IRL: PDM Racing Signs Jack Hewitt for Indy
7 May 1998INDIANAPOLIS -- Longtime USAC standout Jack Hewitt will drive for PDM Racing in the 1998 Indianapolis 500, team owner Paul Diatlovich announced today.
"Dreams do come true," said Hewitt, 46. "I never gave up." Hewitt will drive the team's G Force/Aurora/Goodyear in qualifying May 16 upon completion of the final phase of the Rookie Orientation Program on May 10, the opening day of practice. Hewitt passed the first three phases of ROP on April 15 in the Crest Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone borrowed from driver Dr. Jack Miller.
Indianapolis businessman Bob Parker, owner of Parker Machinery, will provide sponsorship for the colorful Hewitt at the Indianapolis 500.
"Bob Parker said, 'I think Hewitt deserves a chance to run at Indianapolis, and I'm going to be the one to give him that chance,'" Diatlovich said. "This just shows that Tony George's formula works. We can pursue a talented driver, someone who can make a difference in the car, instead of it being a matter of who's got the best chassis or engine."
Said Hewitt: "Bob Parker and PDM Racing, they not only opened the door for me, they escorted me through. Now I'm one of the boys. I couldn't have asked for anything better.
"I've got the opportunity because (IMS president) Tony George has brought Indy-style racing back to America. Right now there are more boys-next-door than there's been in a long time."
Hewitt, from Troy, Ohio, won the USAC Silver Crown national championship in 1986 and 1987. He is the winningest Silver Crown driver in USAC history, with 20 victories. He also has 42 career USAC sprint-car victories, tied for third on the all-time list.
He said he will continue to drive a full schedule of short-track events even if he can work out a deal to race the rest of the Pep Boys IRL season.
"The Saturday-night racer is running at the Speedway again," Hewitt said. "I'm not going to Indy just for me. I'm going for all of my fans throughout the years and for all of the people who fell in my time slot and couldn't race at the Speedway for all of those years."
His first experience in an Indy-style car came in 1996 at Phoenix International Raceway, where he passed his Pep Boys Indy Racing League rookie test in a Lola-Buick prepared by PDM. Hewitt was one of 28 drivers who took their rookie tests in the PDM test car in 1996, Diatlovich said.
"Out of those 28, there were only three or four that really stood out," Diatlovich said. "One of those drivers was Jack. Once that green flag drops, this guy is here to race. He will give us 110 percent in the car, and we will give him 110 percent. We think we can be successful." John Paul Jr., PDM's driver since the IRL started in January 1996, is pursuing rides with other teams for the Indianapolis 500, Diatlovich said. PDM tried to find funding for Paul for Indianapolis but ran out of time, Diatlovich said.
"John has been a gentleman of extreme class," Diatlovich said. "It's been the hardest decision we've had to make since we formed PDM to release a gentleman of John's character. We've let other teams know that John is available and that he would be excellent in their car."