IRL: Phoenix preview

For Immediate Release DRIVERS, TEAMS TAKE NEW CARS, ENGINES TO INDY RACING LEAGUE PHOENIX 200 PHOENIX, March 13, 1997 -- The new cars and engines that travel the Road to Indy will be showcased for the second time March 21-23 as the ...

For Immediate Release

DRIVERS, TEAMS TAKE NEW CARS, ENGINES TO INDY RACING LEAGUE PHOENIX 200

PHOENIX, March 13, 1997 -- The new cars and engines that travel the Road to Indy will be showcased for the second time March 21-23 as the $1,146,400 Indy Racing League Phoenix 200 weekend unfolds at Phoenix International Raceway.

It's the fourth race on the 1996-97 IRL schedule and Mike Groff leads Buzz Calkins by 10 points at the top of the list going into the last race before the 81st running of the Indianapolis 500 in May.

Without benefit of extensive testing, Groff answered many doubters of the Nissan Infiniti Indy engine in the Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Presented by Aurora. He finished second to winner Eddie Cheever Jr., who got his first victory in Indianapolis-type cars on his maiden voyage as a driver/owner. And Buddy Lazier finished fifth with another Infiniti, an engine that ran 420 miles through testing, practice, qualifying and the race.

Behind Groff and Calkins in the point standings are Scott Sharp and Davey Hamilton, both driving for A.J. Foyt Enterprises. Sharp was the fastest at the "Test in the West" with a lap at 170.777 miles an hour. Hamilton has four super modified victories at the Desert Mile and calls it his home track.

Arie Luyendyk has won twice at Phoenix and is the defending event champion. He holds the track record of 183.599 miles an hour, which is not in danger because of the new IRL formula to slow the cars down. And Roberto Guerrero won the fastest Indianapolis-type race in track history in 1987 at an average speed of 138.020.

Then there's Tony Stewart and his new teammate at Team Menard, Robbie Buhl. Stewart is the only driver to lead five of the six IRL races to date, started on the pole for the 1996 Indianapolis 500 and has led 296 laps of the 1996-97 season. Buhl finished third in the 1996 IRL point standings, driving for Beck Motorsports, and will make his Team Menard debut at Phoenix.

Blueprint Racing, a year-old team which launched the Indianapolis-style career of Jim Guthrie last year, has the unique distinction of its drivers having more wins (six) at Phoenix than any other team. Guthrie has three wins in SCCA competition on the PIR road course and got a career best finish at Walt Disney World of sixth after starting ninth. He was fourth fastest at the "Test in the West" with a lap at 167.053. His teammate, Sam Schmidt, hopes to make his debut at Phoenix. Schmidt won a USAC Formula Ford 2000 race last year on the PIR oval and has two road-course wins at the track.

In addition to Schmidt, Kenny Brack hopes to make his Indy-type debut in a Galles Racing entry along with Billy Roe, who will be in the cockpit of a car fielded by Eurointernational, with help from the legendary George Bignotti.

There is a distinct local flavor to the Phoenix entry list. Cheever was born in Phoenix. Luyendyk resides in Scottsdale and Roe resides in Gilbert, both in the Phoenix area.

The Phoenix oval is second only to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the IRL circuit in races for Indianapolis-style cars with 52 and has a rich history.

Indeed, the winner of the race will follow in the footsteps of Al Unser, who leads all drivers with six Indianapolis-style wins at the track and now serves the IRL as a driver coach and consultant.

It all unveils starting next Friday when the track opens for practice. Saturday's qualifying will be aired live by Speedvision at 2:15 p.m. (EST) and a qualifying wrap-up will be aired by the IMS Radio Network at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. The race will be aired live at 4 p.m. (EST) by ABC Sports, with Paul Page and four-time Phoenix winner Tom Sneva in the booth. It will also be broadcast live on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network, anchored by Gary Lee and Indianapolis 500 veteran Larry Rice.

..IRL97-11..

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Eddie Cheever , Robbie Buhl , Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Arie Luyendyk , Jim Guthrie , Roberto Guerrero , Kenny Brack , Billy Roe , Sam Schmidt , Tom Sneva , A.J. Foyt , Al Unser
Teams A.J. Foyt Enterprises