IRL: Weekly Notebook 98-10-05

PEP BOYS INDY RACING LEAGUE WEEKLY NOTEBOOK INDIANAPOLIS, Oct. 5, 1998 - Notes and quotes from the Pep Boys Indy Racing League: Rookie title on the line: The Pep Boys Indy Racing League season championship isn't the only title that will be ...

PEP BOYS INDY RACING LEAGUE WEEKLY NOTEBOOK

INDIANAPOLIS, Oct. 5, 1998 - Notes and quotes from the Pep Boys Indy Racing League:

Rookie title on the line: The Pep Boys Indy Racing League season championship isn't the only title that will be decided on the track during the Las Vegas 500K on Oct. 11, as the top rookie of the 1998 season also will be decided.

Robby Unser is the leading contender to earn a $50,000 bonus as the Sprint PCS Rookie of the Year. Unser has compiled 162 points this season in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League standings in The Children's Beverage Group/Team Cheever G Force/Aurora/Goodyear, tops among all rookies.

Brian Tyler is second with 112 points. Unser, son of three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser, needs to score only six points - 24th place or better - to lock up the award as the league's top rookie.

"I know my points say I have a strong lead to take Rookie of the Year, but I don't like to think about it much," Unser said. "I just stay focused on doing my best. That's what we've done all year, and it seems to work."

A look at the top five in the Sprint PCS Rookie of the Year standings entering Las Vegas: 1. Robby Unser 162 2. Brian Tyler 112 3. Steve Knapp 96 4. Andy Michner 92 5. Donnie Beechler 64

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Different setup: Las Vegas Motor Speedway may be a 1.5-mile oval like those at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, but it's a much different track than those superspeedways, according to many Pep Boys Indy Racing League drivers.

The season-ending Las Vegas 500K will take place Oct. 11 at LVMS.

"Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a mile and one-half, but because it is banked less than Charlotte or Texas it is a more challenging track for the driver," said Billy Boat, who has won the PPG Pole at the last three events. "It is much harder to run it wide-open. It drives more like Phoenix than Texas."

Said 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr.: "Grip becomes a real issue at Vegas, and making the tires work will be one of our primary focuses. If we set up the cars well, we will have a distinct advantage."

* * *

Boat ready for action in Vegas: The spotlight will be focused on Pep Boys Indy Racing League championship contenders Kenny Brack, Davey Hamilton and Tony Stewart during the season-ending Las Vegas 500K on Oct. 11, and driver Billy Boat thinks that could play right into his winning hand.

Boat is winless since capturing his first Indy Racing League victory June 6 at the True Value 500 in Fort Worth, Texas. He missed two races this summer in the Conseco Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear owned by four-time Indianapolis 500 A.J. Foyt due to injury but has rebounded by winning the PPG Pole at the last three races, a league record.

But he is 11th in the season standings with 187 points. Boat, one of the league's most aggressive drivers, will try to close out the season in the style that propelled him to a close third in the season point standings before his accident. He has no shot at the Pep Boys Million championship bonus, but he wants to send a message to drivers heading into the offseason.

"I probably have the advantage of being a little more aggressive since I have nothing to lose," Boat said. "We can go out and run as hard as we can, try to sit on the pole and try to win the race."

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Team Pelfrey lands good-looking sponsorship: The Baytan division of Nissi Cosmetics has agreed to become the primary sponsor of the Team Pelfrey Dallara/Aurora/Firestone driven by rookie standout Brian Tyler.

The team will unveil a new sunburst yellow, sunset orange and aqua blue paint scheme at the Las Vegas 500K on Oct. 11.

Baytan is a sunless tanning product that includes color enhancer, moisturizer and SPF 15 protection from the sun's rays. Noted makeup artist JoAnna Connell uses Baytan exclusively on the set of the international television hit "Baywatch."

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Team Pelfrey becoming celebrity magnet: The bright lights of Hollywood are hitting Team Pelfrey this fall as it competes in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League.

