DESPITE START, HAMILTON AIMING FOR CHAMPIONSHIP FOUNTAIN, Colo., June 26, 1999 - Car owner Rick Galles feels like Sunday's Radisson 200 will be his team's first race of the season. Driver Davey Hamilton says he needs a couple of...
DESPITE START, HAMILTON AIMING FOR CHAMPIONSHIP
FOUNTAIN, Colo., June 26, 1999 - Car owner Rick Galles feels like Sunday's Radisson 200 will be his team's first race of the season. Driver Davey Hamilton says he needs a couple of good finishes, even if they are in some other form of racing, to regenerate his confidence. Both agree Galles Racing has been off to a weird start this season. Yet heading into the halfway mark of the Pep Boys Indy Racing League campaign neither is ruling out the possibility of winning the championship. Hamilton, the only driver to have competed in all 28 previous Pep Boys Indy Racing League races, holds down 11th place in the current standings, 74 behind leader Scott Goodyear. Hamilton finished second to Tony Stewart and then Kenny Brack in the past two season championships. "I feel we can be a contender," said Hamilton shortly after he qualified ninth at 173.511 mph during Saturday's PPG Pole Qualifying at Pikes Peak International Speedway. "What a lot of us need to be a contender is for Goodyear and Jeff Ward to have one bad race and we have a good race. One time or another everybody has a tough race." Galles, who won the 1992 Indy 500 with Al Unser Jr. driving, notes that the Pep Boys Indy Racing League scoring system allows a driver to make up ground quickly with a couple of victories. "It's the best scoring system in racing," he said. "It pays to win races, but it pays to finish races, too." This definitely has been a strange season for the team based in Albuquerque, N.M. Last year Hamilton drove for Nienhouse Racing and Galles worked as team manager. However, in December Nienhouse announced it was shutting down, though it returned with another driver and its own internal operation. At the last minute, Galles, who retained his team on his car dealership payroll, decided to bring his car to the season opener and Hamilton, with little practice, drove from 20th to eighth. At the "Test in the West," Galles introduced a new sponsor, who disappeared a few days later. Hamilton joined a newly formed Barnhart Racing team at Phoenix, but dropped out of the race after 31 laps and in 27th place. Greg Barnhart and Galles then announced a merger that evolved into Galles once again becoming sole car owner. They picked up the unique Spinal Conquest sponsorship that funds the racing team and benefits the Dallas-based charity. Hamilton then qualified 11th and finished 11th in the Indy 500. "We're catching up," Galles said. "This is the first place we tested at. "It's been a good and bad season. The bad is all the problems at the beginning. The good is the support put out by our sponsors, Mike and Sharon Taylor. It's just taken time." Hamilton noted the team had struggled in preparation for the Radisson 200. He drove around in qualifying with the throttle to the floor, but still was three-tenths of a second slower than pole winner Greg Ray. "Where do we get the speed, I don't know," he said. "It's been tough. It's been tough for all of us. In the past we changed from year to year, but this year it's been race to race." He said the team only has the financial resources to race the way it is. He added that if they had their wish there would be wind tunnel development, regular testing and motor research. Alan Mertens, a former engineer for Galles' winning Indy team, has rejoined Galles' organization, but this is his first experience working with the Pep Boys Indy Racing League formula of car like Hamilton's Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear machine. He is learning the intricacies of the car as he goes along. Hamilton has one complaint. He feels he should be driving more. "Early in the year I ran other races," he said. "I won at Irwindale (Calif.). Now I'm concentrating on this. The Indy car is the No. 1 thing. "Look back at some of the great drivers like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. They race a lot. Eleven races are not enough. Driving gives you confidence. If I were to win a couple of Silver Bullet races my confidence would go up. I'm going to talk to Rick about this." This Sunday after the Radisson 200, the USAC Silver Bullet cars will race on the same track. He has driven in 25 of these events and countless other sprint and super modified events during his career, but he will be on the sidelines this time watching his father Ken and uncle Jimmy compete in the companion event. That's why he feels it is so important to do well in the main event. Winning would do even more. "It would do a lot of things," he said. "No. 1, it would give our team the shot in the arm it needs. No. 2, it would hike us in the points. And No. 3, it would give Alan a learning session on what these cars will do throughout the race."