This means that CART is only going to have one chassis - Lola.
This also causes big problems for 6 of the 13 CART teams that use Reynards as they'll be scavenging for parts until they can get converted over to Lolas. Teams affected: Team Kool Green, Patrick Racing, Players/Forsythe Racing, Mo Nunn Racing, Team Motorola, and Walker Racing.
The Yamaha 400 was the Indy Racing Leagues first race at the 2-mile track in Fontana. CART has raced there for a number of years. Due to late scheduling, only about 15-35,000 tickets were sold. Too bad, Californians missed an awsome excellent race that saw non-stop racing for 85 laps before debris on the track brought out the first yellow caution. Up till then the race speed average was at least 210 mph!! Buddy Lazier says he had an awesome car for the race, but he crashed it during morning practice and had to race his backup car.
The race began with Sam Hornish, Jr dueling with Jeff Ward and Eddie Cheever with 2 lead changes on the very first lap! This race would go on to set the IRL record for most number of lead changes, 39. Tomas Scheckter moved up and passed Hornish for the lead on lap 29. Hornish would experience radio problems again throughout the day. He also lost his pit speed limiter and had to manually try to keep the car under the 60 mph pit lane speed limit. His guide on the radio, Pancho Carter, continues to coach the 22 y/o racing champion.
Jacque Lazier was surprising folks as well as his team, when he kept refusing to pit. The crew would be yelling at him on the radio, "Pit! Pit!" and he would zoom on by. They would hold out signs telling him to pit, but it did no good. He would pit when he was ready and lucky for him, his engine never died before he had refueled. Twice he ignored their pleas and we all saw him run 41 laps between pit stops.
Hattori's engine blew around lap 150 of 200. Tomas began to have some engine trouble and as his car suddenly slowed, Hideki Noda slammed into the back of him resulting in both cars getting demolished. This was the fourth race car to be ruined this year for Cheever Indy Car. But Eddie didn't have time to worry about that as he was leading the race having taken the lead on 162. The Infiniti engines had plenty of power this day. Due to not taking on new tires, after the yellow, Gil de Ferran temporarily had the lead, but soon Cheever, Hornish, and both Lazier brothers passed him. Then the racing really took off!
There was side by side racing at 219 mph! These four cars were two and three wide and they would get so close that their tires would touch! During these closing laps, it was Jacque Lazier running beside Eddie Cheever, Jr. for the lead. On lap 191, Cheever's Infiniti engine blew up, tossing a giant plume of white oily smoke into the face of Sam Hornish, Jr. Sam went right and missed the slowing Cheever, as the veteran managed to keep the car going straight as he brought it down onto the apron. Soon, Memo Gidley's Infiniti engine blew as well . The rookie Frenchman, Laurent Redon, was now in 3rd, but he had Infiniti power too, would his engine last?!
On these last few laps, Jacques was in front of Sam. On the last lap, they ran side by side. Sam took the lead, then Jacques passed him back they dueled to the end and coming off the last turn before the checkered flag, they touched wheels! Sam Hornish, Jr. was able to get his nose a few feet infront of Lazier to take the checkered by 2/100ths of a second!
Sam's race average speed, including caution periods, was 179.276 mph, a new IRL record (and this was over a 400 mile race!) Redon did finish in 3rd, so at least one Infiniti engine survived. He was followed by the two Penske cars. Hornish led a race-high 73 laps, although all but one of those laps was not at the end of the race. Jacques Lazier led 45 laps, Cheever led 33 and Scheckter led 28.
2001 Miss Universe, Denise M. Quinones August from Puerto Rico, sang the National Anthem prior to the Yamaha 400 race.
A windy day at the Mile in the Desert, found Helio Castroneves on the pole, beside points leader Sam Hornish Jr. This race was sponsored by Bombardier ATV and they let one of these ATV's lead a 60 mph pace lap of the field, before the Corvette came in and took them on the real deal. That was different.
25 cars started the race (as opposed to 20 at CART's last race), but only 12 would finish on this tight fast circuit.
Shigeaki Hattori and his Epson sponsorship is back, moving into the ride at Bradley Motorsports that was vacated by the retiring Buzz Calkins. Shiggy managed to bring out the first yellow when he spun on lap 4. By lap 23, Sam passed Helio for the lead. Then Tomas Sheckter passed Ward for 3rd position. Unfortunately for Tomas (and Cheever Indy Racing), his Infiniti engine soon developed problems and he was out.
I guess Shiggy likes yellow, because he brought out another caution period after he got up into the gray and smacked the wall. I wish Epson would give up sponsoring lame Japanese drivers and give the money to someone deserving. Oh well, at least Shiggy didn't hit Little Al this time and break his leg.
