PEP BOYS INDY RACING LEAGUE NOTEBOOK MCI WorldCom to have Hollywood touch; Team Cheever staying busy By Dick Mittman and Paul Kelly indyracingleague.com INDIANAPOLIS, March 4, 1999 - Actors Jason Priestley and Grant Show will serve as...
PEP BOYS INDY RACING LEAGUE NOTEBOOK MCI WorldCom to have Hollywood touch; Team Cheever staying busy
By Dick Mittman and Paul Kelly indyracingleague.com
INDIANAPOLIS, March 4, 1999 - Actors Jason Priestley and Grant Show will serve as the grand marshals of the MCI WorldCom 200 Pep Boys Indy Racing League event March 28 at Phoenix International Raceway. Priestley is best known for his starring role for eight seasons on FOX Television's hit series, "Beverly Hills 90210." He earned two Golden Globe nominations for his work on the show. He also has appeared in numerous motion pictures. Show starred on the popular FOX program, "Melrose Place," and acts in many television movies. Priestley and Show are active auto racing drivers. Priestley has competed in SCCA rally races, and IMSA and Professional SportsCar Racing road-racing events. Show has competed in the Barber Dodge Pro Series and won the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race at the Long Beach Grand Prix in 1996.
*** Team Cheever keeps active: Winning in January and not racing again until the end of March can make a race team antsy. But Owen Snyder, crew chief for Team Cheever, is a calm veteran who takes the schedule in stride. "The only payoff, like after Las Vegas, is you get bragging rights a little longer," said Snyder, who prepared the winning car for Eddie Cheever Jr. that won last year's Indianapolis 500 and this year's season-opening TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway on Jan. 24. Pep Boys Indy Racing League teams compete again March 28 in the MCI WorldCom 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. "We know the other teams are not going to fall over and give up on the season," Snyder said. "They all are working hard for the next race." So is Team Cheever. In last weekend's "Test in the West," Cheever recorded the 10th-fastest lap of 171.625 mph in his Rachel's Gourmet Potato Chips-Children's Beverage Group Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. The team intentionally ran only in the afternoon heat to simulate race conditions, Snyder said. Cheever also made some long runs. "We ran real good," Snyder said. The car now is back in the Indianapolis shop with its Phoenix race engine installed. Meanwhile, a second car is being prepared for a Goodyear tire testing session March 17-18 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That car will serve as Cheever's backup at Phoenix. "It's kind of nice to have the race car ready," Snyder said. "It's kind of an ace in the hole." Snyder noted that Phoenix is an extremely fast racetrack. The only place that a driver lifts even slightly is in Turn 1, he said. "Phoenix probably changes more than any track in the country," Snyder said. "Early in the afternoon it gets a little slick. You spend so much time in the corners (that) the setup changes." The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is another track that can change often during the three-plus hours of the "500." But Snyder said only minor adjustments were made to Cheever's car during his winning run last May. "We got stronger (during the race) at Orlando," Snyder said. "Eddie and I are getting pretty strong at setting a race pace needed to run all day." Cheever will be busy next week with publicity appearances in Las Vegas on March 9 and Fresno, Calif., on March 10. He'll also stay busy in cyberspace. Starting March 4, ABC Sports Online, America Online and espn.com will commence a "Leave it to Cheever" interactive section in which Cheever will answer race fans' questions during the next two months leading up to the Indianapolis 500 on May 30. Fans can log in questions at www.abcsports.com. The site receives more than 50,000 daily visitors.
Tentative schedule (all dates subject to change): .Ask Cheever, Monday, March 8/Responses March 9 or 10 .Ask Cheever, Monday, March 22/Responses March 23 or 24 .Ask Cheever, Monday, April 5/Responses April 6 or 7 .Ask Cheever, Monday April 19/Responses April 20 or 21 .Ask Cheever, Monday, May 3/Responses May 4 or 5 .Ask Cheever, Monday, May 17/Responses May 18 or 19
PDM welcomes sponsor, creates flaming beauty: PDM Racing's co-owner Paul Diatlovich has added an associate sponsor -- Ice House Beer -- and painted his car with a flaming nose for the coming MCI WorldCom 200 on March 28 at Phoenix International Raceway. "The flames are back," Diatlovich said. Diatlovich first painted flames on the nose of his '93 Lola as means of attracting attention. "It culminated with Tony George coming up to me and laughing as he handed me a check for $5,000," Diatlovich said. "This guy said he saw the most beautiful car he had ever seen and sent the check. It was from someone who ran an ambulance company in Illinois." The flames motif continued on Diatlovich's '97 Dallara. The Earl's Performance/Ice House/PDM, Inc. G Force/Aurora/Goodyear car that Steve Knapp, 1998 Bank One Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, will drive at Phoenix will be painted red and white with yellow flames. Knapp got in some laps at Phoenix in the ISM Racing car brought there for rookie Jaques Lazier. Knapp finished seventh in the season opener at Walt Disney World Speedway.
