IRL: Pep Boy's IRL Weekly Notebook

PEP BOYS INDY RACING LEAGUE WEEKLY NOTEBOOK INDIANAPOLIS, March 25, 1998 Teams make Indy 500 plans: Seven more teams recently entered the 82nd Indianapolis 500, including defending champion Treadway Racing and its driver, Arie Luyendyk....

PEP BOYS INDY RACING LEAGUE WEEKLY NOTEBOOK

INDIANAPOLIS, March 25, 1998

Teams make Indy 500 plans: Seven more teams recently entered the 82nd Indianapolis 500, including defending champion Treadway Racing and its driver, Arie Luyendyk.

Team Scandia and driver Jimmy Kite were the first entrants for the race, May 24 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Team Scandia also entered a car for a driver to be determined.

The recent entrants, and their drivers:

Treadway Racing: Arie Luyendyk A.J. Foyt Enterprises: Billy Boat, Kenny Brack, driver to be determined Kelley Racing: Scott Sharp, Mark Dismore Nienhouse Motorsports: Davey Hamilton Pagan Racing: Roberto Guerrero Metro Racing Systems: Stan Wattles Bradley Motorsports: Buzz Calkins

All entries for the Indianapolis 500 must be received by the IRL by April 9.

***

Foyt to give tryout to U.S. F2000 champion: The 1998 U.S. F2000 champion will receive a tryout in one of A.J. Foyt's Pep Boys IRL cars after this season. Many Pep Boys IRL veterans honed their racing skills in the U.S. F2000 series, including Jim Guthrie, Sam Schmidt and Greg Ray. "I've looked at the F2000 series for a couple of years and like what I see," Foyt said. "The cars are similar to the IRL with the exception of horsepower and size. This series gets them used to running close together so they can graduate up to the higher speeds." Foyt's sons, Larry and Jerry, compete in the U.S. F2000 series. "The only drawback is, if it's my son, he definitely will not get a ride," Foyt said, laughing. No site has been set for the test, but Foyt indicated that the 1-mile oval at Phoenix International Raceway is high on his list. Foyt fields a pair of Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear cars in the Pep Boys IRL for Billy Boat and Kenny Brack. "Here at PIR, if you can get the car to do well here, you'll probably do well at Indy," Foyt said. "Turns 1, 2, 3 and 4 are totally different, so if you can get it right here, you can set up the car." Australian David Besnard leads the U.S. F2000 point standings after winning the first two races of the season. The U.S. F2000 series competes as a support event during four Pep Boys IRL events this season.

*** Testing heats up: Firestone and Goodyear will conduct extensive tire tests during the next few weeks in preparation for the Indianapolis 500. Firestone will test at three tracks during the first 10 days of April. The company will test April 1-3 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Treadway Racing (Arie Luyendyk), Team Menard (Tony Stewart, Robbie Buhl) and Thomas Knapp Motorsport (Greg Ray). Firestone will return to Texas Motor Speedway near Fort Worth on April 7-9 for testing with the Treadway and Knapp teams. Firestone will finish this round of tests with a session April 8-10 at Atlanta Motor Speedway with Team Menard. Goodyear will test March 26-29 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

*** USAC to continue sanction of F2000 oval races: The United States Auto Club will sanction the Formula 2000 Oval Crown Championship for another three years. USAC recognizes an F2000 oval champion as part of the U.S. F2000 series, which features oval and road-course events. The most successful driver in the F2000 series' five oval races will be crowned Oval Crown champion. "It is very advantageous for us to have a rear-engine formula within the scope of our multiple formula operations and as part of the many avenues which are now part of the 'Road to Indy,'" USAC President Johnny Capels said.

***

Groff OK: Mike Groff, driver of the Jonathan Byrd-Cunningham Racing G Force/Aurora/Firestone, was released from St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix during the evening of March 22 after being involved in a crash earlier that day during the Dura-Lube 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. Groff and Kenny Brack collided on Lap 186 of the race. Brack was unhurt.

***

Calkins hitting the airwaves: Pep Boys IRL standout Buzz Calkins will be one of the hosts of a new weekly motorsports radio talk show in Denver. Calkins, from Denver, will co-host the show with NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Ron Hornaday Jr. and a radio personality. The show, "The Gearhead Hour," will be broadcast on Saturday mornings from April until October on "The Fan," Denver's all-sports radio station, 950 AM.

***

Luyendyk takes wild ride: Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk was unhurt during an accident during the Dura-Lube 200 on March 22 at Phoenix International Raceway in which his Sprint PCS-Radio Shack-Qualcomm G Force/Aurora/Firestone slid upside down on the rear straightaway. Luyendyk hit the spinning car of Eliseo Salazar on Lap 59 of the 200-lap event, and his car rolled upside down and slid to a stop in the dogleg portion of the rear straightaway. Luyendyk climbed out of the car without assistance, no worse for wear except for a scraped helmet and right hand. He was credited with 24th place.

