IRL: Weekly News 98-12-09

PEP BOYS INDY RACING LEAGUE WEEKLY NOTEBOOK INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 9, 1998 - Notes and quotes from the Pep Boys Indy Racing League: Eddie driving to work in style: Talk about an interesting morning commute: 1998 Indianapolis 500...


INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 9, 1998 - Notes and quotes from the Pep Boys Indy Racing League:

Eddie driving to work in style: Talk about an interesting morning commute: 1998 Indianapolis 500 champion Eddie Cheever Jr. will drive to work Dec. 10 from his Orlando home to Walt Disney World Speedway in his Rachel's Gourmet Potato Chips-The Children's Beverage Group Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. Cheever will start his engine at the Route 15 entrance of Interstate 417 (The Greenway). With the help of Florida state troopers, he'll head for the track, stopping at two toll plazas to pay just like other motorists. Cheever then will zoom under the Walt Disney World entrance and keep driving until he reaches Pit No. 7 at Walt Disney World Speedway. His journey will start at 8 a.m. (EST) Dec. 10. Cheever will join fellow Pep Boys IRL drivers at the league's Open Test Dec. 11-12 on the 1-mile tri-oval at Walt Disney World Speedway. The 1999 Pep Boys IRL season starts Jan. 24 with the TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway. *** Anchors aweigh for Knapp: Steve Knapp, 1998 Indianapolis 500 Bank One Rookie of the Year, enjoyed the thrill of a lifetime Dec. 5-6 by spending about 24 hours in the Atlantic Ocean aboard the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy. Knapp flew in a C-10 transport plane the morning of Dec. 5 from Norfolk, Va., over the Atlantic, landing on the carrier deck. He stayed on the carrier until the next morning, when a jet helicopter whisked him and a group of visitors to Jacksonville, Fla. "Flying toward the carrier and turning toward the deck for landing was awesome," Knapp said. "It was like being at Texas (Motor Speedway) on the banking." Knapp observed all aspects of the carrier's operation, including night takeoffs and landings of F-14 Tomcat fighter jets, complete with firing afterburners. "When you're on the deck of a carrier, it's like pit lane at Indy," Knapp said. "It's so busy. You've got to pay attention." Knapp lobbied hard for a ride in one of the supersonic jets, but naval officers wouldn't permit it because all passengers must take at least four days of water-survival training, Knapp said. So he stayed busy watching maneuvers, talking with the ship's crew and snapping pictures with his new digital camera. Many officers and sailors onboard were familiar with Knapp's success this year at Indianapolis, where he finished third in a G Force/Aurora/Goodyear fielded by ISM Racing. "I was surprised at how many of them knew who I was," Knapp said. "We compared the way things work with a race team and a Navy ship. "A lot of the stuff goes side by side. They're all in the same frame of mind. The chain of command and respect they have for each other is really neat. They were so choreographed - they knew what they were doing. It was really cool. I'm glad I did it." Knapp's plans for the 1999 season are uncertain, as he said he is working with three teams to secure a ride. But Knapp will be busy Dec. 11-12 as a test driver for Hemelgarn Racing during the league's Open Test at Walt Disney World Speedway. Hemelgarn's driver, 1996 Indianapolis 500 champion Buddy Lazier, is recovering from recent back surgery. "I was really happy to get this call from Hemelgarn," Knapp said.

*** King joins IMS Radio Network: Mike King has joined the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network as an on-air personality. King will play host to the new weekly network show, "Track Talk," starting in January 1999. He also will anchor the Pep Boys Indy Racing League's race radio package in 1999. No stranger to Pep Boys Indy Racing League or Indianapolis Motor Speedway, King comes to the radio network after serving as a public relations representative last season for Pagan Racing, a Pep Boys IRL team. He has extensive background in television and radio, as he has covered racing for ESPN, ESPN2 and SpeedVision and also was the longtime sports director for WTHI-TV in Terre Haute, Ind. King also has covered the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 for the IMS Radio Network.