Robbie Buhl was impressive as he worked his way up, finally passing Helio for 2nd place. Buhl would do well through out the day, but near the end, his Infiniti engine called it quits. How disapointing!
Another yellow came out on lap 79 when de Vries spun in through the gate in the fence where the safety trucks come out and smacked the wall and fence from the wrong side! He was rather lucky to be ok.
On the restart, a multi-car crash happened, collecting Giaffone, McGehee, George Mack, Ward and Boat. I thought that Shiggy was out, but I could have sworn I saw that Epson car spinning through the middle of it doing a 360. Whoever caused the accident got away scott free. Sam Hornish, still leading the race, came into the pits. He lost first gear and had trouble getting out of the pits. He would later lose 6th gear and would have to race in 5th, consequently hitting the rev-limiter frequently. (This limiter prevents over-revving and detonating the engine.)
Little Al ended up leading at the half way point and ABC showed us a new trick: splitting the tv screen vertically and showing the image on the left from the in-car camera of Unser and putting Hornish's view on the right side. With about 60 laps to go, Eliseo Salazar passed Al for the lead. Eliseo would go on to finish in 4th which should make A.J. happy. By the way, this was Foyt's 500th race as a team owner!
Lazzaro spun and collected Scott Sharp and Eddie Cheever Jr, removing them from the race for the remainder of the day. Cheever Indy Racing now has 3 wrecked cars in the first two races of the season. Lazzaro took a trip to the hospital to be checked out. He was complaining about back pain. He'd probably be complaining about nose pain if he had gotten around Eddie.
On lap 142 there was another caution for debris on the track. During some pits stops, the two Penske cars moved into the lead. They would dual with each other, Helio winning. Meantime, Sam was forced to watch from 3rd place as he drove around in 5th gear. Unser finished in 5th, followed by the Lazier brothers and then Billy Boat.
Helio, per his custom, climbed the fence after winning. A more somber Gil de Ferran and Roger Penske dedicated the race to the teammate they lost recently, Gary Buckner.
It was a hot hazy day in Malaysia. At the start of the race, Montoya and Michael Schumacher went for the same corner and Michael ended up getting some front end damage that forced him to pit. The incident also sent Montoya off line and moved him back to the middle of the pack. Then race official made Montoya pull into the pits for a drive-through penalty. Although Montoya finished the race infront of Michael, Michael stated that he thought the penalty given to Montoya was a bit unfair when viewing other incidences where no penalty was given. Montoya said he was pissed off, even though he worked his way back through the field to finish 2nd, behind his Williams team-mate, Ralf Schumacher. Michael obviously worked his way back up through the field too, but due to some bizarre bad luck for Jenson Button in the Renault on the last lap, Michael got around him to finish on the podium.
Nick Heidfeld and his Sauber teammate, Felipe Massa, both had a good day, finishing in the points.
Extreme bad luck for Kimi Raikkonen and Rubens Barrichello, whom both were in 3rd place, and 2nd place respectively, when their engines blew. Jordan also suffered, when both of their cars contacted each other. Fisi was able to get his car repaired and re-enter the race.
But, please forgive me if I forget to call it that, I still call the RCA Dome the Hoosier dome and thats been changed for probably a decade.
In addition to the naming of the tower and the sign, Bombardier has been named an Official Sponsor of the IRL and IMS. Bombardier Aerospace will sponsor the $50,000 IRL Rookie of the Year Award and contribute to the Indy 500 prize fund.
I've been out of town, so a little lapse here in news...
Weather at Homestead included temperature of 82 degrees and high winds of 23 mph with 10+ mph wind gusts. Unlike, practice the previous day, the wind didn?t seem to cause any accidents today. There were several Chevy engine failures during the race, perhaps caused by electronics, but the saddest malfunction happened to Robbie Buhl on lap 193 of 200 when his Infiniti let go while he was in 4th place.
Eddie Cheever, Jr. was very angry when his new driver tried to pass him, and bumped him right into the wall on the 3rd lap! Tomas Scheckter would end up bringing the car home in 6th place anyway.
Helio Castroneves managed to pass Hornish once during a restart, but Sam passed him back with in a lap. For awhile, it looked like the Penske cars might be giving the Panther Pennzoil cars some competition, but Sam totally dominated, even though his radio broke and the pits couldn't hear what he was saying. By ¾ point of the race, he had a lap up on the entire field!
