IIRNLS Briefs:/I Wattles Retires
June 15, 2001 | 4:30 P.M. EST
That’s how the 39-year-old describes his sudden retirement from the Indy Racing Northern Light Series.
"I came into this year with all the right stuff," said Wattles, who competed in three races this season under the Hemelgarn Racing banner. "I had great equipment, an awesome team and the opportunity to compete for the reigning IRL champions, Hemelgarn Racing, but unfortunately the luck of racing was absent."
Wattles, of Sewall’s Point, Fla., competed in the first three IRNLS events of the year. His best finish was a 12th at Atlanta. He crashed out of contention at Phoenix and Homestead, and failed to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 after crashing twice in practice and qualifications.
"I've thought long and hard about retiring," Wattles said. "After having been beat up emotionally, physically and financially for long enough, it's time. I've got a wonderful wife, two adorable children and endless opportunities. I have nothing to prove. I love the speed, the balance and the skill that it takes to handle an Indy car. It's in my blood and always will be.
"But given the luck I have had in IRL competition, I think someone is trying to tell me that it's time to move on. The fun has definitely gone."
Wattles won’t be out of the picture entirely, however. He plans to remain in the IRNLS as an owner with Ron Hemelgarn at Hemelgarn-Metro Racing.
The team, which has carried No. 92, will return to action in July with a driver to be named later.
Wattles started 17 IRNLS races in his career, with a best finish of eight at Texas in 1998 and in Las Vegas in 1997.
“The Indy Racing League is an exciting concept, one that allowed me the opportunity to compete in the Indy-car ranks,” Wattles said. “I want to extend my appreciation to Tony George and the entire Hulman-George family for developing such a series."
Cahill Withdraws: When Robby McGehee and Greg Ray got together at the Casino Magic 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night, it forced McGehee to the sidelines and his team to find a suitable replacement.
Apparently the latter did not happen. Indy Racing Northern Light Series team Cahill Racing has withdrawn its entry for the Radisson Indy 200 at Pikes Peak International Raceway, leaving 21 cars entered.
McGehee broke his lower left leg and suffered a concussion in the accident, which started when race leader Ray tried to pass him on the low side on the backstretch. McGehee and Ray made contact, sending both cars out of control and into the path of Eddie Cheever Jr.
McGehee was taken to nearby Parkland Hospital, where he underwent surgery to repair his leg.
Hearn in for Hamilton: He may not like the circumstances, but Richie Hearn has a ride for this weekend’s IRNLS race at Pikes Peak.
“This is certainly not the way you want to get a ride, but I am appreciative of the opportunity,” Hearn said. “I’ve worked with crew chief Mark Killgo before, and have known both Larry Nash and engineer Tim Neff as well, so it’s a good group of guys.
“It’s going to be a busy two days. We could all use some solid results, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Hearn, who has one IRNLS win to his credit from 1996, will replace the injured Davey Hamilton in Sam Schmidt Motorsports’ No. 99.
Team owner Sam Schmidt has his thoughts with Hamilton, who was injured Saturday night at Texas, but said he had to carry on.
“This is the hard part about being a team owner,” Schmidt said. “My concern and focus has been and will continue to be on Davey’s recovery. However, we also need to continue to honor the commitments we have made to our sponsors and to the (Sam Schmidt Paralysis) Foundation.
“I have asked Richie to drive the car because he has done a ton of testing on ovals and with the two-day schedule we needed as much experience as possible. Besides that, Richie is very motivated to do well. He genuinely wants a career in the Indy Racing League and needs the chance to prove himself.”
Primus Racing Buys F2000: The U.S. F2000 National Championship Series has been sold to Primus Racing Ltd., it was announced Friday.
Primus Racing, owned and operated by Tampa Bay businessman Jon Baytos, purchased Formula Motorsports from the original owners, Mike Foschi and Dan Andersen. Formed in 1991, Formula Motorsports created the U.S. F2000 National Championship and has operated it for the past 10 years. During this period the series has established itself as the preeminent open-wheel training series in North America.
"It has been an enjoyable 10 years," Andersen said. "I will miss the entire U.S. F2000 family of staff, teams and drivers. I look forward to watching the continued growth of the series under Jon's leadership."
The U.S. F2000 Hall of Fame includes Greg Ray, Memo Gidley, Greg Moore, Steve Knapp and Sam Schmidt.
"I am excited about running this fantastic series," Baytos said. "Dan (Andersen) and Mike (Foschi) created a series that gave young drivers a place to develop into the future stars of motorsports. I'm looking forward to enhancing this proven formula, and continuing to watch the stars of tomorrow race in the U.S. F2000 National Championship."
The 2001 U.S. F2000 National Championship runs Rounds 9 and 10 on July 8 at Road America on the 4-mile road course.