UPDATE KIT BREATHES NEW LIFE INTO YEAR-OLD CARS INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 4, 1998 - Keeping equipment costs reasonable while maintaining first-class competition and safety is one of the primary missions of the Pep Boys Indy Racing League, and...
UPDATE KIT BREATHES NEW LIFE INTO YEAR-OLD CARS
INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 4, 1998 - Keeping equipment costs reasonable while maintaining first-class competition and safety is one of the primary missions of the Pep Boys Indy Racing League, and chassis update kits are one of the key ingredients in the cost containment-safety enhancement formula. Kenny Brack, Arie Luyendyk and Tony Stewart, three of the biggest names in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League, proved during the 1998 season that the update kits work.
Stewart won the first of the season at Orlando, Fla., Brack won three pivotal races midway through the 1998 campaign, and Luyendyk took the Las Vegas season finale. All these victories were recorded with 1997 cars that were brought up to 1998 specifications with the use of the $35,000 update kits. Brack drove a Dallara, while Stewart and Luyendyk drove G Force chassis. Oldsmobile Aurora engines powered all three winners.
Further proof that the update kits have kept year-old cars competitive came during the Dura-Lube 200 in March at Phoenix, where Jeff Ward won the pole with a 1997 G Force.
"The update kit does make (the cars) a little quicker," said Phil Casey, Indy Racing League technical director.
Tommy LaMance, team manager for A.J. Foyt Enterprises, said the updated cars ran just as fast as the newer models. He noted that Brack's #14T car, a 1997 model, was extremely fast in practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last May.
"Once you update them, there's not a nickel's difference," he said.
Still, the availability of the update kits hasn't diminished chassis sales by the manufacturers. Dallara sold 24 1998 models and G Force 18. Riley & Scott started production late and will offer its first modification package for the 1999 season.
"There are close to 80 cars out there now," Casey said.
Leo Mehl, Indy Racing League executive director, predicted at a mid-November press conference that the league's total car count would be 100 by completion of the 1999 season.
Basically, the kit provided modification for the underwing and sidepods and changed the air inlet to the engine.
Casey said it normally takes "a little over a day's work" to update a Dallara and about two days to bring a G Force chassis up to spec.
The original chassis rule was for three years, or through the 1999 season, so a 1997 car still will be able to compete in the series next year. Chassis rules for 2000-2004 have not yet been released.
One specification for the new 3.5-liter engine rule is that engines will be built so that they are interchangeable in any Indy Racing League chassis.
The 1998 Pep Boys IRL season started at Walt Disney World Speedway, and many teams weren't ready to commit yet to the new car since it was only January. Stewart won the race in his 1997 Glidden-Menards machine. Ward, Davey Hamilton and Stephan Gregoire, who finished second, third and fourth, respectively, also drove year-old cars. The first new car across the line was Mark Dismore's Kelley Racing Dallara, which finished fifth.
At Phoenix in March, Stewart and Gregoire placed second and fourth, respectively, behind winner Scott Sharp in updated G Force cars.
Many of the new cars made their team debuts at the Indianapolis 500, and Eddie Cheever Jr. and Buddy Lazier ran 1-2 in 1998 cars. But Steve Knapp, the Bank One Rookie of the Year, and Hamilton chased them across the finish line in third and fourth, respectively, with updated chassis.
It was the same throughout the remainder of the season.
Greg Ray battled Boat right down to the end before losing by less than a second in an older car in the True Value 500 in June at Texas. Scott Goodyear ran second at New Hampshire in a 1997 car, as did Lazier in the Pep Boys 400K in June at Dover, Del.
Placing behind Brack in his first series win in the VisionAire 500 at Charlotte, N.C., were Ward, Goodyear and Luyendyk, also driving year-old cars. Rookie Robby Unser snatched second in the Lone Star 500 in September at Texas in an older car, and Sam Schmidt, like Unser, got his best career finish - second - at the Las Vegas 500K in a similarly updated machine.
Ponce de Leon searched for the fountain of youth and never found it. The Pep Boys Indy Racing League did for its year-old race cars with a simple update kit.