On lap 160, Billy Roe had contact with the wall bringing out a yellow. Everyone pitted except for the Penske team. This allowed his drivers to get back on the lead lap with Sam. Roger gambled that another yellow would come out, as his cars did not have enough fuel to make it to the end. He was right. On lap 170, Scott Sharp's car lost power and another yellow was thrown, allowing the Penske Marlboro's to get a splash of methanol.
Jacque Lazier and Team Menard had a rough day. On the 2nd lap of the race, his shock cover blew off. Later his right rear tire began to deflate and that caused him to spin out. The team got him back out, only to have Billy Boat hit him. He managed to finish the race, but he was 14 laps down.
Airton Dare did a great job filling in for Beechler, he was running in the top 5 early on and by the ¾ point, he had got up to 2nd place! By the end, he was in 6th and during a restart, he got up into the marbles and smacked the wall unfortunately.
Sam Hornish, Jr. and the Panther Pennzoil team started on the pole and lead 166 laps and won the race under a caution with 9 lapped cars between him and 2nd place.
Scott Goodyear began working in the booth for ABC and he did and EXCELLENT job! Sadly, the crowd at Homestead was very light. There was 9 cautions during the race, 5 cars did not finish and there were 7 lead changes.
Michael Schumacher asked for his fellow drivers to take it easy into the first turn of the first lap of the race. The sharp right hander has caused a lot of accidents in race starts past. Ferrari has decided to use last year's car for the season opener at Melbourne. None the less, both Ferraris qualified on the front row, Rubens Barrichello winning the pole.
Unfortunately for Rubens, Ralf Schumacher chose not to listen to his older brother and as Rubens blocked and braked for that first turn, Ralfie slammed right into the back of him and launched himself high into the air and he basically flew to the gravel trap and out of the race. This caused a slew of crashes which knocked 8 drivers out, including Rubens. The top 5 who made it through the chaos were:
Then on lap 11, at the first turn, DC couldn't keep it on the track and Montoya passed Michael a moment later! A good battle began between MS and Montoya. By lap 16, Michael pulled a awesome outside pass back on Montoya! Kimi Raikkonen, the new McLaren driver, had worked his way up to 3rd behind Montoya by then. At the same time Heinz-Harald Frentzen got black flagged! The Ferrari began quickly pulling away from the Williams.
At the half way point, only 10 cars were left in the race. Jacques Villeneuve had moved up to 6th, when his rear wing blew off which forced him to wreck. DC flew off into the grass again. He was having some engine trouble and eventually retired. Now only 8 cars left.
Everyone pitted around lap 38 of 58. When Kimi slid into the grass when pulling out of the pit lane, but recovered. After all the pit stops, the standings were now:
Michael kept pulling his lead out over the Williams. Michael would later say that his Bridgestone tires came up to temperature and helped him beat the Michelin-shod Williams and McLaren. Salo would soon unlap himself and pass Yoong to get into the points. This was a nice boost for Toyota, getting a World Championship point in their very first F1 race! Another big story was how Mark Webber finished in the points while driving for the traditionally worst team in F1, Minardi. Webber is an Australian and his home crowd went nuts cheering him on. Also, the new owner of the Minardi team, Paul Stoddard is also Australian.
The 2002 Ferrari is supposed to be awesome. What must the other teams think now that last year's car just whupped up on all their new cars?!
Sadly, during a practice for the NASCAR Grand Am cars, the Archangel Motorsport entry flipped and crashed, killing their driver Jeff Clinton of St. Louis.
Beginning in karts when he was 12, he won the Western Cape Championship (South Africa) in 1995.
In '97, he won two South African Formula Ford races.
In '98 he won a race, rookie of the year, and finished 3rd in the standings in the British Formula Vauxhall Junior series.
In '99 he won 8 races and the title in Formula Opel Euroseries and also raced twice in the Formula Nissan Championship, winning one race and two poles.
In 2000, Tomas finished 2nd in the British Formula 3 series with two wins and two poles. He also competed in the final four races of the FIA Formula 3000 series and finished in 2nd place at all four events.
Last year, Tomas was runner-up in the Open Telefonica Formula Nissan Championship with four wins and eight poles. He also was a test driver for Jaguar Racing Formula One team until May!
He will be driving car # 52.
Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. will drive the No. 7 Kelley Racing entry in the Indy Racing League through the 2004 season with sponsorship from automotive aftermarket company Corteco, team owner Tom Kelley announced.
This means Greg Ray is now out looking for a ride. Maybe Dreyer Reinbolt will pick him up?
