IRL: Pep Boys Indy Racing League: Weekly Notebook 99-01-28

PEP BOYS INDY RACING LEAGUE NOTEBOOK PDM's Knapp again shows impressive speed, savvy at Orlando INDIANAPOLIS, Jan. 28, 1999 -- Steve Knapp's seventh-place finish in the season-opening TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 at ...

PEP BOYS INDY RACING LEAGUE NOTEBOOK PDM's Knapp again shows impressive speed, savvy at Orlando

INDIANAPOLIS, Jan. 28, 1999 -- Steve Knapp's seventh-place finish in the season-opening TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway on Jan. 24 in Orlando, Fla., went virtually unnoticed in the hubbub over Indy 500 champion Eddie Cheever Jr.'s victory. Paul Diatlovich, co-owner of the PDM Racing team for which Knapp drives, hopes it stays that way for a while, at least. "Steve Knapp is truly a great race driver," Diatlovich said about Knapp, last year's Indy 500 Bank One Rookie of the Year. "I hope we can capitalize on it before someone offers him millions of dollars, and he goes out and kicks butt and takes names." Knapp completed 198 laps and lost one when he, like Scott Sharp, got caught in the pits as the final yellow flag fell on Lap 182. Knapp squeezed in his G Force/Aurora/Goodyear right behind the high-profile teams of Cheever, Scott Goodyear, Jeff Ward, Sharp and Mark Dismore, and Raul Boesel. Knapp accomplished this feat with a year-old car. And the team's only sponsor -- Earl's Performance Products -- was only a carry-over associate from the 1998 season. "He's fantastic," said Diatlovich, who shares ownership of PDM Racing with Chuck Buckman. "We went down there Friday, and he had a way he wanted it set up. It didn't work, and he was the first to say so that night. We made some changes Saturday (that got the car into the lineup in 17th place.) We came in for the first pit stop in 15th and got out eighth. We have the best crew going over the wall." The seventh was Knapp's best finish since he placed third at Indy in his first Pep Boys Indy Racing League race. Only once in seven races has Knapp, a 34-year-old from Salem, Wis., finished lower than he started. That came following an accident last year at Dover, Del. PDM hopes this showing will help locate a solid primary sponsor. But Di atlovich said the team will head for the next race - the MCI WorldCom 200 on March 28 at Phoenix - whether it does or not. "We needed a decent finish to go to specific sponsors," he said. "What we can do is capitalize on this. We're here to race. That's our profession, our business."

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Pelfrey hopes to retain Unser: Greg Paull, team manager for Team Pelfrey, said that it's "more than likely" that 1998 Pep Boys Indy Racing League Sprint PCS Rookie of the Year Robby Unser will drive the team car at Phoenix. Unser, son of three-time Indy 500 champion Bobby Unser, recently signed a testing contract with Team Cheever but was allowed to step into Pelfrey's Dallara/Aurora/Firestone in the season-opening TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 on Jan. 24. He finished 15th after starting 21st and was running at the end, completing 195 laps. "We're trying to put together a deal," Paull said. Paull feels the team can do better. It went to Orlando without any testing, and Unser encountered brake problems early in the race. Also, Paull had to get an engine from Kelley Racing due to problems with its engine. After the race, Pelfrey switched engine builders to Katech. *** Shopping spree: After a disappointing season debut at Orlando -- 22nd by defending Pep Boys Indy Racing League champion Kenny Brack due to an accident and a ninth by Billy Boat -- A.J. Foyt Racing has ordered two new Dallaras. "We want them both to have new cars for Indy," said team manager Tom LaMance. "We hope to announce (a major sponsor) for Boat in a couple of weeks." Brack was running in the top 10 when newcomer Gualter Salles broke a motor and slowed dramatically. Brack was just powering up for a pass and ran right into the rear of the Dallara of new car owner Larry Curry, and both drivers wound up against the Turn 3 wall. Neither driver was injured. The tub on Brack's car will have to be replaced. "Kenny said the safety of these cars keeps amazing him," LaMance said.

