthrie is driving for the Reebok-Riley & Scott team this weekend at the Las Vegas 500K as a replacement for Andy Michner, who suffered a broken lower left leg in a crash Oct. 7 while testing a NASCAR Busch Series car at Homestead Motorsports Complex near Miami.
1996-97 IRL Rookie of the Year Guthrie has competed in three Pep Boys Indy Racing League events this season, with a best of 20th at Indianapolis and Dover. His last event was the VisionAire 500 on July 25 at Charlotte, N.C.
"I'm pleased to get this ride and to represent Reebok and R&S's other sponsors, but I'm sorry it had to be under these circumstances, and I wish Andy the best," Guthrie said. "The Riley & Scott chassis was strong at Texas, and I look forward to giving these guys a great finish this weekend."
Guthrie's best practice speed Friday was 207.294 mph in the Reebok R&S MKV Riley & Scott/Aurora/Goodyear.
Michner returned to his home in Ann Arbor, Mich., the same evening as the accident.
Old, New on Track
Two eras of race cars moved around Las Vegas Motor Speedway Thursday.
Davey Hamilton drove his current Reebok-Nienhouse Motorsports Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear around the 1.5-mile oval side-by-side with the Peugeot that won the 1916 Indianapolis 500.
Driving the 82-year-old car was owner Lindley Bothwell of Los Angeles. The car is part of his museum collection in Woodland Hills, an L.A. suburb. He took the car to Goodwood, England, in June and decided to bring it to Las Vegas for media day.
Englishman Dario Resta drove the car to victory in a 300-mile race at Indy - it was shortened because of World War I. In the 1920s Resta sold the car to Art Klein, who re-sold it to Bothwell's father Lindley Sr. in 1948. The car then was taken to Indy in May of that year and put through a qualifying run for an average speed of 103.5 mph. Resta qualified the car at 94.40.
Several drivers and media members were given rides around the track in the riding mechanic's seat. One of those participating was Tony Stewart, who still has a slim chance of repeating as Pep Boys Indy Racing League champion in Las Vegas 500K race Sunday. "You couldn't have got me in that car for four laps," Stewart said. "No, it was really impressive to think back how many years that car was built and the speed it actually ran. Sitting there next to the exhaust I could imagine what the riding mechanic felt for 500 miles. "It was a pretty impressive ride to ride with tires that narrow, but it was an experience of a lifetime. I'm glad they talked me into going for a ride. Running what we run now has us spoiled compared what they had to run then."