The Callahan Report from Indianapolis, May 8

8 May 1997

Team Menard Makes Tire Change
Luyendyk Still Fastest at IMS

INDIANAPOLIS: The IRL team owned by John Menard switches tire manufacturers quicker than the weather changes at Indy.

The Menard Team ran over 3000 testing miles at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway using Firestone tires prior to the month of May. Just before practice began this month, the team switched to Goodyear tires. As the sun began to shine and the track dried.....the Menard cars rolled out of the garage. The Glidden/Menard/G Force Aurora car of Tony Stewart and the Quaker State/G Force Aurora of Robbie Buhl were rolling on Firestone tires once again.

Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart On Firestone Tiresfont size=-1>

In less than 30 laps, Tony Stewart had posted the top speed of the day. He blazed the track at 215.476 mph just before the official start of "happy hour". His Menard stable partner Robbie Buhl was second on the speed list at 214.900 mph. Prior to the final hour of practice, both of the Team Menard cars had bested the speed of Arie Luyendyk who quickly had returned to the track after an earlier spin in the South chute. Luyendyk was third on the list with a speed of 214.143 mph.

If Arie Luyendyk lost a hair for every time he ran the quick lap of the day, he'd be bald.

Happy hour began with the usual yellow light for debris on the track. Let the speed show begin. On three consecutive laps, Tony Stewart and Arie Luyendyk traded top speeds of the day. Luyendyk was the leader with a lap of 217.318 mph just before the track went yellow due to a blown engine in Alessandro Zampedri's Mi-Jack/Dallara/Aurora. The engine let go coming down the front straight filling the air with a white plume of smoke. The track went green again at 5:45 PM but that didn't last long as Robby Gordon required a tow. The track went green for only a few minutes before the closing gun at 6:00 PM. It was long enough for Robby Buhl to set the trird fastest lap of the day in his backup car at 215.708 mph.

The day began very dismally with drizzling rain. The track did not open for practice until 3:00 PM. In all, 22 cars practiced, turning 483 laps.

Friday, May 9 will be the final day of practice prior to the run for the pole. The forecast calls for clear skies, but high winds are expected for Friday.

Arie Luyendyk Crashes

Arie Luyendyk, the fastest driver at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this month, spun his number 5 Treadway Racing/Miller Lite/Wavephore G Force Aurora shortly after the track had opened for practice just after 3:00 PM. Luyendyk did 2 complete spins in the short chute between turns one and two. He lightly tapped the wall with the nose of the car. It was Luyendyk's first hot lap of the day. His previous lap was only 172 mph. Luyendyk was checked at the infield hospital and released. He has been cleared to drive.

This was the third incident this month. Scott Sharp's Conseco sponsored G Force Aurora sustained major damage in a crash yesterday. Rookie Jeff Ward had a minor spin earlier in the week in the First Plus/Team Cheever entry.

IRL Manufacturer's Rules To Change

In February, Roger Penske expressed a desire to return to the Indy 500. The return of the ten time winning car owner at Indy may be as early as next year. The Indy Racing League will announce new rules next week (May 16) for manufacturers. Leo Mehl, the executive director of the IRL, stated that the upcoming announcement would contain new rules that equipment suppliers must follow.

The content of the announcement will be analyzed by the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART). The announcement could open the door for many of those teams to return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Currently, the engine and chassis manufacturers must make their products widely available to teams participating in the IRL. Oldsmobile and Nissan provide engine components that make up the "basic engine architecture". The "basic engine architecture" includes: block and sump assembly, cylinder heads, cam covers, and front covers. Internal parts are made by aftermarket specialists. Independent builders assemble the engines which are purchased by the IRL teams.

Nissan Infiniti Nissan Infinitifont size=-1>

Chassis manufacturers provide rolling chassis to the IRL teams in accordance with the guidelines set by the IRL. Two chassis are currently being used. The G Force which is manufactured in England and the Dallara chassis, made in Italy. A third chassis manufacturer, Riley and Scott of Indianapolis, will enter competition this summer.

Early Trackside Report

It's Raining at Indy. The track was scheduled to open for practice at 11:30 AM, but overnight rains and a continuing drizzle have delayed practice once again.

Many of the teams are getting anxious as pole day nears. The rain is robbing them of valuable track time. One notable Indy veteran, Walt Disney World winner Eddie Cheever, has not made a track appearance.

It appears that the tire switch has been made by Team Menard. The Menard cars were being wheeled around in the garage area this morning fitted with Firestone tires.

As reported yesterday, Roberto Guerrero invited a group of first graders to the Speedway for lunch today. The students had several interesting questions for the driver of the Pennzoil sponsored Dallara Infiniti.

Roberto Guerrero
Kids have questions for Guerrerofont size=-1>

Terry Callahan -- The Auto Channel

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