Wattles at Indy 500 ROP Metro Racing Systems team owner/driver Stan Wattles gave up his Indy Racing League (IRL) rookie stripes in 1997, but he'll be a rookie for the 1998 Indianapolis 500 and the rookie orientation program (ROP) April...
Wattles at Indy 500 ROP
Metro Racing Systems team owner/driver Stan Wattles gave up his Indy Racing League (IRL) rookie stripes in 1997, but he'll be a rookie for the 1998 Indianapolis 500 and the rookie orientation program (ROP) April 14 and 15. He has seen Indy 500 action from a pit suite and the infield grandstand, but neither can compare to what he believes will be the best seat for this year's race the cockpit of his #19 Metro Racing Systems / NCLD car.
"It's a fragile track one that definitely commands a lot of respect," Wattles said. "I'm looking forward to facing the challenge a step at a time, balancing the car, getting comfortable with the track and running with other cars. I know we'll put together a solid qualifying effort and I'm really looking forward to getting back to racing with my peers."
Metro Racing faces a double challenge as a new team fielding a new chassis. Mechanical difficulties hindered the team's winter testing and race program, and the crew put in long hours getting ready for the IRL race at Phoenix International Raceway in March. The team qualified just 1.158 seconds slower than the pole record, but it was a fraction of a second too slow in the ultra-competitive IRL field.
"We worked hard to overcome some major setbacks to get to Phoenix. It was the first time in my racing career that I didn't qualify for a race, and it's not an experience I plan to repeat. It was a bitter pill to swallow and very disheartening. But it's all part of the growing experience, and we'll build a stronger foundation for the Indy 500 and beyond," Wattles said.
Metro Racing Systems was the first team to race the new Riley & Scott MK V chassis, finishing eighth in its first IRL race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October. Although development testing is still continuing, Wattles is optimistic the car will be ready for the Indy 500.
"We struggled with the car setup until just before qualifying in Phoenix, then tried a few new things that made the car much better for the timed runs. One more lap and we would have been there. Everyone says if it works in Phoenix, it'll be good at Indy. We proved the Riley & Scott can perform on super-speedways when we ran consistently at 207 miles an hour at Texas Motor Speedway in fifth gear! The car is super-stable and I know we can run at Indy."
Wattles is the only American driver racing in the IRL's first "all- American" car, with the Riley & Scott MK V chassis, Indy Aurora V8 engines and Goodyear Eagle tires. A.J. Foyt was the last American driver to win the Indy 500 in an "all-American" car, in 1977.