International superstar Sylvester Stallone was scheduled to attend the Lone Star 500 as a guest of the team last month at Texas Motor Speedway but had to cancel at the last minute due to filming obligations. Stallone, star of the "Rocky" and "Rambo" hit movies, hopes to visit with the team at an upcoming race, team spokesman Dennis Jones said.

The team placed an "Italian Stallion" logo on the nose of its Dallara/Aurora/Firestone during the Lone Star 500 in honor of Stallone, whose nickname during the "Rocky" movies was "The Italian Stallion."

Stars from the international television hit "Baywatch" are scheduled to attend the season-ending Las Vegas 500K on Oct. 11 as guests of the team, Jones said. The celebrities will attend to celebrate the recent announcement of Baytan as the primary sponsor of Team Pelfrey. Baytan cosmetic products are used on the set of the show.

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Balance of power: Here's more proof that the Pep Boys Indy Racing League offers some of the most balanced competition in major-league motorsports: Twenty of the 41 drivers who have earned points this season have led at least one lap.

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Big weekend for Dismores: Kelley Racing driver Mark Dismore will try to close the Pep Boys Indy Racing League season with a victory Oct. 11 in the Las Vegas 500K, but he's not the only member of the family with a big race this weekend.

Dismore's son, 17-year-old Mark II, will race in the SCCA amateur national championship, the Valvoline Runoffs, at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.

Mark Dismore II has won SCCA regional events and an SCCA national at Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis in a Formula Ford. His father helps him work on the car and serves as his crew chief at races when his schedule permits.

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Drivers meeting fans in Vegas: Pep Boys Indy Racing League standouts Arie Luyendyk, Scott Sharp and Sam Schmidt will sign autographs for fans Oct. 8 at Pep Boys stores in the Las Vegas area, just three days before the Las Vegas 500K at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The schedule, with time and location of Pep Boys store: Luyendyk: 4-6 p.m., 3995 E. Charleston Blvd., Las Vegas Sharp: 6-8 p.m., 408 S. Boulder Highway, Henderson Schmidt: 6-8 p.m., 4670 E. Tropicana Ave., Las Vegas

Driver Scott Goodyear will sign autographs starting at 6 p.m. at the Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas. The Pennzoil Panther G Force/Aurora/Goodyear show car also will be on display at during the Fan Appreciation session at the Hard Rock Cafe sponsored by Pennzoil and Hard Rock Beer. The Hard Rock Cafe is located at 4475 Paradise Road.

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Secondary mission: Defending Pep Boys Indy Racing League champion Tony Stewart is focused on one goal this weekend at the Las Vegas 500K: Overcoming a 41-point deficit and winning his second straight season title.

But if Stewart leads one lap at Las Vegas, he also will achieve another significant league milestone: He will become the first driver to lead at least one lap at every track where the league has competed since its inception in 1996.

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Thrill seeker: Bruce Thompson, the jack/vent operator for Pep Boys Indy Racing League driver Stan Wattles, pursues two speedy hobbies during his free time: skydiving and kart racing.

Thompson started skydiving in 1984 and has served as a skydiving instructor for the last 11 years. He has jumped the American flag into festivals and sporting events.

He started racing Yamaha sprint karts in enduro races in 1990.

"Kart racing is really a 30-minute skydive," Thompson said. "It's just as much fun, just as intense and requires the same quick hand-eye coordination and instinctive reaction."

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Next event: Las Vegas 500K, Oct. 11, Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Tickets are available by calling LVMS at (702) 644-4443.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Eddie Cheever , Davey Hamilton , Scott Sharp , Arie Luyendyk , Billy Boat , Mark Dismore , Scott Goodyear , Donnie Beechler , Kenny Brack , Sam Schmidt , Bobby Unser , Steve Knapp , Brian Tyler , Stan Wattles , Robby Unser