Indianapolis, IN (April 15, 1998) - Over one hundred journalists were taken on a field trip to visit the shops of several Pep Boys Indy Racing League teams as they prepare for the 82nd running of the 500 mile contest of speed. First stop...
Indianapolis, IN (April 15, 1998) - Over one hundred journalists were taken on a field trip to visit the shops of several Pep Boys Indy Racing League teams as they prepare for the 82nd running of the 500 mile contest of speed.
First stop on the tour was the shop of Menard Racing. After a question and answer session with John Menard, Tony Stewart, Robbie Buhl and team manager Larry Curry, media members were free to roam about the 20,000 square foot facility. Menard now owns nine IRL Indy car chassis, five G-Force and four Dallara.
Menard's shop has four bays for car assembly with a separate area for chassis set-up. With nine cars, the chassis set-up area had been pressed into service as another assembly area.
Menard has their own engine program and the shop features a full dyno facility. An Olds Aurora engine was fired up on the dyno with members of the press squeezing into the control room to look over the dyno operator's shoulder. After the engine's oil temperature rose to 160 degrees, the revs were taken to 5000 RPM until the oil reached 180 degrees. Once at 180 degrees, the engine was taken to 7,000 RPM. The revs were increased in 500 RPM increments until the engine ran at 9,000. With all of the data from the engine's output in full view of media members, the engine was shut down before it reached its full potential.
As Tony Stewart said in the Q & A session, "this is the hardest working team in the IRL right now". From the looks of the shop, that's an understatement.
Second stop on the tour was to Panther Racing, home to Scott Goodyear's Pennzoil ride. After team manager John Barnes introduced the team, Scott Goodyear discussed his unfinished business at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "I want to get my face on the trophy," Scott said. "Second is like not being there".
Two Pennzoil cars were on display, one in speedway trim, the other prepared for the short ovals. Panther Racing's 13,000 square foot shop is also home to more than just the team's IRL cars. Team mechanic, A. J. Davis houses his Stealth midget in the shop. The shop is also home to a fleet of three Legends cars.
With Panther only running one car right now, there's plenty of room in the shop to house the team's transporter as well. All this could change soon as John Barnes alluded to the team's future expansion.
Treadway Racing was next on the tour. Treadway has experienced some bad luck in recent weeks. Arie Luyendyk's ride on his helmet in Phoenix wrecked a tub beyond repair. Another tub was written off in a test at the Speedwy two weeks ago. While the 1997 winning car, updated to 1998 specs, was at the Speedway in preparation for Thursday's open test, the two wrecked tubs were being prepared as show cars. The car wrecked at Phoenix has been converted to 1997 specs and will be painted as the 1997 Indy 500 winner. Its next appearance will be in the 500 Festival Parade. The chassis wrecked two weeks ago in testing is being converted to a show car too. Treadway will have four show cars on tour during the month of May.
In the center bay of three at Treadway, a new G-Force tub, chassis GF-040, sits awaiting assembly. The bare carbon fiber tub will be Treadway's second car this May. A third tub is expected at Treadway in the next ten days.
After a brief visit to the Pep Boys Super Store on Lafayette Road to hear the goals of the Pep Boys corporation, media members were delivered back to the Speedway to observe the Rookie Orientation Program. On track, the Crest car of Dr. Jack Miller circulated. But a bright yellow helmet was the telltale that it wasn't Dr. Jack in the car. Though the helmet turned out to belong to J. J. Yeley, the person in the helmet was none other then racing veteran Jack Hewitt. For all the rumors surrounding Jack Hewitt and the Speedway, this was the first time Jack had ever sat in an Indy car. Hewitt completed phase three of his rookie test.
After exiting the car, Jack said "I'm on cloud nine". It was evident that the racing veteran of twenty five years was at a loss for words to describe the experience. Jack looks forward to finishing the rookie test so he can see what the car can do. "Next time I go out, I don't have to go out and watch gauges or the tach. I get to do what all the other guys do."
Hewitt's goal is not only to qualify and race in the 500, he wants to go to Eldora and run double duty in a sprint car and a UMP modified later that evening.
The Pep Boys Indy Racing League Media Tour continues on Thursday with visits to Herb Porter's Speedway Engines shop, Foxco Performance and Riley and Scott Engineering.