IRL: Indy 500 release: Chocolate Myers to Fuel at Indy, Charlotte
24 April 1998INDIANAPOLIS -- When the Pep Boys Indy Racing League made its inaugural appearance at Charlotte Motor Speedway last July, it caught the interest of several NASCAR racers.
The 1.5-mile track in Concord, N.C., is in the heart of stock car country. The majority of NASCAR Winston Cup, Busch Grand National and Craftsman Truck Series race teams have shops within a 40-mile radius of the facility.
While most stock car competitors took a close look at the IRL, one actually participated. Danny "Chocolate" Myers was the fuel man for Joie Chitwood's race team, a deal arranged by Leo Mehl, executive director of the Pep Boys IRL.
"Leo made a few phone calls and told me I had the deal in Charlotte," said Myers. "We went down there, did it and just had a good time. It was really neat to work with the different guys and see how they operate."
Myers is a gasman for driver Dale Earnhardt at Richard Childress Racing, and sports six NASCAR Winston Cup championship rings, and of course, the 1998 Daytona 500 crown. Myers is so big and tough, and he's been around so long, that he's the most recognizable crew member in NASCAR. He's been with the same Winston Cup team the last 16 years. During the week, he's a general mechanic at the race shop.
"I've been doing the gas since 1988," said Myers, with a laugh. "I do a little of everything at the shop. I take care of all the pit equipment. I'm a general mechanic, nothing in particular. I do mostly what nobody else wants to do."
But there are plenty of pit crew members who'd like to do what Myers is planning for May 24.
The burly, 49-year-old mechanic plans to pull double duty on "Race Day." His first stop is Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he'll fuel one of A.J. Foyt's three entries in the Indianapolis 500, then he'll jet to North Carolina to gas Earnhardt's Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet in the Coca-Cola 600 that evening at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Only one other competitor has completed the unique racing daily double. John Andretti, who drives Richard Petty's STP Pontiac, participated in the driving doubleheader in 1994.
"Anyway, we were there talking after the (IRL) race at Charlotte, and somebody asked me if I wanted to do it again," said Myers. "I said, 'I'd really love to do it for the Indy 500, but that's always on the same day as Charlotte.'
"They said, 'Well, you know some of those drivers have been doing it.' I thought to myself that I could be the crew member to do that. One thing led to another, and now I'm planning on doing it."
Myers is still working out the logistics of the day. He doesn't carry the clout, or income, of a high-profile driver. He can't afford a helicopter to shuttle him here and there. While he has the blessings of all involved, it's up to him to work out the fine details.
"I'm hoping one of the other guys, maybe John Andretti or somebody else, will get to do it (Indy 500)," said Myers. "If they do, we'll buddy up and do it together. If they don't, we're just going to see what we can put together.
"I don't think it's going to be a problem. With all the corporate people we got now, and all the people jetting all across the country, we can probably hitch a ride some way. There are some loose ends we need to get together still."
Myers has been fueling stock cars for 10 years, but found a whole new job description on the Pep Boys IRL circuit. In Winston Cup, the gasman empties an 11-gallon can of gas into the gas tank. In IRL competition, the fuel man connects a hose to the fuel cell, and the methanol feeds from a fuel tank in the pits.
"It's entirely different," said Myers. "None of it is the same. It's not any easier and it's not any harder. It's just all different. There's just no comparison."
Foyt concentrated on Indy-style racing most of his career but made a significant impact in NASCAR, where he won seven Winston Cup races, including a Daytona 500. Foyt and Myers have known each other for two decades.
"He's always been one of my heroes and a good friend, too," said Myers. "I talked to A.J. about it, and he's happy. Leo and all the people at the IRL are excited about it. It's just a good deal. I'm not doing this for money or anything. I'm doing it for the love of the sport and the thrill of doing two of the biggest races in the country on the same day."
Event schedule: Opening day for this year's Indianapolis 500 is May 10, with a full schedule of activities leading up to race day May 24. Qualifications have been shortened from four days to two this year, combining Pole Day and Bubble Day into one exciting weekend May 16-17.
Practice will take place from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. May 10-15, with Pole Day qualifications starting at 11 a.m. May 16. Bubble Day qualifications start at noon May 17.
Carburetion Day is May 21, with practice from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and the Coors Pit Stop Competition from 1:30-3 p.m.
The 82nd Indianapolis 500 starts at 11 a.m. May 24.
Broadcast schedule: The Indianapolis 500 will be broadcast live on ABC and the IMS Radio Network at noon (EDT) May 24. The ABC and the IMS Radio Network prerace shows start at 11 a.m. (EDT) May 24.
ABC will televise Pole Day live from 1-2 p.m. May 16 and Bubble Day live from 1:30-3 p.m. May 17. ESPN will offer live Pole Day coverage from 2-5:30 p.m. May 16 and live Bubble Day coverage from 5-7 p.m. May 17. ESPN2 will show live Pole Day coverage from 5:30-7 p.m. May 16 and live Bubble Day coverage from 3-5 p.m.
The IMS Radio Network will broadcast two live, one-hour shows on Pole Day, at 11:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. May 16.. Two live, one-hour shows also will be broadcast on Bubble Day, at 12:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. May 17.
ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, QVC and the IMS Radio Network also will combine to offer thorough coverage of practice days, Carburetion Day and the Victory Banquet, with other race previews also scheduled.
Tickets: General admission tickets for Indianapolis 500 practice and qualifications can be purchased in advance by calling (317) 484-6700. Reserved race-day tickets are sold out, but general admission tickets are available in advance or at the gate.