INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - A.J. Foyt hopes that payback can be rich for Donnie Beechler. Beechler will drive for four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Foyt in the Casino Magic 500 on June 9 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, north...
INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, June 6, 2001 - A.J. Foyt hopes that payback can be rich for Donnie Beechler. Beechler will drive for four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Foyt in the Casino Magic 500 on June 9 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, north of Foyt's headquarters and home in Houston. Beechler, from Springfield, Ill., will be behind the wheel of the No. 11 Harrah's A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone at Texas, racing for the winner's share of the $1-million-plus purse.
This will be the second consecutive race that Beechler will drive for Foyt, as he finished 25th at the Indianapolis 500. But that finish in his first start of the season was deceiving.
Beechler jumped into the backup car of Foyt's primary driver, Eliseo Salazar, on the final day of Indianapolis 500 qualifying May 20 and earned the 27th starting spot with a four-lap average of 224.449 mph, the fifth-fastest qualifying run of the event. USAC short-track standout Beechler ran in the top 10 for most of the middle laps of the race but was forced to pit on Lap 148 with an oil leak. The leak ended his day after 160 laps.
"I thought Donnie drove a hell of a race for me at Indy," Foyt said. "I felt bad that we had mechanical problems with his car, and I wanted to give him another shot."
Speedy Richmond: 1999 Indy Racing champion Greg Ray was the fastest driver during a two-day private test May 30-31 at Richmond International Raceway at 164.134 mph, but he thinks the MBNA Pole speed could be nearly 3 mph faster during the Northern Light Series' debut at the track later this month. The SunTrust Indy Challenge will take place June 30 on the ¾-mile oval at RIR. It's the first race in Indy Racing League history on a track shorter than 1 mile.
Ray's best time was 16.45 seconds in the No. 2 Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. His fast lap came under the lights during evening testing May 30. "The pole should be 165 mph or so, maybe even as high as 167 mph," Ray said. "I thought I would go quicker than that Wednesday night because I ran a 161-mph lap on 90-lap tires. After we put on new tires, it felt like a rocket ship, but we didn't go that much faster."
The Indy Racing field will obliterate the official track record at RIR of 131.374 mph, set by Randy Tolsma in 1996 in a USAC Coors Light Silver Bullet Series car. The fastest lap by a NASCAR Winston Cup Series car at RIR is 126.499 by Jeff Gordon in 1999. Other drivers participating in the test last week were Northern Light Series point leader Sam Hornish Jr., Robbie Buhl and Kelley Racing teammates Scott Sharp and Mark Dismore.
Rosie auctions signed Indy helmet: The For All Kids Foundation, a children's charity founded by talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell, is auctioning a racing helmet signed by 2001 Indianapolis 500 drivers on the Internet auction service eBay.
The auction ends at 12:10 p.m. (EDT) June 9. Proceeds will go to The For All Kids Foundation. To access the auction, go to this address on the World Wide Web: <http://cgi.ebay.com/aw-cgi/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=1152365386> Indy Racing League spokeswoman Elaine Irwin-Mellencamp presented the helmet to O'Donnell when she appeared as a guest on O'Donnell's show June 4.
Hot laps: A car carrying a single-digit number did not finish in the top 10 of the Indianapolis 500 this year, only the second time in the race's 85-year history that feat has occurred. The other time was in 1999 ... Billy Harroun, grandson of inaugural Indianapolis 500 winner Ray Harroun, is recovering at home in Montana from a stroke suffered in Iowa while driving to the Indianapolis 500 this year. He was hospitalized in Harlan, Iowa, on May 23 and was released May 30 ... Robbie Buhl, driver of the No. 24 Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone, visited June 5 with 75 sick youngsters at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas. Buhl is national spokesperson for Racing For Kids, a national charity designed to use the popularity of motorsports to focus public attention and funding on the health care needs of children.