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Charging from the back: Eddie Cheever Jr. recorded his third career Pep Boys Indy Racing League victory on Jan. 24 at Orlando, Fla., and none of the wins have come from the front two rows of the starting grid. Cheever won the 1997 Indy 200 from fifth place. He started 17th at the 1998 Indianapolis 500 and charged to his first Brickyard victory there. Cheever took the green from 13th spot in the most recent TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 in the Rachel's Gourmet Potato Chips-Children's Beverage Group Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. *** Galles close to deal: Car owner Rick Galles is close to making a major sponsor announcement as result of the team's eighth-place performance with driver Davey Hamilton at Walt Disney World Speedway. Galles didn't decide until a week before the race to enter. A G Force/Aurora/Goodyear car was quickly assembled and saw its first track time Jan. 22 in the initial practice sessions for the TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200. Hamilton, second place finisher the past two seasons in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League final standings, said things went "terrible" at first, but he qualified the car 20th on Saturday and then charged to eighth place at the checkered flag, completing 198 laps. "I'm really proud of my guys," Galles said. "That thing ran flawlessly."

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Second chance: Drivers Brian Tyler and Jason Leffler did double-duty Sunday at Walt Disney World Speedway and had better luck in the day's second race than they did in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200. Leffler, driving his first league race for Treadway Racing, crashed on the third lap of the main event and placed 28th and last. Tyler, stepping in for rookie Greg Gorden, drove from 24th to 14th in the Truscelli Team Racing G Force/Aurora/Goodyear. As soon as the Indy Racing League victory ceremonies finished, USAC completed its rain-delayed Coors Light Silver Bullet Series 50-lap opener. Mike Bliss, driving the George Snider/A.J. Foyt-owned car, won the race, with Tyler finishing sixth and Leffler 10th.

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Grand slam: Indianapolis driver Tyce Carlson brought his Dallara/Aurora/Firestone home 12th in his first race for the combined Blueprint-Immke Racing in the TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200, and the co-owners couldn't be happier. "Our week in Orlando was a grand slam for Jim Immke and myself," said co-owner Ed Rachanski. Particularly pleasing was the performance of the Blueprint engines in Carlson's car and that of rookie John Hollansworth Jr. They were second and third in Sunday's morning pre-race warmup session and performed well in the race. Carlson led two laps, first time he has been a front-runner in his Indy Racing League career. The team had a one-race sponsorship from Grenelefe Golf and Tennis Resort and is seeking additional funding for Phoenix and the remainder of the season. "Auto racing is undergoing a very big level of growth," Immke said. "The more open-wheel racing in America, the better."

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Pacing the field at Indy: The Pace Car for the 83rd Indianapolis 500 will be revealed Feb. 11 at the Chicago Auto Show.

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Vegas-bound: Hemelgarn Racing is planning two testing sessions before the next league race, the MCI WorldCom 200 on March 28 at Phoenix International Raceway. "We're going to test at (Las) Vegas the week after next and in the open test at Phoenix," said team manager Lee Kunzman. Driver Buddy Lazier, 1996 Indy 500 winner, is coming off a disappointing 10th-place finish. He came out of a late pit stop in second only to spin exiting Turn 1 to avoid another car. He flat-spotted all four tires and lost two laps before getting back into the fray. Lazier's Delta Faucet-Coors Light-Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear also suffered right front wing damage when struck while exiting the pits. "Our race plan was very, very good, but our execution was lousy," Kunzman said.

Source: IRL/IMS

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jason Leffler , Gualter Salles , Eddie Cheever , Buddy Lazier , Jeff Ward , Davey Hamilton , Scott Sharp , Billy Boat , Mark Dismore , Scott Goodyear , Raul Boesel , Kenny Brack , Bobby Unser , Steve Knapp , Tyce Carlson , Brian Tyler , Mike Bliss , Robby Unser , A.J. Foyt