VINELAND, N.J., March 15 Â Jeret Schroeder of Vineland, N.J., will drive Indianapolis-based PDM Racing's Dallara Olds Aurora in the 2001 Indy Racing Northern Light Series, beginning with the season opener this Sunday at Phoenix ...
VINELAND, N.J., March 15 Jeret Schroeder of Vineland, N.J., will drive Indianapolis-based PDM Racing's Dallara Olds Aurora in the 2001 Indy Racing Northern Light Series, beginning with the season opener this Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway.
The series consists of 13 events this year, which is four more than in 2000. Its keystone is the world's largest single-day sporting event, the 85th Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana, on Sunday, May 27.
Sunday's race at Phoenix, the Pennzoil Copper World Indy 200, will be broadcast live at 4 p.m. Eastern time on ABC. A pre-race show, Indy Racing 2Day, will be broadcast live at 11:30 a.m. that day on ESPN2.
Qualifying will be shown on a same-day/tape-delay basis at 4:30 p.m. Eastern on Saturday on ESPN2.
PDM's car, a Dallara Olds Aurora which uses Firestone tires, is painted pearl white and carries the number nine. Schroeder and the team itself are searching for additional sponsorship, but at Phoenix the car will carry signage for three primary sponsors: Summit Packaging; Purity Products and Graph to Graphics.
Schroeder, by far New Jersey's most successful race car driver, competed in all of the series' races last year. He finished second in the Rookie of the Year standings, earning just six points less than fellow competitor Airton Dare. Schroeder had two top-10 finishes, with his best run coming at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in April, when he finished fourth. He qualified in the top-10 two-thirds of the time (six races), with his best qualifying runs being two fifths. He started fifth at Phoenix last March and at Pikes Peak International Raceway in Colorado in June.
He was 14th in the 2000 Indy 500. He became the first resident of New Jersey to make the starting field for that race in 16 years when he became one of the fabled 33 starters in 1999, although that was the only Indy car event he ran that year. He was 15th at Indy that time.
Schroeder also competes in Grand American Road Racing Association events, including the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, with Tom Volk's TRV Motorsport team based in Toledo, Ohio. That effort is sponsored by Supreme Exhaust System Products and Racer Parts Wholesale.
Schroeder was a star of the Toyota Atlantic series in 1996 and 1997, and he was the 1995 national champion of the U.S. Formula 2000 series.
Schroeder said his goals for this weekend are to get acquainted with his new team and build rapport. "We're looking for additional sponsorship," he added. "My goal for the 2001 Indy Racing Northern Light Series is to win races, and I'm optimistic about our chances.
"I wish I could say we've done a lot of pre-season testing, but we haven't. Our deal came together so late that was impossible. But both the team and I have done well here in the past, so we'll just have to get to work and try our best.
"Phoenix is a very fast track and ironically it's a great facility for setting up your car for Indy. With the configuration and the size of it you wouldn't think it would be, but there really are a lot of similarities in the set-up you need for both tracks. Every race is very important, but Phoenix's similarities to Indy make it particularly important."
Buddy Lazier will be the driver to beat at Phoenix on Sunday. Lazier, the winner of the 1996 Indy 500, won the Phoenix race last year and also earned the series' Northern Light Cup for winning the overall national championship.
If things had gone a little differently at Phoenix last year it might have been Schroeder in victory lane, however. His new team owner, Paul Diatlovich, is well aware of that fact.
"PDM Racing is looking forward to running Jeret at Phoenix," he said. "We know that we ran well there last year, as we were as high as second at one point. We also know that Jeret ran well there. Hopefully by combining our efforts, we will have an exceptional run this year."
Schroeder was poised to take the lead at Phoenix last year before he and another competitor made contact, which forced Schroeder to make an unscheduled pit stop for repairs. He still finished 12th.
Schroeder competed in two Indy car races in 1997 too, and one of those was at Phoenix. That makes Phoenix and Indy the two tracks where he'll be making his third Indy car start this year.
His three primary sponsors here this weekend will be cheering him on enthusiastically. Summit Packaging, based in Minneapolis; Reno, Nev.; and Lincoln, Neb., offers a full line of products and services to meet the packaging and printing needs of major industrial, consumer goods manufacturers, retail and restaurant chain customers. It designs, produces, assembles, packages and/or fulfills orders for custom corrugated containers, stock-box programs, same-day/next-day delivery, contract packaging, JIT warehousing, labels, label laminating, specialty stickers, folding cartons, POP displays (corrugated, wood, wire, plastic, etc.) and floor graphics.
Purity Products, Inc. (PPI), based in Miami, delivers quality food and cleaning products to large distributors, restaurant chains, theme parks and retail chains in the United States, the Caribbean and Central and South America. PPI manufactures oils, shortenings, mayonnaise, mustard, dressings, sauces, dessert toppings, soup bases, jams, jellies, pie fillings and maraschino cherries.
Chef's Choice is PPI's premier house brand. Private label is also a large part of its business.
Cleaning products include those for floor care, degreasers, sanitizers, bathroom cleaners, dish/silverware soaps and laundry detergents.
Graph to Graphics, Inc., based in Pompano Beach, Fla., offers the world's most advanced digital printing onto fabrics and vinyl. It specializes in large-output digital printing, and has done graphics that cover complete buildings, buses, etc. It is particularly proud of its graphics for casino gaming tables.
Its product line includes banners, custom textile design, murals, presentations, media and stage backdrops, logos, trade-show booths, store department identifiers, seasonal decor, items for special events, counter graphics, posters, items for grand openings and at the point of sale, and store and window displays.
Every Indy Racing Northern Light Series race is a "happening," and as always Schroeder will be very busy on race weekend. He is expected to sign autographs at the Arizona Center in downtown Phoenix on Thursday night.
Two practice sessions are on the schedule for Friday. The first is at 11 a.m. and the second is at 2:30 p.m.
Another practice session will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday morning before MBNA pole qualifying begins at noon that day.
The drivers and cars will warm-up for a half-hour at 10 a.m. Sunday before the race begins at 2 p.m.