But, Toyota and Honda are both leaving CART! Toyota is definately running in the IRL next year. Ford said they were not interested in a normally-aspirated engine. Toyota didn't want to stay if they were going to be the only manufacturer. I must assume then that Ford has changed their mind and in 2003, CART will have Ford and Toyota will then stay? Also, the IRL does not have Dodge or Ford. We've got Infiniti (Nissan) and Chevrolet. Does this guy really know what's going on or does he know something we don't?! The IRL has said to expect one or two more chassis manufactures to come on board next year, but they didn't mention another engine manufacturer. Could Dodge and Ford be thinking of entering the IRL next year? Cool, but I haven't heard it.
He also said, "If you just want to sell in the United States, the IRL is where you should be." He said that CART wanst to compete in an international level, ergo, compete with F1. But instead of stepping up to compete with F1, it sounds more like they are going to REDUCE costs and become more like the IRL. Well, I guess you could try and compete with F1 in other countries by becoming an IRL for other countries. I don't even think CART is allowed to race in anything but an oval track in Europe as F1 has it locked up.
If he wants CART to move out and compete with Formula One, then why make wholesale changes just so the cars can easier compete alongside the IRL at Indy? Even though I like hearing Chris Pook say, "Indianapolis is the greatest race in the world. I hope all of our teams have the opportunity to participate in it. I think it indicates that CART still is confused and has no direction.
Another thing he spoke about was their supporing their lower series (Barber and Atlantics). He talked about embracing them and hugging them and holding them close. But when pressed about sending them any money, or having any CART teams make any guarantees toward their drivers, he had to say No.
Pook is either hoping the auto-media blindly parrot what he says, or he's just really confused.
Other notes: Pook confirmed he wants to move CART headquarters to Indianapolis. Pook announced that CART will have 20 cars in 2002. The IRL announced this week that they will have at least 26.
This is what Tomas had to say, "Everybody warned me beforehand about this circuit and that it would take two days to learn, but I think I got back into it very quickly. The thing is, the car is very good, and the Red Bull Cheever Racing team is working well. All the settings we try improve the car, and that is just allowing me to go quicker in the car and build confidence." (About differences between Phoenix and Fontana): "Obviously, it is a lot shorter and more physical. You have to be more precise. You have to be much smoother and a lot more accurate. You can?t get it wrong, and you can?t afford for the car to be wrong, otherwise you?ll be in the wall. There were a couple of times today that it got loose on me, or it was pushing, and I started seeing that wall come at me pretty quickly. You just have to take that into consideration and get the car right. It?s a big jump from Fontana."
IRL Phoenix Tests - Day 1
"I said last year when I came back to the Speedway that I felt like I had some unfinished business at this place," remarked Andretti, "and after coming so close last year, that feeling hasn?t changed so I?m glad to be getting another opportunity." Andretti started 21st and finished third in his return to the Speedway in 2001 after overcoming a punctured tire and a collision on pit lane.
"Each time I come to the Speedway, it throws me a new curve," said Andretti who holds the record for most laps led (398) in the Indy 500 without a victory. "I plan on changing the statistics after this year?s race, hopefully adding 'winner' to my final results column."
Tomas Scheckter, son of F1 great, Jody Scheckter, was the fastest in testing yesterday. He is becoming Eddie Cheever's favorite choice to fill the second seat on his team.
Fontana Testing Results:
Ken Ungar, Vice-president of Business Affairs:
In 1997 you saw the first simultaneous introduction of new chassis and engines in American racing history.
1998 through '99 saw us overcome one challenge after another.
2000 saw the Indy Racing League break through with consistent competition, one of the best races ever in Texas and... plans that helped bring our league to new markets and new customers.
2001 saw the largest number of races yet; four sell outs, consistent growth in attendance and realization that the Indy Racing League is open-wheel racing's future in the United States.
2002... The number of races is growing again with 15 this year and in key open-wheel markets here in Fontana for the Los Angeles market, Michigan as our mid-west strategy continues to grow and Nazareth in the eastern United States. Our television presence is getting even stronger with most of our races on ABC this year and the balance on ESPN networks in a contract that has been extended through the 2007 season. Our international television presence through ESPN International will be our strongest ever and by far the best for any American based racing series.
Nowhere is growth more important than in sponsorship, and at a time when all sports are finding it difficult going we're proud to be adding blue chip names to the Indy Racing League, including Chevrolet, Toyota, Worldcom, Firestone, Marlboro, Reebok and Red Bull, to name a few, joining Nissan and Coors and others who are increasing their commitment to the Indy Racing League.
Penske, Nunn and Blair, all well-known names in open-wheel racing are being joined by several newcomers adding to a stable core of Indy Racing League teams who have proven that they can compete with anyone.
