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Luyendyk, Paul, Sharp to Hit the Road at 24 Hours of Daytona

23 January 1999

Scott Sharp
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla -- You've heard the expression that "opposites attract."

Well, at least two Pep Boys Indy Racing League drivers plan to compete in the TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 this weekend at Walt Disney World Speedway then head 70 miles north to Daytona International Speedway for the Rolex 24 at Daytona in a busy six-day span.

John Paul Jr. and Scott Sharp plan to compete in the dashing double, which will kick off the professional racing season in North America. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk will attend Disney as a consultant to Treadway Racing then drive in the Rolex 24.

The TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 and the Rolex 24 are on opposite ends of the racing spectrum. The Indy 200 is scheduled Jan. 24 while the Rolex 24 is slated for Jan. 30-31.

The Indy Racing League opener over the 1-mile Disney tri-oval is an all-out, pedal-to-the-metal, don't-look-back, crowd-pleasing speed sprint to the checkered flag.

The field is limited to 28 open-wheel, open-cockpit rockets capable of tiptoeing past the 170-mph mark over Disney's extremely fast three-turn banked course.

"It's a great track and a great race," said Paul, who will wheel Jonathan Byrd's G Force/Aurora/Firestone in the long-anticipated Indy Racing League event. "I ran 222 mph every lap at Texas Motor Speedway last year. It took a while for me to get used to that, and it'll be like that at Disney.

"The IRL is a good series. You can't just cruise around and wait for the end of the race. I like that. It's very challenging."

The Rolex 24 at Daytona is completely opposite. The sports car endurance race, which will start 85 cars, lasts 24 hours. Drivers are asked to ease their equipment around Daytona's 3.56-mile road course, hoping their cars survive to the end.

The winning team usually logs more than 2,000 miles when the race draws to a close. While the average Indy Racing League margin of victory is a heartbeat, the Daytona 24 winner is usually 10 or 20 miles ahead of the nearest competitor.

Luyendyk is the only driver in history to win the Indianapolis 500 one year and capture the Rolex 24 the next. He won the 1997 Indy 500, then claimed Daytona's sportscar endurance classic last year. He returns to Daytona as defending race champion.

"It's no problem to adapt," said Luyendyk, who will run the Indy 500 then retire from open-wheel driving. "You adapt to different tracks, different speeds and different cars. They are totally different cars. There's some oval at Daytona, but it's relatively easy to go flat out on the oval part. You go much faster and stay busier at Disney."

Paul is one of the best ever at jockeying both Indy Racing League cars and sports cars. He has scored a pair of Rolex 24 victories and broke into the Indy Racing League winner's circle last year at the Lone Star 500 in Texas. Paul's first victory at Daytona was with his father, John Paul Sr., in a Porsche in 1982. His latest came in 1997 driving a Riley & Scott Mark III Can-Am powered by a Ford engine.

"Driving a sports car and IRL car are definitely different," said Paul Jr., who's expected to make a serious run at the Pep Boys Indy Racing League championship this season. "I remember at Charlotte Motor Speedway last year, I switched my line in the banking sometimes three or four times. You can't do that in a sports car or stock car. You commit to one line and stay put."

As for Luyendyk's plans this year, he'll be a driver consultant to the Treadway Racing tandem of Jason Leffler and Sam Schmidt and sponsor spokeman for the team, and make his farewell run in the Indy 500. In 2000, he's considering starting his own sports car endurance team to run at Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans.

"The Indianapolis 500 is the best race in the world," said Luyendyk. "The 24 Hours of Daytona and Sebring, they've been around so long, they're classic events. They have a lot of history to them.

"As a race car driver, it's a race you want to win, like the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It's another one of those races. There's a possibility in the future, I'm going to concentrate on that. Not this year, but next year, I want to put together a real good deal for that."

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