MICHNER REPLACES INJURED SALAZAR IN REEBOK CAR INDIANAPOLIS, July 21, 1998 -- Andy Michner, the third-highest finishing rookie in the 1998 Indianapolis 500, was named Tuesday to replace injured Eliseo Salazar in the Reebok Riley & Scott...
MICHNER REPLACES INJURED SALAZAR IN REEBOK CAR
INDIANAPOLIS, July 21, 1998 -- Andy Michner, the third-highest finishing rookie in the 1998 Indianapolis 500, was named Tuesday to replace injured Eliseo Salazar in the Reebok Riley & Scott car for the VisionAire 500 Pep Boys Indy Racing League event July 25 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Chief engineer Bill Riley selected Michner, from Ann Arbor, Mich., from a list of four candidates.
"Putting all the drivers out there, it was a pretty tough decision to pick Andy," Riley said. "He had a nice run at Indy, and everywhere we'd go there were nice things said (about him)."
After the one-race arrangement was made by phone, Michner, 29, flew immediately to Charlotte to be fitted into the cockpit. The Riley & Scott chassis was built in Indianapolis and late last year joined the Dallara and G Force chassis on the Pep Boys IRL circuit.
The VisionAire 500, scheduled for a 9 p.m. (EDT) start, will be Michner's second Indy-style race.
He drove from 19th to eighth in the 82nd Indy 500 on May 24 in the No. 17 Konica/Syan Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. Only Steve Knapp, who finished third and was named Bank One Rookie-of-the-Year, and fifth-place Robby Unser placed higher among eight drivers making their first start in the historic race.
"For Charlotte, we're looking for a nice, consistent finish," Riley said.
Riley thought the Reebok R&S MK V machine, powered by an Aurora engine, was moving up well in practice at Dover, Del., on July 18 when Chilean driver Salazar hit the outside wall. Salazar suffered a broken right arm, hip, leg and pelvis in the accident and is presently recovering at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. He was in fair condition July 21 after undergoing eight hours of surgery July 20 at Methodist. He should be released from the hospital within five to seven days. Fans can send get-well greetings via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"The major thing is we're disappointed about Salazar getting hurt," Riley said. "We're staying behind him."
The team placed Indianapolis driver Scott Harrington in its backup car for the start of the Pep Boys 400K at Dover.
"We've worked very hard since Texas (June 6) on our mile-and-a-half setup" Riley said. "We'll see how it pays off at Charlotte."
Michner, a marketing graduate from Jackson (Mich.) College, started driving USAC midgets in 1990. He was USAC national midget series runner-up in 1994 and 1995 and has seven victories in 125 career races. He also has won five USAC sprint car races. In 1996, he won sprint races at Phoenix, Winchester, Ind., and Indianapolis Raceway Park (twice) for the most victories by a driver that season.
He signed to drive at Indy for Chitwood Motorsports last April 14 and quickly passed his rookie refresher test. He then qualified on the inside of the eighth row at a speed average of 216.922 mph. He completed 197 laps in the race and received a check for $182,050 for his finish.
"I wish we were more in the hunt," he said after the race, "but we brought it home in eighth, so we'll take it."
Michner's father, Joe, entered cars at Indy between 1965 and 1972 that were driven by, among others, Johnny Rutherford, Lloyd Ruby and Sammy Sessions. Rutherford qualified Michner's car in the middle of the front row for the 1970 race.
R&S Cars, Inc., is co-owned by Bob Riley and Mark Scott.
Bob Riley, Bill's father, has designed cars that have won 28 Indy-style car races. This includes the car A.J. Foyt drove to his fourth Indy 500 victory in 1977. Scott, a native of New Zealand, worked in Formula One until coming to America in 1984 and helped Tom Sneva win the pole at Indy that year.
In more recent years, the two formed a partnership that produced a world sports car that won the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and challenged for the Triple Crown at Le Mans in 1996. The car repeated in 1997 at Daytona.
Their firm designed and built the current Pep Boys IRL car. It qualified for its first race in August 1997 at New Hampshire with Mark Dismore driving, but was withdrawn from the race. Two R&S cars made the race at Las Vegas on Oct. 11, 1997.
In four races this year, Salazar has had finishes of 12th, 23rd, 23rd and sixth (at New Hampshire) in the R&S car, with a top starting position of sixth (at Phoenix).