USAC STAR TYLER TO MAKE PEP BOYS IRL DEBUT IN INDY 200 LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Jan. 21, 1998 - Brian Tyler finally realized that his dream was becoming reality as he stood in the Chitwood Motorsports shop Tuesday in Tampa, Fla. ...
USAC STAR TYLER TO MAKE PEP BOYS IRL DEBUT IN INDY 200
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Jan. 21, 1998 - Brian Tyler finally realized that his dream was becoming reality as he stood in the Chitwood Motorsports shop Tuesday in Tampa, Fla.
Tyler took a look at the Chitwood Thrill Show Dallara/Aurora race car fielded by the Chitwood team in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League. His name was on the side.
"Last night, I just had kind of a big grin on my face, especially when they put my name on the side of the car," Tyler said. "It's like I've been racing for 26 years trying to get to this point, and I finally have."
Tyler, two-time defending USAC sprint car champion, will make his Pep Boys IRL debut in the Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway Presented by Aurora on Saturday. The 200-lap race starts at 12:30 p.m. on the 1-mile tri-oval.
Many Pep Boys IRL teams took notice of Tyler's talent after he passed all four phases of his rookie test in just 54 laps last November at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It was one of the shortest rookie tests in league history.
But Tyler's big break came when he earned an unlikely victory in the USAC Silver Crown season opener last Saturday at Walt Disney World Speedway. He passed leader Jason Leffler with one lap remaining when Leffler ran out of fuel to score his first career Silver Crown victory.
Members of the Chitwood team attended the race and were impressed with Tyler, who started 10th but wasted no time climbing toward the front. The team needed a driver for the season opener, and Tyler wanted his shot at the big time.
"Winning the Silver Crown race didn't hurt me any," said Tyler, 30. "The next day they got in contact with me, and we kind of put a deal together to do this race. It's been a wild last week."
This weekend could be even wilder for Tyler, especially if he scores another unlikely victory. And don't discount his chances. Tyler has been a quick study in all forms of motorsports since he started racing motorcycles at age 8.
He started racing USAC sprint cars in 1990 and won his first championship in 1996. He made his USAC Silver Crown debut in 1995 and took less than two years to win his first feature.
His expectations are realistic for his IRL debut, but he also is confident of his ability to adapt from the broadsliding handling of the Silver Crown cars to the glued traction of the Pep Boys IRL cars.
"There is a lot of stuff I need to get used to," Tyler said. "I don't expect to go out and win or even be a contender to win, but it would be nice to do that. I've got to get experience.
"It's just another race car and another racetrack. I've never had troubles in the past with the sprint cars, midgets and Silver Crown cars, jumping into the car, being comfortable and doing good. I don't know how it's going to turn out, but I'm looking forward to it."
Regardless of his results this weekend, Tyler knows his debut will provide the opportunity to build a career at the elite level of open-wheel, oval-track racing. It's a chance that he thought might never occur until the Indy Racing League was created.
"It gives guys like me a chance," Tyler said of the Pep Boys IRL. "Five years ago, I was thinking more of giving up the sprint cars and looking toward a stock car. As soon as the IRL was formed, I got all excited about it. This is bringing it back to giving guys like me a chance." ***
INDY 200 NOTEBOOK
Double-up: Brian Tyler has no plans to leave his short-track USAC roots if he lands a full-time ride this season in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League.
"I'm going to stick with the Silver Crown as long as it doesn't conflict with the IRL," Tyler said. "I'm sure I'll still dabble in sprint cars. This is how I make my living, so I have to do every bit I can."
Tyler would join Pep Boys IRL stars Tony Stewart, Davey Hamilton and Jimmy Kite who race in IRL and USAC events. ***
Indy 200 tickets: Tickets for the Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway Presented by Aurora are available by calling Ticketmaster, (407) 839-3900 (Orlando) or (813) 287-8844 (Tampa). ***
On the airwaves: The live television and radio broadcast schedule for the Indy 200 Presented by Aurora:
Friday: Qualifying -- noon, Speedvision. Saturday: Race -- noon, IMS Radio Network; 12:30 p.m. ABC. The Orlando-area IMS Radio Network affiliate is WQTM, 540 AM. ***