IRL: Notebook 2001-01-24

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2002 - Thomas Knapp has joined Kelley Racing as engineer for 1999 Indy Racing League champion Greg Ray, reuniting one of the most potent driver-engineer pairings in open-wheel racing. Ray and Knapp have combined...

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2002 - Thomas Knapp has joined Kelley Racing as engineer for 1999 Indy Racing League champion Greg Ray, reuniting one of the most potent driver-engineer pairings in open-wheel racing.

Ray and Knapp have combined to win four Indy Racing League events and 10 MBNA Poles since they entered the league together with the underfunded Thomas Knapp Motorsports team in 1997. Ray and Knapp earned their wins and poles during their tenure together at Team Menard from 1999-2000, including the 1999 series championship and the pole at the 2000 Indianapolis 500.

"The combination of Greg Ray and Thomas Knapp has proven to be successful time and again," said Jim Freudenberg, Kelley Racing general manager. "We're excited they both have come on board with Kelley Racing."

Ray joined Kelley Racing after the 2001 season, becoming a teammate to 1996 Indy Racing League co-champion Scott Sharp.

"Greg and I have had some very frank conversations about where we are and what we need to do to accomplish Jim (Kelley) and Tom's (Kelley) goals for the team, including the 2002 championship," Knapp said. "Our history of working together spans quite a few years, and having that to draw on will definitely expedite the team's success."

Kelley Racing will participate in the Indy Racing League Test in the West from Feb. 5-9 at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif., and Phoenix International Raceway.

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Teams to check tech specs: The Indy Racing League is conducting preseason technical inspections for any league teams from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (EST) Jan. 24-25 at the Firestone garage in Gasoline Alley at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"We're just trying to help the teams to make sure they're heading in the right direction," said Mark Bridges, Indy Racing League technical manager. "This gives them an opportunity to tech the car before race weekend, so if we find some things they have time to address it before they get to the racetrack.

"The bottom line is it's really to help the teams."

Bridges also will be one of the leaders of a preseason training session for Indy Racing League technical officials also will take place from 9 a.m.-noon (EST) Jan. 26 at the Speedway.

"It gets our technical officials dialed in for the season on what to look for, to make sure everyone is on the same page with the wing package and the new update kits," Bridges said. "It also gives us an opportunity to go through the technical procedures with the new tech guys and what we expect of them."

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Road show: Indy Racing League officials, drivers and team members spread out across the country in the last week to help promote the 2002 season.

2000 Indy Racing League champion Buddy Lazier, 1999 Indy Racing League champion Greg Ray, Marlboro Team Penske drivers Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves, and Indy Racing League Vice President of Operations Brian Barnhart participated in the Texas Tour 2002 media day Jan. 22 at Texas Motor Speedway, site of two Indy Racing League events annually.

Penske Racing Inc. President Tim Cindric spoke Jan. 19 at the Eastern Motorsport Press Association annual convention in suburban Philadelphia. Cindric discussed a variety of issues with the media, including the team's decision to participate exclusively in the Indy Racing League this season and its decision to use the Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone technical package.

The Indy Racing League also sponsored the EMPA convention media breakfast Jan. 20.

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Two Indy winners receive honors: Gordon Johncock, who won the Indianapolis 500 in 1973 and 1982, and Gaston Chevrolet, who took the checkered flag at Indy in 1920, are among eight racers named to the Motorsports Hall of Fame in Novi, Mich.

Fred Offenhauser, who designed the engine named after him that dominated open-wheel racing for many years, also was selected. Dale Earnhardt, who won the 1995 Brickyard 400, was chosen in the first balloting since his death in the Daytona 500 last February. The enshrinement ceremony will take place June 12 at the State Theater in Detroit.

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IRL Ministry on the move: Mark Wingler is preparing for his seventh . season of leading the IRL Ministry with plans to move the organization . into a small office building in Brownsburg, Ind Wingler and his wife, . Debbie, have operated the ministry from their dining room table for the. past four years. A new office address will be forthcoming .

"We look forward to another exciting year in ministry and we thank you for the many ways that you have supported us," Debbie Wingler said.

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George presents USAC award: Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Tony George, who is also a United States Auto Club board member, presented the Race Organizer of the Year Award during USAC's annual banquet Jan. 18 in Indianapolis. The award went to International Speedway Corp. and was accepted by Scott Simpson, director of advertising and promotions for Phoenix International Raceway.

Bob Jenkins, noted racing announcer and part of the ABC Sports crew that televises Indy Racing League events, received the Roger McCluskey "Award of Excellence" from the late driver/official's son Roger Jr.

John Capels, retiring USAC president and former mechanic, was presented the Eddie Edenburn Award for lifetime achievements, while his wife, Dana, received the Diana Fell Gilmore "Woman Behind the Scenes" award.

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Estes dies: Robert Stewart "Bob" Estes, one of the founders of the United States Auto Club in 1956 along with late Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony Hulman, has died at age 88.

Estes was president of the National Championship Car Owners Association when the AAA withdrew in 1955 as sanctioning body of major-league open-wheel racing. Also an active member of the AAA Contest Board, Estes joined with a group of seven that gathered in Indianapolis and formed USAC.

Survivors include his wife, Joy; sister Janet Robinson; three children, Dale, Antoinette and Sandra; and four grandchildren. The family requests that donations be made in his memory to the Petersen Automotive Museum/Bob Estes Fund, 6060 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, Calif. 90036.

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Hot laps: 1996 Indy Racing League co-champion Scott Sharp is heading to Hollywood this weekend to shoot a television commercial for his primary sponsor, Delphi Automotive Systems. The shoot involves Sharp driving on city streets and zooming through a tunnel in his No. 8 Dallara Automotive Systems Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone car. The commercial is scheduled to debut on the air in April ... 1996 Indy Racing co-champion Buzz Calkins will carry the Olympic Torch on Jan. 30 through the streets of Denver, his hometown ... A Marlboro Team Penske press conference will take place at noon (PST) Feb. 6 at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif., as part of the Indy Racing League Test in the West, not 12:30 p.m. as previously reported in a league release.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Buzz Calkins , Greg Ray , Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Gil de Ferran , Gordon Johncock
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske