2003 Indianapolis 500 News & Notes
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May 2003 - INDY 500
Sara Fisher was voted the peoples favorite driver for the third year in a row. She and Billy Boat were the first Chevy's to retire. Sam Hornish, Jr. almost finished in 6th place for Chevy, but his engine let go with 5 laps to go! The story this year was all Toyota and Honda engines. Chevy is going to have to start spending a lot of money if they want to catch up with the Japanese.
Late into the race, Scott Sharp hit the safer barrier in turn 1 hard. Soon after, rookie Dan Wheldon lost control in turn 3. After hitting the wall, he became airborn and flipped and landed upside down. No one was hurt today in the race.
The men who lead the most laps included Kanaan, Scheckter and Michael Andretti who was racing his final Indy car race. The Andretti luck continued as his car broke down and he had call it quits. His teammate Tony Kanaan had a great race and ended up in third place. The Ganassi drivers did well most of the day and Tomas Scheckter came home in fourth place. Tora Takagi rounded out the top 5.
The Penske team worked their usual magic and finished 1-2. Gil de Ferran finished a split second ahead of his teammate and defending 2-time Indy 500 Champion, Helio Castroneves. One was driving a Dallara chassis and one was driving a G-Force chassis! It was a very close race and about 7 cars were on the lead lap at the end.
Here is an interview with Tony:
How much will you pay attention to the goings-on during race day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
"Considering we have a night race, I'll sleep in all morning and get up in time to watch the start of the race. I'll wake up, eat my breakfast and pay pretty close attention to it."
A lot was made of the possibility that the Indianapolis 500 would not have a full, 33-car field. But after Bump Day last Sunday, they will, in fact, have a full field. Why was filling the field such an issue this year?
"The field was thin this year because of all the changes that were made. There were new chassis this year, so a lot of the underfinanced teams that had trouble finding sponsors because of the economy were forced to miss the event. There weren't as many teams, but the teams that are there this year are quality teams. I think there are more quality teams this year than there have been in the past. I think the field is probably stronger than it's ever been. We just didn't see the magnitude of cars in terms of car counts that we're used to seeing."
It wasn't but 10 years ago when CART and NASCAR were neck and neck in terms of motorsports supremacy. Today, CART is struggling to rebuild itself, while NASCAR is the 800-pound gorilla of motorsports. Some think NASCAR is in the same position that CART was 10 years ago, and that they're susceptible for a fall. Do you think that's the case?
"CART's demise came with the car owners trying to run the series. That's why NASCAR won't fall into that same trap. NASCAR knows what's in the best interest of our racing series and they're in control of it. The car owners have input, but they're not in control. That way, the series can't be corrupted by other people's agendas."
"I think so. Even for me, it's still hard to understand some of the things NASCAR does and why they do it, but there is a reason for all of their actions. And it's their leadership that has gotten this sport to where it is. You don't have to understand why things are being done all the time, but you know that the end results of those decisions are in the best interests of our sport."
You used to be a part-owner of an Indy Racing League (IRL) team. Do you have any desire to get back into the ownership ranks of the IRL?
"You never say never, but I would have to do a lot of homework to start an IRL team. The technology in that series has gotten away from me a little bit. But I enjoyed my ownership in the IRL, and I would enjoy being a part of it again. You never know what may happen down the road."
How much has the technology changed in Indy car racing since you last competed in the Indy 500 two years ago?
"It's quite a bit different. For a whole day and a half during the first week of practice when I did double duty, I would pull into the pits and the crew would tell me an aero number, but I didn't know what the aero number meant - and I still don't remember what the aero number meant when I drove for Ganassi. The difference is that those cars use on-board telemetry and live-time telemetry. It's space-age. It's technology that hasn't been available to Winston Cup cars until the last couple of years, and even then we can only use it during tests. It's not allowed for race weekends. And even at that, it's still behind what's being used in the IRL. We're using stuff in the Winston Cup Series that we had in the IRL five years ago. We're kind of behind on that, but that's also NASCAR's way of helping the teams save some money, or using that money for different areas of their program."
There was a crash on the opening lap when Beardsley spun in turn 3, collected Medeiros, and the both slammed into the wall. The rear wheels and rear spoiler became detached from one car. I'd never seen that before.
On the restart, Craig Dollansky crashed in turn 2. He spun into the grass, and then drove head first into the outside wall. His head jerked forward with quite a jolt. He ended up in the hospital with a fractured lower spine. Craig, 37, races in the World of Outlaws and this was his first IPS race.
Before they could restart again, it began to rain and the race was postponed. The IPS will try to hold the race tomorrow and the Indycars will have their last day of qualifying.
A.J. Foyt Jr.: "When it first happened and I saw he was OK, I got on him pretty hard. Then when I came back to the garage and saw the setup sheet, there was so much nose-weight on the front end that there was no way he couldn't have wrecked. I apologized to him because it was a mistake on the crew's part and mine for not catching it. I feel bad for him because the three accidents here this month weren't his fault. One was caused by a cut tire, the qualifying spin was caused by a droop-stop bolt that had backed out and the windy conditions, and now this. I'm just thankful he's been able to walk away from them all."
Andretti-Green - Michael Andretti Rahal Letterman - Kenny Brack Dreyer Reinbold - Robbie Buhl Penske Racing - Helio Castroneves Ganassi Racing - Scott Dixon Mo Nunn Racing - Felipe Giaffone Panther Racing - Sam Hornish, Jr Andretti-Green - Tony Kanaan Red Bull Cheever - Buddy Rice Target Ganassi - Tomas Scheckter Kelley Racing - Scott Sharp Kelley Racing - Al Unser, Jr
Alex Barron will substitute for him at Mo Nunn Racing.
The crew members all agreed, and IMS Productions filmed Fisher's crew working on her race car in SpongeBob boxer shorts. Engineer Mark Weida, crew chief Dan Miller, data acquisition specialist Jason Lucas and crew members Andy O'Gara, Scott Merryman and Mark Talifario all participated.
When the IMS Productions crew finished filming in the garage, Fisher told them they needed one more shot to show that they were at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The crew agreed to walk through the garage in full view of all the other teams and pose in front of the timing and scoring pylon.
Fisher had the crew practice saying together in front of the camera, "Hi, we're the No. 23 SpongeBob SquarePants team." But the crew couldn't get it right, so she held up a sign that said" "Gotcha - you're on Speedway Spoofs." When the crew read the sign, they chased Fisher. According to team officials, the crew has vowed revenge, and Fisher is watching her back.
Then later that night, WFBQ 94.7 FM will be sponsoring another free rock concert. Steppenwolf will be playing downtown at the corner of Jackson Street and Meridian Street!
Robby Gordon will again be running the "daily double" this year. He will race in the Indianapolis 500 and then fly to North Carolina to compete in Nascar's Coca-Cola 600. Robby has landed a nice ride with Andretti-Green Racing.
Arie Luyendyk is running again in the 500 too. He's driving for Mo Nunn Racing.
Mario retired from Indycar in 1994, but ran Le Mans in 2000. He has currently been staying over in the CART camp and is on their board of directors. While the possibility of him actually filling in for one of Andretti-Green's injured drivers in May is slight, its still an intriguing concept.
"I'm like Dale Earnhardt was when he was alive, those (bleeping) plate races (stink). NASCAR is so crooked. Whoever you are, I don't care what you say, if you can't see that, then you are blind. Why should you take out that many cars if you are racing?"
"All it is any more, restrictor-plate cars is a glorified IROC race, that's all it is," Foyt said. "If you are going to go racing, then go racing. But if you want an IROC race, then just call it an IROC race. I've never been for plate racing, I never will be.
"It's just like racing back to the yellow, I'm glad to see Jeff Gordon speak out against that. Racing shouldn't be who is a complete idiot on the yellow flag. It's a different ball game than it used to be. It's not getting any better, it's getting worse."
Foyt admitted he was losing interest in Nascar.
Several comments have been made by veteran IRL drivers about the illegal blocking moves that the new guys from CART have been engaging in. It will be interesting to see if Brian Barnhart issues some penalties this week.
Sam Hornish commented, "What are you going to do? You have guys two or three laps down to me, blocking, and I'm fighting for position. How many drivers had to go out of here today on a stretcher or an ambulance?"
Pancho Carter, who is now a spotter, commented, "There were a lot of crashes going on today. A lot of guys were racing a lot closer than they need to at these speeds. I guess that's the way they race over there in the other series. I don't have a good explanation of it. Probably the biggest thing is too much micromanaging goes on on a lap-to-lap basis."
Tomas Scheckter also spoke up on Gianffone's great drive at the end against Hornish, "Felipe has been in this series for a couple of years. He knows what Brian (Barnhart) will allow and won't allow. He knows there is no reason to block the guy because all you will do is end up in a pile of pieces in turns 3 and 4. I had a good race with everybody I'm used to racing against. Take that however you want to."
Scott Dixon will start from the pole position based on his lap of 206.996 mph set Friday afternoon. Tony Kanaan, who turned a lap at 206.484 mph on Saturday morning, will start second.
Setting the starting grid based on practice times is a new rule for the Indy Racing League in 2003.
The safety car had to come out numerous times and unfortunately toward the end, after Giancarlo Fisichella in the Jordan passed Kimi Raikonnen for the lead, there was further trouble. Mark Webber, who had been challenging all day in his Jaguar, spun and crashed. Renault's Fernando Alonso soon came up too fast on the debris, hit one of the Jag's tires and slid into the inside wall, smacking it sideway, then rebounding across the track while spinning like a top and smacked the outside walls sideways again. Alonso crawled slowly from the cockpit and sat down against the wall. It was obvious he had a problem with his left leg. With debris strewn all over the track, the red flag was thrown ending the race and a ambulance took Alonso away.
Fisi stopped his car in the pitlane hopped out, and his engine caught fire. He was excited about winning his first F1 race, but soon learned that the rules state that the driver line-up reverts to the way it was 2 laps before a red flag is thrown. Since his pass of the Mercedes-McLaren had happened just one lap before, he was moved down in to second place and Alonso was moved up to third. So, on the podium and in the after race interview, they were a man short as Alonso was on his way to the hospital.
It will be driven by Herb Fishel, the executive director of GM Racing.
The move reinforces the company's intention to become a worldwide leader in the design and supply of engines, vehicles and associated technology.
"This is a big step for the technical company Eddie and I formed last year," John Menard said. "The resources and knowledge of the workforce at TWR Engines opens the door to a great number of new business opportunities."
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