1996 Indy 500 winner Buddy Lazier is one of the favorites going into the month of May.
This is the prize 33 drivers will compete for come May 26 at Indianapolisthe Borg-Wa
Eddie Cheever, the 1998 Indy winner, will carry Infiniti power against the onslaught of ne
Heres the new kid in townChevrolets new Indy V-8 engine. It replaces the
Defending IRL series champ Sam Hornish is another one of the favorites for this year.
Last year, it was Helio Castro-Neves taking the checkered flag first for team owner Roger
There are few more electrifying moments in sport than the start at Indianapolis.
The 86th running of the worlds most famous race will be one that will likely answer some questions about the future of Indy car racing for the foreseeable future.
With the addition of defending Indianapolis 500 winner Marlboro Team Penske as a full-time Indy Racing League participant, the 2002 Indianapolis 500 will likely be the most anticipated since 1995, the last year Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc. participated in the May classic on anything other than a piecemeal basis.
Since last years running of the Worlds Greatest Race, many things have happened that have clarified the picture going forward in the sport. The IRL has taken over former CART events at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Michigan Speedway, Nazareth Speedway and California Speedway, and the decision by Penske to come to the IRL full time has left CART without one of its primary backers in Marlboro. Mo Nunn, another CART stalwart and the technical genius behind Target Chip Ganassi Racings domination of CART, has taken his team from CART to IRL, and Team Rahal principals Bobby Rahal and David Letterman return to Indianapolis with Jimmy Vasser behind the wheel of a Miller Lite-sponsored machine. Several others have developed Indy-only programs designed to take advantage of the worldwide drawing power of Indianapolis.
As for the event itself, the Indy 500 is in fine shape, thank you. The annual sell-out of tickets has continued unabated, despite predictions from the CART faithful that the grand old race would die on the vine. As a result, 400,000 people jam the 460-acre facility every Memorial Day weekend for the race.
Penske Stays: Last year, Penske engineered a one-off try at his 11th Indianapolis 500 title and brought it home with driver Helio Castro-Neves. The Brazilian rookie was the eighth first-year driver to win the 500 and the second straight following Juan Montoyas 2000 triumph for Ganassi. The last time that happened at Indy was in 1926-27, when Frank Lockhart and George Souders won as rookies. For Penske, his 11th triumph occurred in his 27th try at Indy, which is a winning percentage of .407.
Castro-Neves nipped Penske teammate and defending CART champion Gil de Ferran at the line by 1.7373 seconds, giving the all-time leader in victories as a car owner his first Indy victory since 1994. That was the last year Team Penske competed at Indianapolis, as both Al Unser Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi failed to qualify in 1995.With so much news being generated by CART teams switching over to the IRL after six years of internecine warfare between the two groups, its easy to overlook the IRL teams that regularly challenge for both the Indy crown and the season championship. Former winners Buddy Lazier (1996), Arie Luyendyk (1990, 1997) and Eddie Cheever (1998) will likely contend, as will two-time winner Unser Jr. (1992, 1994), defending Indy Racing League champion Sam Hornish and two-time pole winner Greg Ray. Ray left Team Menard last year in the midst of a personality conflict and landed with Fort Wayne, Ind., car dealer Tom Kelleys potent Kelley Racing team alongside last years pole winner Scott Sharp.
Bow Tie Back at Indy: Perhaps the biggest news from a technical standpoint this year has been the engine manufacturer campaign, which has seen Chevrolet step in to replace Oldsmobile as the primary engine supplier for the series along with Infiniti. Toyota will join the series in 2003, coming over from CART.
With the demise of the Oldsmobile brand last year, Chevrolet stepped in to once again become the point division for General Motors racing efforts in Indy cars. From 1986 to 1993, Chevrolet engines won 86 Indy car races, 80 poles and five CART championships.
From 1988 to 1993, the Chevrolet Indy V-8 engine was the class of the Indy field, winning six consecutive 500s in its various configurations. The engine was the brainchild of Ilmor Engineering, a collaboration of General Motors, Roger Penske and engine builders Paul Morgan and Mario Illien, and it was everything General Motors wanted it to be. The previous 10 Indy races (1978-1987) had been won by Ford-based Cosworth engines, pointing up the need for Chevrolet to get to Indy in a hurry. It did, winning in 1988 with Rick Mears. The last driver to win Indy in a Chevrolet-powered car was Emerson Fittipaldi in 1993.
Ironically, Ilmor ended Chevrolets streak in 1994 with a super-secret 209ci pushrod V-8 brought to life by Penske, who took advantage of loopholes in the stock-block engine regulations to build the powerful engine. The little 209, which pushed Penskes cars to trap speeds of better than 250 mph, got 55 inches of turbocharger boost pressure, the same as the venerable V-6 Buick stock block and 10 more than the Ford Cosworth. Mercedes-Benz had purchased GMs 25-percent stake in Ilmor at the end of the 1993 season, depriving Chevy of the public-relations boon. The United States Auto Club, hoist on its own petard by Penskes sharp-eyed reading of the rule book, closed the loopholes for the stock blocks the following year, and the little 209 was retired to the dustbin.
GM Racing designed and developed the major components of the new Chevy Indy V-8 in-house using GM personnel and GMs technical resources. Joe Negri, GM Racings IRL/Road Racing Group manager, says the new Chevy engine is not an upgrade of the Oldsmobile Aurora V-8 that won 49 of 51 races in IRL competition. It is a major upgrade within the framework of the IRL rules, Negri said. Our dyno tests have already shown a significant improvement in performance.
GM Racings lead engine designer, Roger Allen, is the same man who led the design team on key components for the companys NASCAR, NHRA drag racing and road racing programs. He and his cohorts will design an all-new engine for 2003 that will be 30 pounds lighter and somewhat smaller than this years PowerPoint.
The new engine got its first on-track test in December, and defending IRL champion Sam Hornish reported the new PowerPoint already has 25 or 30 more horsepower than we had last year with the Oldsmobile.
Interesting Evolution: In 1977, the legendary A.J. Foyt earned his fourth Indy 500 triumph, the first driver in history to do so. His final 500 victory came at the wheel of a Foyt-built Coyote chassis powered by a Foyt engine, which was based on the eight-cylinder turbocharger Offenhauser. The Offy was a simple engine: the engine block and cylinder head were one piece, with no head gasket, and the block sat on a barrel-type crankcase. While it was the flower of 1930s technologyit was based on the four-cylinder Miller engines of that erait had reached the end of its developmental potential. The four-cam Ford engine of the mid- to late 60s was the first challenge to the Offys superiority, followed by the Cosworth engine brought to Indy for the first time in 1977 by Texan Jim Hall. Foyts was the last Offy-type engine to win at Indy. This year at Indy, its either the new Chevrolet or a new Infiniti engine, with Toyota waiting in the wings. This is all normally aspirated technologythe same that is available in passenger cars today.