Our plan is working. We're keeping it simple. American oval tracks, controlled costs, level playing field, and opportunity for men and women who want to compete in open-wheel cars and oval tracks and whose ultimate goal is to compete in and within the Indianapolis 500 mile race, the greatest race in the world.
We're staying focused. Stay oval, keep costs down, provide opportunity and have a team of individuals who know and love what they are doing. We're working hard. We're proud that our league does more for its team and partners than any other in motor sports.
As we begin a 2002 season, we look forward to 2003 season as well. The doubters are fewer, the believers are growing in numbers and the Indy Racing League is close to claiming its rightful number in sport.
Tony George's vision is becoming reality, but he would be the first to acknowledge that it is a shared vision of men and women. People like Herb Fischel, A.J. Foyt, Leo Mehl and those who believe in the history and tradition of open-wheel racing."
He also mentioned how the average number of cars at races was going up and the IRL is likely to have 26-27 cars minimum at every race.
Brian Barnhart, Vice-president of Operations spoke about the new Leader's Circle program:
The program will carry over. It is basically a phase one impacting in 2002. The program will continue to grow in 2003, and as we continue to grow as a league the benefits available to the Leader Circle participants is virtually limitless.
We introduced several new rules for 2002 to help keep the competition playing field level. Testing is limited through the number of tires that are available... All entrants are allowed a set number of tires for race weekend depending on the length of the race. 200 mile gets seven, 300 mile gets eight, 400 nine, total of 38 sets available throughout the year for racing. We have open tests here at the California Speedway tomorrow, two days at Phoenix, Friday and Saturday of this week and two days at Nazareth the first week of April. Those five days of open tests entrants will have three sets available per day to be used on those. They will use them or lose those sets... An entrant would be allowed 30 sets of tires to test with for the year and those sets are guaranteed only if you are a Leader Circle participant. We have a great way of controlling costs, there is only X number of miles in a set of tires, so as an owner you know maximum number of miles you will be able to run through the course of the year. There is a cost per mile of operating the cars. You know very closely before the season begins what your budget is going to consist of and number of miles you can run and number of sets of tires you can run.
We have finalized about 90 percent of our specs for the 2003 chassis. We're increasing the size load, the nose push-off test. We're making changes to our cars based on safety.
We contacted and have been contacted by several new manufacturers in the chassis area. We look for a potential of new manufacturers joining us in 2003.
He also talked about the IRL's new support series, the Infiniti Pro Series. (See my Pro Series website for more.) He announced that the IPS races will be telecast on ESPN!
CART's remaining oval tracks in the U.S. are Milwaukee (1-mile) and the California Speedway (2-mile) in their 18-race schedule. The IRL will also race at the California Speedway this year. CART has 3 oval races outside the U.S.
Cheever has tested four drivers for the seat, IRL veteran Jeff Ward, Tomas Scheckter, Buddy Rice and Daniel Wheldon.
With the entrance of the new Toyota Team, F1 remains at 22 driver/cars.
With the advent of more CART teams competing in the 500 and not the IRL season, the IRL has instituded a major benefit program for those teams that do compete for the IRL title, referred to as the "Leader Circle" program.
If you are an IRL regular, you can look forward to free electronic package (a $30k value), Discount on entry fees (and they went up alot), Free use of welding equipment (a $15k value), 25% off on race gas, and best of all lots of free Firestone tires!
Speedway management says, "We have negotiated unprecedented contracts with engine, chassis and transmission suppliers, providing controlled costs and development for our competitors over the first six seasons. Now we are pleased to add tires and other services to this list."
Tony George has watched the CART teams (and the CART-biased media) try to destroy the Indy Racing Leage for six years. As in any war, they've managed to damage the entire sport and themselves as well. Now for the last few years, CART teams have began to filter in and join the big IRL party at the Indy 500. That's got to make Tony a little sore. I think this new program is going to be a dig at CART and provide Tony with a little satisfaction. I'm sure the IRL teams love it. Unfortunately, you have some little race teams who dearly love the Indy 500 and can only muster the resources to run Indy. That might be their one time goal of their career - one chance at the Indy 500. This program discourages them more than it would the rich CART teams. Oh well, the IRL has done nothing but help dozens of the "little guys" all along! Remember that.
Brayton Engineering has been a part of the racing community. They build engines for some IRL teams. Brayton is ran by the family of late Indy car standout, Scott Brayton. Their team is in memory of Scott. They purchased their equipment from defunct Tri-star Motorsports.
The gap here in news is because I've been on vacation!
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