USAR: Indy IRP: Joel Kauffman preview

Back Home Again in Indiana For Joel Kauffman Young Driver Already Has Fond Memories of Racing at IRP MOORESVILLE, NC (May 10, 2004) -- Every May, Jim Neighbors sings "Back Home Again In Indiana" before the start of the Indianapolis 500....

Back Home Again in Indiana For Joel Kauffman
Young Driver Already Has Fond Memories of Racing at IRP

MOORESVILLE, NC (May 10, 2004) -- Every May, Jim Neighbors sings "Back Home Again In Indiana" before the start of the Indianapolis 500. And while 18-year-old Joel Kauffman may not be singing it, he will feel at home in Indiana this week as the USAR Pro Cup Northern Division does battle at Indianapolis Raceway Park to kick off a month of speed in the Hoosier state.

Kauffman moved south to North Carolina this winter and has competed in two Virginia events so far in 2004, so the trip to his home-state will suit him just fine. IRP is a track where a few of his biggest accomplishments to date have occurred, but ironically, it's at a place where Kauffman didn't warm up to at first.

"It's always been a track that I didn't think that I liked, but I always did well there," said Kauffman. "I've run five or six late model races at IRP and have some good memories. We wrapped up our Sunoco Super Series championship there, we set the track record for late models there in 2002 and we've had a lot of success at the track, so I'm starting to learn to look forward to going there."

Kauffman's crew chief, Tim Kohuth, is also familiar with the track as a veteran of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. The LA West team recently tested at the facility and they liked what they found.

"I didn't think that it would be my first choice of a track to go to, but when we tested the Pro Cup car up there, I found that this style of car is really well suited for the track," Kauffman said. "Our test went well and when we put our race engine in and make a few adjustments to the car, we should be fast. This is the first track that we've gone to where Tim has run a NASCAR Truck, so he has something to compare our car to."

Even though the Pro Cup car is a very different animal than the Late Models, which Kauffman is used to, he got up to speed right away in the heavier Pro Cup car.

"There's a little bit of adaptation to the different cars," said Kauffman. "The Pro Cup car weighs about 500 pounds more than the Late Model, but only has 50 more horsepower so you are about a second and a half slower. With the Late Model, you feel that you are almost on the verge of being out of control every lap and with this car, things almost seem to happen in slow motion."

After Indianapolis, the USAR Series has a week off before their next race, so Kauffman plans to spend a week back home after the race and, of course, there will be plenty of people from back home sitting in the Joel Kauffman cheering section on Sunday.

"This is our home track and since we've moved to North Carolina, it's really special to return there," Kauffman said. "It will be a reunion for us. We'll get there Friday night and hang out; we'll practice and qualify on Saturday and then cook out and spend some time with family and friends and race on Sunday. There will be a lot of family there camping out and the Sunoco Super Series is racing this weekend as well, so I can see a lot of old friends that I raced against. It would be really neat to win our first race with everyone there."

Kauffman is currently fifth in points after two races, but it is not the start that he expected. He is confident, however, that the team will just get stronger as the year progresses.

"We're not really happy with the first two races," said Kauffman. "We've had a better car in both events than what we've shown people. So now we hope that we've gotten our worst two races of the year out of the way and can put together a few good runs. I don't think that it would be unrealistic for us to be leading the points halfway through the season."

Kauffman and Team LA West Racing are competing for the Pro Cup Series championship in 2004.

-jk-

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Series Stock car
Drivers Joel Kauffman