IRL: Test in the West notes

PHOENIX, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2001 - In a "State of the Series" address at Phoenix International Raceway, Brian Barnhart, vice president of operations for the Indy Racing League, announced that qualifying points will not be awarded in 2001 in an ...

PHOENIX, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2001 - In a "State of the Series" address at Phoenix International Raceway, Brian Barnhart, vice president of operations for the Indy Racing League, announced that qualifying points will not be awarded in 2001 in an attempt to eliminate high priced, limited-use qualifying engines that have been used in the series.

"Our thought behind a lot of that was in keeping with the principles of the Indy Racing League and cost control," said Barnhart. "We had a situation where we had created an environment where there was a large amount of money being spent on qualifying engines. It became a bit of an issue the last couple of years with what we were doing, and there's a bit of a perception of teams and/or drivers buying championship points by spending exorbitant amounts of money on engines that have a very short life span.

"I think, especially last year in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series, as competitive as our fields are and as good as our racing is, it's really not where you start, it's race day that counts. We didn't feel that spending an exorbitant amount of money on a qualifying engine is what we consider value added spending in our series, and that's one of our fundamental principles, so we have done away with the qualifying points for the 2001 season." In past years, three championship points were awarded to the polesitter, two points were awarded to the second-place qualifier and one point was issued to the third-fastest driver.

"I'm happy qualifying points have gone away," said Al Unser Jr. "They were starting to get a little bit too much emphasis put on qualifying engines"

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This Buds For You: Galles Racing announced that Budweiser will be an associate sponsor of the cars driven by Al Unser Jr. and Casey Mears for the 85th Indianapolis 500.

"The King of Beers has gotten with the first families of auto racing, and we're very, very proud to be able to announce this association today." said Unser, Jr. "With Budweiser coming in, I mean they sponsored my father in the early 90s with Kenny Bernstein at the Indianapolis 500, and I always had fun with my dad. I would go, 'Come on dad, give me a Bud. Give me a Bud.' Now, I'm sure dad is going to be coming up to me. Maybe the tables are going to turn."

*** Calkins on crutches: Buzz Calkins, the 1996 Indy Racing League co-champion, attended the Test in the West Media Day despite being involved in an accident during a private test Wednesday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. According to Calkins, he mildly injured his ankle in the crash. "We were testing down in Homestead yesterday and kind of midway through the morning on our second day we had a little incident between Turn 3 and 4," said Calkins. "It was completely my fault and just one of those things. I think it's a tricky place, and I don't think I'm going to be the last one that ends up having something happen down there. And it's, you know, one of those things that happens, but we will be back. "It was the only car that we had right now because our backup car was getting the update kit fitted to it back in Indianapolis. So, unfortunately, we won't be participating (in the Test in the West) over the next couple of days, but we're already making plans to get back here within the next week or two and go ahead and go about our business." Calkins, who drives for Bradley Motorsports, was part of a press conference which also featured 1999 champion Greg Ray and defending champion Buddy Lazier.

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Series growth: The Indy Racing Northern Light Series will have more than five times as much television programming in 2001 as 2000. Stated Bob Reif, "In 2000, we only had 88 hours of programming. That's not enough. Winston Cup had 50 hours of programming a week. We had 88 for the year. This year, we're proud to say we are going to have a minimum of 500 hours of programming, if you include our infomercial." 0

The 30-minute infomercial is already airing in two markets and is intended to educate viewers on the nuances of Indy Racing.

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Buzz Calkins , Greg Ray , Al Unser Jr. , Casey Mears , Buddy Lazier , Brian Barnhart