BEECHLER READY TO PROVE HIS COMPETITIVENESS FOUNTAIN, Colo., June 25, 1999 - Donnie Beechler holds no grudges. He only wants to prove to his fellow Pep Boys Indy Racing League drivers that he can be competitive on the race track. ...
BEECHLER READY TO PROVE HIS COMPETITIVENESS
FOUNTAIN, Colo., June 25, 1999 - Donnie Beechler holds no grudges. He only wants to prove to his fellow Pep Boys Indy Racing League drivers that he can be competitive on the race track. Beechler comes to Pikes Peak International Raceway this weekend for Sunday's Radisson 200 hoping the racing gods will smile on him for a change. Just when he thought they were at Texas Motor Speedway two weeks ago, they frowned on him big time. During a yellow flag caution period, he moved down the track to miss some debris and collided with the pace car, breaking the suspension of his front rear wheel. Beechler, using an engine borrowed from Kelley Racing, was challenging for a top five finish. "Johnny (pace car driver Johnny Rutherford) was doing what he was told to," Beechler said. "I was naturally trying to protect my car from debris that was on the track. Some of the guys elected to stay up on top. I actually was just moving down to try to clear some stuff. "It's just one of those deals. I can't turn back time and make it right. We're just going to continue on. We're here. Hopefully, we'll have a good run here." During the break between races, Beechler -- as well as Rutherford -- received many phone calls asking about what happened. He decided the only way to get over it and move on was to have a little fun with the situation. Thursday, he presented the three-time Indy 500 winner with one of his helmets, saying with a laugh that Rutherford might need it for the future. After the incident, Rutherford's first concerns were for the Cahill Auto Racing Team and its driver. "I feel so badly for Donnie," Rutherford said that night. Beechler and Rutherford have talked about the incident and both understand and agree there is no blame to lay on either person. "I don't point fingers at anybody," Beechler stated. "Like I said, he was doing his job and what happened was a freak deal that probably will never happen again. He and I are still friends and I don't hold any grudges or anything." What Beechler was most dejected about was that the incident meant another low finish. His goal now is to finish regularly in the top 20 - "desperately and we just can't seem to get that done." He holds 24th place in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League standings after four races. He fell out in 26th place at Orlando in the season opener, but then picked off an 11th at Phoenix. This finish provided him confidence. At Indy, engine problems put him out in 17th place after he led twice for 26 laps. "It's really taken its toll on me mentally more than physically," he said. "You want to do as good as you can and I try to run as fast as I can every time I get into the car. "But I guess the racing luck, fate, whatever you call it, plays a big role in the outcome of these races. We're going to gear up again for Colorado and see what happens, put our best foot forward." Actually, Beechler's best finish in 12 Pep Boys Indy Racing Leage races came last year at PPIR when he drove from 21st to 10th. Oddly, he completed 197 laps at Pikes Peak and the same total at Phoenix in March. He also led a lap in the latter race. His first lead, also for a single lap, came in the 1998 season finale at Las Vegas where he worked his way up to third before an accident sidelined him in 23rd place. There was one benefit that emerged from the Texas incident. The team's engine builder learned from using the borrowed motor - "I do have to thank Tom Kelley for helping us" - and Beechler feels that changes in engine preparation for this race will make him more competitive. "Deep down inside, I've always thought I could do this," the veteran open wheel driver from Springfield, Ill., said. "We just don't have the total package right now. It takes time to get that. It takes finances and we're probably one of the teams that are under-funded. So if we can continue to hold our own and be competitive when we are on the track, that's what we're going to continue to do." Beechler will drive the same Big Daddy's BBQ Sauce and Spices Dallara/Aurora/Firestone car that was damaged at Texas. He said that he favored it over his second machine and that his crew, headed by Kevin Hertle, had put it back into good running shape. Turning one final time to the Texas mishap, he felt it was no different than experiencing a flat tire on the final lap while leading. "Anything can happen," he said. "That's what makes racing so exciting. But we'll move on."