Goodyear Wins Pit Stop Contest Leffler Missing
May 26, 2000 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Twice a runner-up - by two of the three closest margins in Indianapolis 500 history - Goodyear wants every advantage he can get. And that means having a pit crew that doesn't waste time or make mistakes.
"These guys are the most important thing a team has and, as you saw, they do a great job," Goodyear said Thursday after his Panther Racing crew won - in record time - the annual pit stop contest following the final practice before Sunday's race.
"Obviously, there are a lot of pit stops on race day, so you really count on them," Goodyear said. "I told them, we'll get in fast, do a good job and leave quick. ... Drive-through service."
It was the second pit-stop victory for the Panther crew, which also won in 1998. Goodyear was race runner-up to Al Unser Jr. in 1992 by a record-low 0.043 seconds and was second to Arie Luyendyk in 1997 by 0.570 seconds.
On Thursday, the Goodyear crew's winning time to change four tires and simulate a full load of fuel was 11.19 seconds. Runner-up Robbie McGehee's time was 12.72 seconds, including a 3-second penalty for having a tire roll outside the marked pit box.
The previous record in the contest was 11.74 seconds by Danny Sullivan's crew in 1985.
No Favorite? How do you pick an Indianapolis 500 winner when the entire field is separated by less than four seconds?
You don't, at least not with any great certainty.
"Everybody on the grid, probably 80 percent have a real chance to win this race," said Airton Dare, one of seven rookies in Sunday's Indianapolis 500. "We proved that in Vegas the last race. We were leading with 30 laps to go and had a gearbox fail ... but we know we can run up to the front.
"I know that we can win this race if everything goes right," Dare said.
No rookie has won the race since Graham Hill in 1966.
Leffler Missing: Jimmy Kite pulled double duty in Thursday's practice, driving his own car and the one that will be driven in the race by rookie Jason Leffler.
"We just shook Jason's car down, made sure there were no vibrations above 200 mph, made sure it was ready to race, so it really wasn't a hard run," Kite said. "We got in a 208 lap, nothing crazy. It's not my job to put that thing up over 214."
Leffler was in Concord, N.C., for qualifying for a NASCAR Busch Grand National race on Saturday.
Kite, who will start on the ninth row Sunday, had top speeds of 214.713 mph in 29 laps in his own car and 208.583 in 11 laps in Leffler's car.
The fastest in practice was Juan Montoya at 218.257 mph.
"The car is really good," he said. "It is very comfortable to drive and very consistent. We made some final changes, and I think I've got a good race car now."