IRNLS News Notes: Buhl Joins Infiniti Al Jr. Loves Texas
June 2, 2000 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Buhl is tied with Scott Goodyear for second in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series standings with 112 points, 26 behind leader Buddy Lazier. Buhl won the season-opening Delphi Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway in his Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone.
But his backup car for the Indianapolis 500 had an Infiniti engine, and Steve Knapp qualified and drove that car to a 19th-place finish. Both Knapp and fifth-place Eddie Cheever Jr., the only other driver in the Indy field powered by Infiniti, were running at the finish. Buhl finished 26th at Indianapolis, completing just 99 laps due to an engine problem.
The Casino Magic 500 won't be Buhl's first race with an Infiniti engine. Infiniti powered him during the first two races of the 1999 season, as he finished 20th at Walt Disney World Speedway and third at Phoenix while driving for Sinden Racing Service, with Dreyer & Reinbold as a partner. Buhl was running at the finish of both races.
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing also has a business link to Infiniti. Team co-owner Dennis Reinbold owns two successful Infiniti dealerships in the Indianapolis area.
Al Jr. Sizes up Texas: Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. visited Texas Motor Speedway for the first time May 30 in preparation for his debut at the track in the Casino Magic 500 on June 10.
"This place is beautiful," Unser said. "The banking on the superspeedway will produce some really good wheel-to-wheel racing. The leaders in races here run side-by-side, and that makes for a great show for everyone."
Unser joined the Indy Racing Northern Light Series this season with Galles ECR Racing. He won the Vegas Indy 300 in April in the Galles ECR Racing Tickets.com Starz Encore Superpak G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone.
"It is pretty difficult to take a car that is pushing the envelope of technology to try to come up with a parity for everyone," Unser said. "But, I really think the Indy Racing Northern Light Series is doing the best job at this. I believe in this series, and really feel any of the cars that start the race in Texas has a shot to win it."
Hattori, Roe Racing at Texas: Shigeaki Hattori will make his Indy Racing Northern Light Series debut in the Casino Magic 500 on June 10 at Texas Motor Speedway, while veteran Billy Roe will return to the series at the race.
Hattori, from Okayama, Japan, will drive the EPSON G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone fielded by Treadway-Vertex Cunningham Racing. Hattori passed the Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program in April, but the team elected to run veteran Raul Boesel in the Indianapolis 500 to give Hattori more testing time to prepare for his debut.
Hattori will drive for the rest of the season as a Treadway teammate to Robby McGehee. Roe will drive at Texas for Logan Racing, owned by St. Louis chiropractor Dr. Jim Logan, an African-American. Logan Racing is the first team in Indy Racing Northern Light Series history owned by an African-American.
This will be the first Indy Racing start for Roe since the race in June 1998 at Texas, where he finished 20th for Blueprint Racing. Roe, from Gilbert, Ariz., has two career starts in the Indianapolis 500 with a best finish of 22nd in 1997.
eBay for Sam: Beginning June 1, Firestone Racing is putting up for Internet
auction a tire signed by more than 100 drivers, owners and dignitaries in both the Indy Racing Northern Light Series and CART, as well as several celebrities. All proceeds from the winning bid go to the Sam Schmidt Family Trust to aid Schmidt, an Indy Racing driver paralyzed in a testing accident in January at Walt Disney World Speedway. The authentic Firestone Firehawk racing radial display tire has been signed by nearly every current Indy Racing Northern Light Series and CART driver as well as luminaries like Indianapolis 500 winners Al Unser, A.J. Foyt, Johnny Rutherford and Mario Andretti, Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Tony George. Celebrity signatures include Paul Newman, Sylvester Stallone, Anthony Edwards and Ashley Judd. To bid on the tire, go to www.ebay.com and use the general search for "Firestone Indy display tire." Bidding runs from June 1-10.
Hot laps: The three members of popular musical group Big Head Todd and the
Monsters were honorary pit-crew members during the Indianapolis 500. Lead singer and guitarist Todd Park Mohr joined the crew of fellow Colorado resident Buzz Calkins, while bassist Rob Squires was on the crew of runner-up and Colorado resident Buddy Lazier. Drummer Brian Nevin was with the team of Donnie Beechler. Big Head Todd and the Monsters will play a concert at Pikes Peak International Raceway on June 18 immediately after the Radisson 200. The concert is free to all ticket holders.
Pennzoil Panther Racing, which fields a car for standout Scott Goodyear, plans to unveil a redesigned team Web site shortly. The site, www.pantherracing.com, will include RealAudio interviews with Goodyear, team co-owner Jim Harbaugh and other team members, a live shop cam, a team merchandise shop and personal race diaries from Goodyear and other team members.
RaceSearch.com Rookie of the Year points leader Jeret Schroeder visited the George H. Fisher School in Indianapolis on May 30, telling students the importance of school, reading, math and science. GTE Wireless, a business partner of the school, invited Schroeder to talk to the students.
Fifteen boys and girls from the Atkins Boys & Girls Club in Indianapolis were the guests of Mexmil and driver Stephan Gregoire on May 27-28 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for their strong performances in the "Race to Read" program, sponsored by Mexmil.