Making progress: Joe Kennedy, partner with Jeff Sinden in Sinden Racing, says Nissan is continuing to improve the Infiniti engine that will power Robbie Buhl's car in the MCI WorldCom 200 on March 28 at Phoenix International Raceway. "We were really happy," Kennedy said of the team's results from the "Test in the West" at Phoenix. "The engine made a little more gain. From what we had at Las Vegas (1998 season-ender), Orlando was a gain. They (Nissan) are not sitting on their hands. "The biggest reason we've stuck with them since Day One is so this (Pep Boys Indy Racing League) would not become a spec series." Buhl clocked a quick lap of 172.109 mph, eighth fastest among 23 drivers. At the end of last season, only Dr. Jack Miller was driving a car powered by an Infiniti. This year, Buhl, veteran Roberto Guerrero, and rookies Scott Harrington and Jaques Lazier are using the Nissan powerplant. Sinden Racing also has added Dreyer-Reinbold, owner of an Infiniti dealership on the north side of Indianapolis, as a partial sponsor. Kennedy also said the team and Buhl are becoming more comfortable with each other. Buhl, who drove for John Menard the last two seasons, joined Sinden Racing for the 1999 campaign. He has one Indy Racing League victory in 1997 at New Hampshire.
Phoenix-bound: Cahill Racing and driver Donnie Beechler did not participate in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League "Test in the West" on Feb. 26-27 at Phoenix International Raceway, but they'll be there next week. Team manager Mack McClellan is taking the car to Phoenix for private testing March 12-13. "This will let us give Donnie some more laps," McClellan said. "And we can leave the rig out there (for the race)." Engine man Ron Shaver has a shop in Phoenix, so the team will leave the loaded transporter and not haul the car and equipment back to the team's Dayton, Ohio, shop and then turn around and drive it back to Phoenix for the race. McClellan also noted that his midget drivers -- Kevin Besecker, Tony Elliott and Ronnie Johncox -- will race this weekend at Fargo, N.D. So far, Besecker has won the indoor race at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, while Elliott did likewise at the Fort Wayne Coliseum. "Ronnie says it's his turn," McClelland said.
Same place, different car: Scott Harrington drove an Indy-style car at Phoenix International Raceway for the first time in last week's "Test in the West." The last time he was there he won a race, but it was in a different kind of racing machine. "I was in a Can-Am car, and I won the race in 1996," Harrington said. "It had a 3.5-liter, V6 engine, and we turned 27-second laps. "There's a lot more grip with these cars. Actually, the Can-Am cars were good training, because they don't have grip. Every time I go out I'm more comfortable." In his season debut at Walt Disney World Speedway, Harrington dropped out after 49 laps with a broken engine in the Harrington Motorsports entry owned by his father, Gene. At the Phoenix test he worked his way up to a solid 169.635-mph lap, 13th fastest.
Rock on: Scott Goodyear, driver of the Pennzoil Panther Racing G Force/Aurora/Goodyear, will help kick off the opening of a new Hard Rock Cafe in Indianapolis on May 5-6. The car also will be prominently displayed.
TeamXtreme featured: TeamXtreme and driver John Hollansworth Jr. will be featured on the Texas Motor Speedway's "Race Week" program on Sunday, March 14. The production crew interviewed Hollansworth and race crew members while filming the pcsave.com-Lycos Dallara/Aurora/Firestone car at the team's 30,000-foot race shop in Rockwall, Texas. The March 2 interview was done by Babe Laufenberg, former Indiana University and NFL quarterback. The show is carried on various stations in Texas and Oklahoma. The team, owned by Tommy O'Brien, Steve Fisher, Mike Erwin, Rick Sharp and Stan Stanley, is headed by general manager John J. Lopes, crew chief Rob Stark and engineer Mark Weida.
Hitting the road: Pep Boys Indy Racing League stars Scott Sharp and John Paul Jr., 1985 Indianapolis 500 champion Danny Sullivan and many other former Indy 500 participants are listed as drivers at next weekend's 12 Hours of Sebring sports-car endurance race. Sharp, driver of the Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear, and Paul, driver of the Jonathan Byrd's-VisionAire G Force/Aurora/Firestone, will be behind the steering wheels of Corvettes. They finished fourth and 11th, respectively, in the season-opening TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway and will be serious challengers in the MCI WorldCom 200 at Phoenix International Raceway on March 28. Sharp is the defending champion of the event. Others with Indy 500 credentials include Michele Alboreto, Chris Kneifel, Dale and Don Whittington, Didier Theys, Stefan Johansson, Brian Till, Pete Halsmer and Davy Jones. Jones, as he indicated at the Indy Racing League season finale last October in Las Vegas, is attempting a comeback after suffering head injuries in a crash in January 1997. He finished second in the 1996 "500" and hopes to drive there again. *** 'Track Talk' growing fast: "Track Talk," the weekly motorsports show on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network is experiencing strong growth after less than two months on the air. Forty-two IMS Radio affiliates around the country are broadcasting the one-hour show, which focuses mainly on open-wheel racing, especially the Pep Boys Indy Racing League. Mike King is the host. The show was launched in January. For information about "Track Talk" or becoming an affiliate station on the IMS Radio Network, call either Julio Fernandez or John Royer at the IMS Radio Network office at (317) 481-0060.
*** TeamXtreme gets wired: TeamXtreme has launched a team page on the World Wide Web at pcsave.com, one of the team's sponsors. The page can be found at: http://www.pcsave.com/racing/indy.asp Rookie John Hollansworth Jr. is the team's driver. *** Infiniti publicist moving to new post: Marty Fiolka, Indy Racing League public relations representative for Nissan Motorsports, is leaving the automotive giant in April to become the director of marketing for Eilbach, an Irvine, Calif.-based company specializing in street and racing suspension components. Fiolka has publicized Infiniti's efforts in the Indy Racing League since plans for the Infiniti Indy V8 were unveiled in February 1996.