*** Ward making plans for '99: Pep Boys IRL standout Jeff Ward already is busy testing with ISM Racing in preparations for a run at the league championship in 1999. Ward and the ISM Racing team have tested at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla., and Phoenix International Raceway since the Pep Boys IRL season ended Oct. 11 at Las Vegas. "I really feel we have the best team in the series," Ward said. "Last year we proved we could run fast, but we didn't win. This year, winning is our primary goal. "In motocross, it took me awhile to win, but when I finally did, I won a lot, and that is what I think everyone will see with ISM Racing this year." Ward, a multitime AMA national motocross champion, finished sixth in the Pep Boys IRL point standings in 1998. He plans to test his Thermotech G Force/Aurora/Goodyear Dec. 15-16 during a Goodyear tire test at Phoenix International Raceway. "We had a lot of things to test that we thought would be gains, and we now know we can be better than we were last year," said Mitch Davis, ISM vice president of racing. "For example, we have been just as fast in race trim as we were with last year's qualifying setup at every track we have tested." ISM Racing and Ward plan to return to Walt Disney World Speedway in early January to test their car after outfitting the chassis with a new G Force update kit.

*** Boesel works hard in Tampa: Raul Boesel was busy promoting the Pep Boys IRL and his primary sponsor, TransWorld Diversified Services, this week in Tampa, Fla. Boesel's TransWorld Diversified Services G Force/Aurora car was on display Dec. 8 at TECO Plaza in Tampa, Fla., headquarters of TECO Energy. Boesel signed autographs for more than 500 fans, and the autograph session and display received extensive coverage on WTVT, the Fox affiliate in Tampa. A Fox reporter interviewed Boesel and Skip Glass, TransWorld president and chief executive officer. TransWorld Diversified Services is headquartered in Tampa. Later that day, Boesel gave a speech to the Tampa Sports Club. His car also was on display during the presentation. TransWorld Diversified Services recently agreed to become the title sponsor of the season-opening Pep Boys IRL race in Orlando, Fla. The TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 will take place Jan. 24 at Walt Disney World Speedway.

*** Rookie test featured on TV: An upcoming segment of "The Road to Indy" television series will feature the Pep Boys IRL rookie testing by USAC standouts Jay Drake, Tony Elliott and Ryan Newman Dec. 3-4 at Texas Motor Speedway. The show will be televised at 5 p.m. (EST) Dec. 12 on ESPN. 1998 USAC midget champion Drake and sprint champion Elliott passed their tests in the Pennzoil Panther G Force/Aurora/Goodyear normally driven by Scott Goodyear in the Pep Boys IRL. Newman was en route to finishing his test when rain washed out all remaining track time.

*** Sharp honored by racing Web site: Kelley Racing driver Scott Sharp received the Comeback Driver of the Year award for all motorsports from the popular racing Web site, IRACE, as part of its year-end Power Poll and awards. Sharp finished fourth in the Pep Boys IRL point standings and won two races in 1998, driving the Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. That strong season came after he missed the 1997 Indianapolis 500 and most of the second half of the 1996-97 Pep Boys IRL season due to racing injuries. "The Comeback Driver of the Year award is our favorite award to give out," IRACE editors wrote. "It represents a driver who had an unfortunate setback but showed the intestinal fortitude to get back in the car and succeed. Scott Sharp did exactly that this season in the IRL." A select panel of nine motorsports journalists voted on various awards for IRACE. The IRACE awards section, including a short piece on Sharp, is located on the World Wide Web at . *** IRL helps raise money for children: A children's home in Tampa, Fla., received $600 from the purchase of a TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 gift pack during a recent benefit auction by WXTB-FM in Tampa, Fla. The gift pack, donated by the Pep Boys IRL, included four tickets to the season-opening race and Pep Boys IRL merchandise. More then $75,000 was raised for the children's home in the annual auction.

*** Cheever, Sharp to appear at big show: 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr. and Pep Boys Indy Racing League standout Scott Sharp will appear at the Pennzoil Motorsports 99 show in mid-January in Fort Washington, Pa. Sharp will sign autographs Jan. 15 during the show at the Fort Washington Expo Center. Cheever will sign Jan. 16 and also serve as a celebrity judge for the Ms. Motorsports 99 contest. *** Sign here: An autograph session featuring Pep Boys IRL drivers participating in the league's Open Test at Walt Disney World Speedway will take place from 7-8 p.m. Dec. 11 at Race Rock in Orlando. The Open Test takes place Dec. 11-12 on the 1-mile tri-oval at Walt Disney World Speedway in preparation for the season-opening TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 on Jan. 24 at the track.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Ryan Newman , Eddie Cheever , Buddy Lazier , Jeff Ward , Scott Sharp , Scott Goodyear , Raul Boesel , Steve Knapp , Tony Elliott , Jay Drake