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The Callahan Report from Indianapolis, May 14

14 May 1997

Final Wrap Up

There was little change in the speeds and the amount of cars on the track this afternoon. There were 15 cars on the track for the day. Buddy Lazier set the quick speed with a lap of 216.570. Tony Stewart was second fastest.

Billy Boat made a little progress today. He had his unqualified Conseco A.J. Foyt Enterprises car up to 215 mph this afternoon. He will attempt to qualify this weekend.

High winds blew debris onto the track causing several yellow lights throughout the afternoon.

Twenty-three cars qualified for the great race over the weekend. There are 10 spots open in the field. There have been 4 unqualified cars practicing this week. Expect a few driver announcements and new cars on the track in the next couple of days. There are only two days of practice and two days of qualifying remaining before the field is set for the 81st running of the Indy 500.

Is It Time For Team Menard?

The man that has led more laps in the Indy Racing League is Tony Stewart. He has yet to win an IRL race. Stewart keeps adding to the lap tally here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Menard Team has made more practice laps at this facility than any other. Every day, the fans here see the yellow car of Tony Stewart and the green car of stable partner Robbie Buhl running nose to tail. They run practice laps continuously.

With so much preparation, one would think the team would be a lock to win every race they enter. They almost have been. At Loudon NH this year, Tony Stewart led 165 of the 200 laps. He had built up a two lap lead at one point. On lap 182, the electronics went....and so did he....back to the pits dropping to a 12th place finish. At Las Vegas he crashed on lap 78 after leading. At Orlando, he led the first 130 laps. He had an oil leak and slid sideways, grazing the wall and damaging his rear wing. He finished 10th. And at Phoenix this year, he started on the pole and led the first 41 laps. He was chased down by a hungry Jim Guthrie and passed. He was able to catch Guthrie at the end but not pass. He lost his winning bid by .854 seconds.

Tony Stewart Tony Stewartfont size=-1>

What else can a team do to be more prepared than Team Menard? Nothing. The Menard team is the best funded team in the League. Racing takes some luck and they have had it. All bad. The team tested over 3000 miles at the Speedway prior to the month of May. When Pole day arrived, Arie Luyendyk won the battle. His pre month test lap count was zero.

John Menard has been trying to get a big time race victory since the early eighties. He first put his name on Herm Johnson's car. He has stuck with it through the years. Through the different engines. He even took over the Buick engine program when it failed a few years ago. He put his own name on the "Born in the USA" Menard engine.

The ultimate price was paid by the team last year. Pole sitter Scott Brayton was killed at the Speedway the second week of practice, driving a Team Menard car. Was John Menard bitter? Determined is more like it. More determined that ever to win the Greatest Spectacle In Racing. The Indy Racing League is full of determined teams.

The Menard Team is long overdue. When they get their first win....look out. They will be hard to stop.

Mid Day Report:

INDIANAPOLIS (2:00 PM): There have been fifteen cars on the track before the lunch break. They have turned in 358 laps. The fastest of those was Tony Stewart at 216.4 mph. Buddy Lazier was also at 216 mph.

Billy Boat was the fastest unqualified driver at over 215 mph. Boat is driving for A.J. Foyt in the number 11 Conseco sponsored car.

Practice will resume at 3:30 PM.

Robby Gordon: Double Duty

INDIANAPOLIS: Most people complain when they have to work more than an eight hour day. It appears that Robby Gordon is a workaholic. On May 25th, Robby will attempt to run 1100 miles on two race tracks and travel 850 miles on jets, helicopters, golf carts, and passenger cars in between the races.

Gordon, and Indy veteran who recently joined the NASCAR circuit, will run in both the Indy 500 and the Coca Cola 600, at Charlotte, NC. There will be little time in between the two races. It is a logistics nightmare.

Gordon Robby Gordonfont size=-1>

Gordon will start the day in Indianapolis. The race starts at 11:00 AM local time. He will run the 500 miler and then take a shower. "Taking a shower before I travel always relaxed me," said Gordon. He will board a private jet at Indianapolis International Airport for the trip to North Carolina.

During the flight, Gordon will take on fluids via an IV. He will try to relax and have a bite to eat. Gordon is then scheduled to take a helicopter to the track. A golf cart will be waiting to shuttle him to the starting grid. Gordon will probably be placed in the back of the pack for the Charlotte race. Under NASCAR rules, if a drives misses the drivers meeting, they are required to go the back of the starting grid. Gordon will be running a little late, to say the least.

Gordon said he will be concentrating on reminding himself of the difference in the cars. Going from a 1600 pound car to a 3500 pound car...a world of difference.

Gordon's team owner, Felix Sabates also has his dance card filled on May 25th. While Gordon prepares to pull historic double duty that weekend, Sabates will be going between Indianapolis, Charlotte and Elon College in Greensboro, NC. He will be known as "Doctor Sabates" after his trip to the college. He will receive an honorary degree of Commercial Science from the comprehensive four-year institution.

One other driver had pulled the "double duty" on Memorial Day weekend. John Andretti pulled off the long day a couple of years ago.

Early Morning Practice Report

INDIANAPOLIS (NOON): The track opened on schedule this morning, with practice beginning at 11:00 AM. In the short practice session there have been 6 cars on the track. The fastest so far today is Tony Stewart at 215 mph. No unqualified drivers have made a track appearance in the early hours.

The track will be open till 2:00 PM. Teams will take their lunch break and practice will resume at 3:30 PM.

Terry Callahan -- The Auto Channel


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