IRL: Pep Boys Indy Racing League Weekly Notes 1999-09-16

INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 16, 1999 - Pep Boys Indy Racing League veteran Stephan Gregoire is ready to roll the dice next weekend at Las Vegas but not on any of the gambling mecca's famous casinos. Gregoire is preparing for a strong...

INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 16, 1999 - Pep Boys Indy Racing League veteran Stephan Gregoire is ready to roll the dice next weekend at Las Vegas but not on any of the gambling mecca's famous casinos. Gregoire is preparing for a strong finish in the 500 on Sept. 26 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway instead of thinking about a few rolls at the craps table or turns on a slot machine. "I love to come to Las Vegas," Gregoire said. "It's an exciting town with so much to see, but I am not a gambler and I never gamble, even when I am here to race. I am here to drive, and I want to do well for the Dick Simon Racing Team at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway." Gregoire is 14th in the season points entering this event, but a combination of factors leads Gregoire to believe that he can contend for victory in the Dick Simon Racing-Mexmil-Tokheim-Viking Air Tools G Force/Aurora/Firestone. First, his season-best finish of fourth came in the Longhorn 500 presented by MCI WorldCom on June 12 at Texas Motor Speedway, a 1.5-mile tri-oval that's a sister track to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Second, car owner Simon knows this track well. His engineering and race-strategy skills helped Eliseo Salazar to a victory at Vegas in 1997 when both worked for Team Scandia. And Simon tuned Marco Greco to the No. 3 starting spot last year at this event. "I like the track a lot," Gregoire said. "It's like Pikes Peak but much faster. It is very fast for a 1.5-mile oval, but it's not a flat-out track. You have to lift a little, even with a good setup. Dick had a good setup with his team last year. "So I am pretty confident that he will give me a fast car to qualify and drive in the race." Another reason why Gregoire isn't thinking about some table action in Vegas is his devotion to his hobby: flying. He started taking flying lessons in 1998, and he now spends his spare time in the cockpit of a Piper Archer Two. "I started taking flying lessons seriously last November, and I have developed a passion for flying when I am not racing," Gregoire said. Gregoire recently took his solo flying test from Indianapolis to Champaign, Ill., then to Evansville, Ind., and back to Indy. The trip put him over the 50-hour milestone in the pilot's seat. "Flying is great for me, as it takes total concentration to listen to weather reports, check my navigation and the instruments when I fly," Gregoire said. "It's another world and takes me away from motor racing when I am airborne. My goal is to take the test for my license in November, taking just one year for me to get my private pilot's license."

Testing at Texas: Many Pep Boys Indy Racing League drivers who race on Goodyear tires participated in a tire test Sept. 8-9 at Texas Motor Speedway, site of the season-ending Lone Star 500 on Oct. 17. Participating in the test on the 1.5-mile tri-oval were Kenny Brack, Scott Goodyear, Billy Boat, Scott Sharp, Mark Dismore, Jeff Ward, Buddy Lazier, Jaques Lazier, Davey Hamilton, Ronnie Johncox and Jon Herb. "We are ready for October," Dismore said. "We did some long runs and had great speeds at the end of the runs, nearly fast enough to have won the pole here in June. We can't wait for October to get here." Dismore won the PPG Pole for the Longhorn 500 presented by MCI WorldCom in June at TMS with a best lap of 215.272 mph.

Turning left, and right: Pep Boys Indy Racing League standout Scott Sharp is scheduled to race this weekend in the Petit Le Mans sports-car race at Road Atlanta. Sharp, former SCCA Trans-Am road-racing champion, will compete in the GTS class in the American Le Mans Series event. This isn't the first time this year that Sharp has returned to his road roots. He also drove in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in February at Daytona Beach, Fla., and in the Superflo 12 Hours of Sebring in March at Sebring, Fla.

Helping hands: The Indy Racing League is getting directly involved this week with relief efforts by its official charity, the American Red Cross, surrounding Hurricane Floyd and the shooting in Fort Worth, Texas. Jenn Cox of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway public relations department is working with the Red Cross publicity team in Falls Church, Va., assisting the national media through Sept. 20. The Red Cross has dispatched six members of its national rapid-response team to help with victims of Hurricane Floyd and the Texas shooting. Fourteen mental-health workers also are helping friends and families of those involved in the Texas shooting.

Hot laps: A number of Las Vegas casino resorts are aligning with Indy Racing teams for the upcoming 500 on Sept. 26 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The Las Vegas Maxim Hotel and Casino will be an associate sponsor of the car fielded by Dick Simon Racing and driven by Stephan Gregoire, while the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel and Casino will be an associate of the Harrington Motorsports entry driven by Scott Harrington, the leader in the Sprint PCS Rookie of the Year standings this season. And Harrah's continues as the primary sponsor of standout Billy Boat Kelley Racing will play host to 50 children from the St. Jude Ranch in Las Vegas on Sept. 24 during the 500 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The team will serve lunch to the children, and Kelley Racing drivers Scott Sharp and Mark Dismore will meet the kids and sign autographs. The St. Jude Ranch is a center for underprivileged children Indy Racing driver Robbie Buhl will meet and sign autographs for young patients at 10 a.m. (PDT) Sept. 23 at the University Medical Center's Trauma and Pediatrics Building in Las Vegas. Buhl is the national spokesperson for Racing for Kids, a non-profit organization that uses motorsports to raise awareness for the health-care needs of children. Buhl is returning to the cockpit at Las Vegas for the first time since the Indianapolis 500 in May Cahill Racing driver Donnie Beechler returned to his short-track roots Sept. 11 by winning the MCI WorldCom USAC midget feature at 16th Street Speedway in Indianapolis, just down the street from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Midget national points leader Jason Leffler was second The ninth annual Phil Casey Indy Racing Charity Golf Tournament will take place Sept. 27, the day after the 500 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, at the Stallion Mountain Country Club in Las Vegas. Proceeds from the tournament will be split between the Pediatric Diabetes Center at Valley Children's Hospital in Fresno, Calif., and the Ronald McDonald House in Indianapolis. There are still opportunities for players, tee or hole sponsors, team sponsors and lunch sponsors. Contact Phil Casey or Kris Callfas at (317) 484-6463 for more information.

Source: IRL/IMS

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Jason Leffler , Jon Herb , Robbie Buhl , Eliseo Salazar , Buddy Lazier , Stephan Gregoire , Jeff Ward , Davey Hamilton , Scott Sharp , Billy Boat , Mark Dismore , Scott Goodyear , Jaques Lazier  , Donnie Beechler , Scott Harrington , Ronnie Johncox , Dick Simon