GUERRERO STARTS FRESH WITH COBB TEAM AT PIKES PEAK FOUNTAIN, Colo., Aug. 14, 1998 -- In 1984, Dan Cotter was searching for a driver for his Indy-style car. He interviewed Price Cobb but then decided the Californian didn't have enough ...
GUERRERO STARTS FRESH WITH COBB TEAM AT PIKES PEAK
FOUNTAIN, Colo., Aug. 14, 1998 -- In 1984, Dan Cotter was searching for a driver for his Indy-style car. He interviewed Price Cobb but then decided the Californian didn't have enough single-seat experience.
So then Cotter interviewed and hired Roberto Guerrero, a Formula One driver from Colombia. Guerrero made the selection seem like it was heaven-sent as he finished second in the Indy 500 and shared the coveted Rookie of the Year award with Michael Andretti.
Fourteen years later, car owner Cobb is preparing for the Radisson 200 Pep Boys Indy Racing League event Sunday at Pikes Peak International Raceway with a new driver. His name? Roberto Guerrero.
Cobb told Guerrero the story about how Roberto had beaten him out of the ride in the True Value car when they first met over dinner two weeks ago.
Cobb and Jim Guthrie parted company after the VisionAire 500 on July 25 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and Cobb needed a replacement driver. At the same time, Guerrero was idling away his time at his "The Sweat Shop" gym after being released from Pagan Racing after the True Value 500 on June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway.
"The deal we've done is a mutual thing," Guerrero said. "He said, 'I don't know you, you don't know me. Let's do this one race and evaluate things afterwards.'
"I'm glad to be back behind the wheel ... any wheel," Guerrero said. Guerrero can see only one weakness with the CBR team: Cobb is funding the team from his pocket this season. But Cobb indicated to Guerrero that he should have a bigger budget for next year.
A driver isn't the only new factor with the Cobb team. It also made a last-minute decision to switch to a Nissan Infiniti engine. The CBR team has worked virtually around the clock the past week making the changes after briefly testing (15 laps) with an Aurora engine last Saturday.
During the opening practice Friday at PPIR, the team experienced difficulties when the engine reached the rev limiter in one gear and then dropped 500 rpms when Guerrero shifted in the next one. Guerrero spent considerable time between practice sessions talking with his engineer, Will Moody, about gear ratios and ride heights. His speed climbed from 166.744 to 170.205 mph during the second practice.
Guerrero was on the verge of becoming a superstar driver when he suffered a severe head injury during a testing crash Sept. 10, 1987 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had finished second, third, fourth and second, respectively, from 1984-87 in his first four Indy 500s. But a fifth in 1996 has been his only top-10 finish since at the Speedway. He won at Phoenix early in 1987 and at Mid-Ohio the Sunday before his accident.
He has been trying to reprove himself ever since. There have been flashes of greatness - a second at Phoenix and a record-setting pole run at Indy in 1992 - but mostly the top teams have overlooked him.
"It's tough," Guerrero said. "It just seems that every since (the accident) I've never been with the right combination. It's frustrating. Lately, when they say I have too many accidents, it's true. What I can do about it, I don't know."
Guerrero said there are two unknowns with the Cobb operation. One is the Nissan engine, the second is Cobb's small budget.
He noted that Cobb may consider pulling off the circuit and putting his current funds into testing for next year. Guerrero isn't totally opposed to that plan, although he said that much is learned in races that cannot be duplicated in testing.
"There are no easy answers," he said.
"I'm to the point now that whatever is meant to happen will happen. If no opportunity comes along, I'm not going to die. I still love racing. I'm really happy here. I'll do it a day at a time and see what happens."
His goal Sunday is a clean race. Winning still burns inside of him, but he knows that's not realistic right now with this new team. Guerrero has begun to look into what he might do after racing. He's already doing a lot of public speaking and found he has been well received.
Son Marco, 12 and about to enter the eighth grade, has been working this summer with the landscaping crew that cares for the area where his family lives in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
"He'll probably have a landscaping business," Guerrero said. "There's my alternative."
And Roberto Guerrero chuckled at the irony of his joke.
RADISSON 200 NOTEBOOK
Event schedule: The second annual Radisson 200 is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. (MDT) Aug. 16. PPG Pole qualifying starts at noon Aug. 15.
Pep Boys Indy Racing League practice sessions will start at 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Aug. 15.
Broadcast schedule: The Radisson 200 will be televised live on ABC at 4 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 16. PPG Pole qualifying will be televised live on SpeedVision at 2 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 15.
The IMS Radio Network will broadcast the race live at 4 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 16, with a prerace show starting at 3:30 p.m. A 30-minute qualifying highlights show will start at 5:30 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 15.