The Callahan Report: IRL Heads To NASCAR Country
23 July 1997CHARLOTTE, NC: Lets try this again. It is time for the Indy Racing League to put on another night race in the South. The last attempt (at Texas Motor Speedway) appeared to be a good show until the next morning when racing fans were slapped in the face with a surprise announcement. The driver they saw in victory lane the previous night was not the winner of the race. Billy Boat, driving for A.J. Foyt/Conseco Racing got the victory lane celebration. Treadway racing's Arie Luyendyk got the check. After protests and scoring reviews it was determined that in fact, Luyendyk had won the race.
The task of keeping track of the cars belonged to the United States Auto Club (USAC). The league was embarrassed by the scoring mistakes and promptly relieved USAC from its duties. The IRL is now responsible for timing and scoring of their own events. Their first test was at Pikes Peak International Raceway last month. The race was run without scoring errors. The IRL passed its first test.
The IRL will pull into the heart of NASCAR country this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The open wheel, all oval series shares many of the same tracks with their closed cockpit counterparts, including the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This week, they will team with NASCAR as the Goody's Dash Series will race Wednesday night after IRL Qualifying. The League will need to put on a flawless show this weekend if they hope to tap the NASCAR market. They are capable of doing just that. The racing has been exciting at every venue this year. These fenderless cars race close...and very fast.
The IRL couldn't have picked a better weekend to exhibit their series in NASCAR country. The stars of Winston Cup have the weekend off. It would be good advice for any race addict (who is within reasonable traveling distance) to head to Charlotte. The cars are loud...very similar to the sound of NASCAR. The fans can see the drivers working the cars. The driving is quick and precise. No wheel banging here.... if there is.... you will surely see a spectacular crash.
The teams and drivers in the IRL are committed to making the series a success. The speedsters in this series are very accessible to the fans. It is not uncommon to see drivers strolling towards the fence to sign autographs and to chat with the curious racing enthusiasts. The atmosphere this weekend should be especially relaxed. Many of the drivers in the series grew up running under the lights on a Saturday night.
Billy Boat: One of many drivers used to racing on Saturday night.
The drivers are from a variety of racing backgrounds. Some came through the sprint and midget ranks. They raced side by side with Jeff Gordon before his graduation to NASCAR. Others raced in Europe. Some raced in South America. Whatever their racing background, they all have one thing in common. They race in this series because they all have hopes of winning the Indianapolis 500. They travel around the country putting on some very good shows preparing themselves for the next big race at Indy. You can witness their progression. For a good time...call IRL.
For a complete schedule of the weeks activities at Charlotte, click here.