IRL: No rest for Galles team before Texas

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., Monday, Oct. 9, 2000 - It's common to see the crews of the Indy Racing Northern Light Series working feverishly in the garages on race weekend. Engine changes, gear changes, setup adjustments and pit-stop practice are all in a...

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., Monday, Oct. 9, 2000 - It's common to see the crews of the Indy Racing Northern Light Series working feverishly in the garages on race weekend. Engine changes, gear changes, setup adjustments and pit-stop practice are all in a day's work at the racetrack.

But what happens when the crews go back to the race shop? How does a team deal with a long hiatus between races?

Northern Light Series teams are good enough not to let a long layoff affect their performance, said Rick Galles, owner of the Galles ECR Racing Tickets.com Starz Encore SuperPak car driven by Al Unser Jr.

"It can be tough for a team to have a long break between races during the season," Galles said. "A good team won't let it affect their performance, they will use that time to their advantage. The awesome racing at our events this year has been a result of good mechanics putting strong equipment together for their drivers to race hard.

"That doesn't happen when teams are unmotivated." The Galles ECR team has worked on projects for the upcoming 2001 Indy Racing season during the time between The Belterra Resort Indy 300 on Aug. 27 at Kentucky Speedway and the Excite 500 on Oct. 15 at Texas Motor Speedway. "Darren Russell, our crew chief, comes up with a job list for the crew each week that includes everything from race car preparation to shop maintenance," Galles said.

The team also has taken advantage of the down time to make equipment that will create more efficiency at the racetrack, Russell said.

"We have been working on our motor-changing equipment to make it smaller and easier to use, in order to make our trackside motor changes more time efficient," Russell said. "Next season, we won't have this time with the compacted schedule, so we are trying to use it to our best advantage now." The 2001 Indy Racing Northern Light Series schedule features 13 races between March and September. This year, there are nine races between January and October.

Galles engineer Alan Mertens has worked on designing pit equipment for the 2001 season, which the crew will build from scratch in its Albuquerque, N.M., race shop during the offseason.

"We have to fit all of our pit equipment into small spaces for transport, so it is important that everything is designed and manufactured to accomplish that," Mertens said. "I have been working closely with the crew on designing practical, yet functional equipment. Once the equipment is designed and approved by the sponsors, it will most likely take the crew about three months to construct and paint it."

The largest piece of pit equipment that Mertens is designing is the timing stand, an integral part of Race Day communications.

"Myself, the motor engineer, the data engineer, Rick (Galles) and his wife, Tina, all work off of the timing stand during the race," Mertens said. "We have to be close enough to be able to communicate at any given time. If Paul, our motor engineer, notices that oil temperature is rising, he needs to communicate that to Rick immediately so Rick can tell Al. "This is why where we sit during the race is very strategic. I am designing the equipment with that in mind."

The Galles team is one of the fastest crews on pit stops in the Northern Light Series. And the crew stays sharp by practicing pit stops at least three days per week all year.

"We practice pit stops, because a pit stop can win or lose a race," Galles said. "We practice to be quick, but we also practice to be smooth and react well under pressure. We prepare ourselves for every possible scenario that can happen during the race so no one is caught out.

"Everything comes down to Race Day in this business, and that is what we are constantly preparing for."

Tickets: Tickets for the Excite 500 are available by calling Texas Motor Speedway at (817) 215-8500, through Ticketmaster outlets or at Ticketmaster Online at www.ticketmaster.com . Ticket information is available at www.texasmotorspeedway.com .

-IRNLS/IMS-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr.