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IROC Indy Test Notebook

16 June 1998

INDIANAPOLIS, June 16, 1998 - Notes and quotes from the International Race of Champions (IROC) test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

No lead in '99: IROC president Jay Signore said his series will likely switch to unleaded gasoline for the 1999 season. The IROC Pontiac Firebird Trans-Ams now run leaded fuel.

Signore and Tosco-Union 76, which supplies gas at IROC and NASCAR Winston Cup Series events, are developing the fuel and engines to run the fuel.

IROC has always taken the lead in developing new products for NASCAR. The all-star series helped Goodyear develop the Eagle racing radial in the early 1990s.

"We don't mind being the guinea pig," said Signore with a smile. "We'll probably run unleaded fuel for a year before it goes to Winston Cup. We could run unleaded fuel now if they wanted us to."

Marcis staying put: Veteran IROC test driver Dave Marcis is 57 years old and has no thoughts of retiring as a NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver. Marcis is one of the few owner-drivers left on the big-league stock car circuit. He's driven the series - with mostly his own equipment -- since 1968.

"No, I'm not ready, not just yet,'' Marcis said of retirement. "It's tough, and it's been a struggle, but I still have the desire to drive that race car. When we get that car working right, such as the races at Dover (Del.) and Richmond (Va.) this season, then it's worth it."

As long as Marcis has a primary sponsor, RealTree, and his fans believe in him, he'll stay in the game.

"We've got a good relationship between RealTree, Marcis Auto Racing and the fans," said Marcis, who has five career victories. "It's going great. I'm not retiring just yet."

Weather man: IROC president Jay Signore carries a suitcase loaded with all sorts of fancy-looking technical instruments. It's not the kind of stuff James Bond carries. There are no pens that can shoot bullets or exploding paperclips.

The stuff in Signore's bag is actually a traveling weather station. Signore can check barometric pressure, humidity and temperature, among other things, from the equipment he keeps in the suitcase.

"You have to keep track of the weather in order to set the engines up to run properly," said Signore. "It was tough at our last race in Michigan. Over the course of the day, it was hot, then it got humid, then it cooled off. It was driving me crazy."

Signore had another rough day during the first day of IROC testing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on June 15. It rained early in the morning, then cleared enough to run laps. But the test ended early when a large thunderstorm swept over the 2.5-mile course.

Young Andy: What does it take to become an IROC test driver? Well, No. 1, you have to be from Wisconsin, and No. 2, you must be at least 50 years old.

Actually, IROC president Jay Signore hires experienced stock car jockeys to help shake down his fleet of Pontiac Firebird Trans-Ams, and it just so happens that his three full-time test drivers -- Dave Marcis, Dick Trickle and Jim Sauter -- are over 50 and hail from the land of the Cheeseheads.

Signore is bringing along some young talent. Andy Hillenburg, a former ARCA Bondo Mar-Hyde Series champion, works on a part-time status with IROC. Hillenburg, who grew up in Indianapolis, is just 35 years old. He is testing for IROC this week at Indy.

"I'm the new guy on the crew," said Hillenburg. "Dave, Dick and Jim show me the ropes, and it increases the learning curve. It helps me out so much to do it. I'm like a sponge when I'm around those guys.

"When they make a chassis change, I can actually go out in one of the cars and feel it myself. It's a big plus to have these veterans, who are truly first class, willing to help a new guy. I love to be associated with those people. This whole organization is first class."

They'll be back: IROC will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a third test in the days leading up to the series' season finale scheduled for July 31.

IROC will open its final test session July 25 and run four consecutive days of practice in preparation for Round 4 over Indy's historic 2.5-mile course.

The NASCAR Winston Cup Series then takes control of the course for practice July 29. The fifth annual Brickyard 400 is scheduled for Aug. 1.