"I slid across the track upside down," Luyendyk said. "I could feel the heat radiating off of the helmet while I was sliding. It was incredible. It was actually kind of cool."

***

Best Western backing Schmidt: Sam Schmidt has been one of the biggest surprises in the Pep Boys IRL this season, as consistent finishes in the first two events of the season have vaulted him to fifth in the point standings. That strong start captured the attention of Best Western International, the world's largest lodging brand, which has formed a partnership with Schmidt and the LP Racing team.

"We are leveraging the purchasing power of our hotels to fund a national advertising campaign in motorsports," said Tom Dougherty, manager of strategic partnerships for Best Western International. "We have created a preferred vendor program where participating suppliers contribute to our motorsports program."

Said Schmidt: "Marketing with motorsports is about business. It's about making a profit. We've met with the staff at Best Western and know that their energetic support for this program, combined with ours, will create a sound marketing venture for all involved." Best Western also formed a similar partnership with off-road driver Gary Meacham.

***

Chitwood lands sponsor: Chitwood Motorsports landed Konica as a sponsor during the Dura-Lube 200 for its Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear driven by rookie Brian Tyler. Tyler, two-time defending USAC sprint champion, finished a career-best 17th in his second Pep Boys IRL event. Chitwood also formed a partnership with Syan, an imaging company based in Roselle, Ill., for the rest of the season. "It's great to have this full-season program in place now so that I can focus my full attention on racing," Tyler said.

*** Byrd forms partnership with Indianapolis: Jonathan Byrd, owner of the Jonathan Byrd-Cunningham Racing car driven by Mike Groff, is helping the city of Indianapolis in its bid to play host to the Republican National Convention in 2000. Groff's car carried a decal representing Indianapolis' effort to land the convention during the Dura-Lube 200 on March 22 at Phoenix and also will sport the decal during the Indianapolis 500 on May 24. "I'm proud and excited to help the city in this way," said Byrd, from nearby Greenwood, Ind. "I hope that our efforts will contribute to the success of this effort."

***

Yeley performs double duty: Rookie J.J. Yeley clearly didn't have a case of the jitters the night before his Pep Boys IRL debut at the Dura-Lube 200 in Phoenix.

Yeley, from Phoenix, won his third consecutive Sprint Car Racing Association feature March 21 at Manzanita Speedway near Phoenix. He then finished 25th the next day in his first Pep Boys IRL event.

The victory at Manzy wasn't Yeley's only accomplishment of the weekend. He earned $2,500 for winning the American Dairy Association Fastest Rookie Qualifier award after qualifying 10th for the Dura-Lube 200.

***

Clutch performance: Rookie David Steele showed grace under pressure during qualifying in his Pep Boys IRL debut, making the field for the Dura-Lube 200 on March 21 during the last attempt of the day.

Steele, driving for the new rsm Marko team, spun and crashed during a practice session just 1 hour, 40 minutes before the start of qualifying. The rsm Marko team scrambled to fix gearbox and suspension damage in less than three hours.

Steele's first qualifying lap of 162.235 mph was too slow to make the 28-car field, but he picked it up on his second and final lap for a speed of 165.069, good for 23rd.

"As hard as the crew worked, and half of them came a long way from Austria, it was the least I could do to try to put the car in the show," Steele said. "I have a digital readout on the dash, so I knew I wasn't in the first lap. I knew I had to hang it out on the second lap.

"Luckily, we came through."

***

Chastain weaves unique Web: Chastain Motorsports, which fields a car for Stephan Gregoire, has launched many unique features on its World Wide Web site designed to give fans an up-close and insightful look at the team during race weekends.

The team's site can be found at http://chastainmotorsports.com.

Photos of team activities during each day of race weekend are posted, and a breezy commentary on each race also is provided.

"We show what it is like to travel with a race team," team manager Pat Chastain said. "The reports are prepared as if we are writing close friends. We show photos of the team's hotel, or where we ate breakfast. We want our fans to be part of the team."

The site also features a chat area where fans can post questions for Gregoire and the team.

***

Next event: Indianapolis 500, May 24, Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Qualifying and practice tickets are available by calling IMS at (317) 484-6700. Race-day tickets are sold out.

***

World Wide Web: http://www.indyracingleague.com

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Buzz Calkins , Greg Ray , Robbie Buhl , Eliseo Salazar , Stephan Gregoire , Davey Hamilton , Scott Sharp , Arie Luyendyk , Billy Boat , Mark Dismore , Jim Guthrie , Roberto Guerrero , Jimmy Kite , Kenny Brack , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Sam Schmidt , David Besnard , J.J. Yeley , Brian Tyler , Stan Wattles , A.J. Foyt
Teams A.J. Foyt Enterprises