Sunday, July 02, 2000

SPEEDWAY NOTEBOOK


Track gets thumbs up from IRL's George

By Tom Groeschen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SPARTA, Ky. — Tony George, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO and founder of the Indy Racing League, visited Kentucky Speedway on Saturday as several IRL cars practiced.

        The IRL makes its debut here Aug. 27 with a 300-mile race, the first of a three-year deal with Kentucky Speedway.

TODAY'S SCHEDULE
  • Gates open, 10 a.m.
  • IRL testing, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • Winston Cup/IRL autographs, 3:30-5 p.m.
  • Celebrity Legends race featuring Winston drivers Jeremy Mayfield, Steve Park, Kenny Wallace and Michael Waltrip, 5:30-7 p.m.
  • ARCA Kentucky 150, 7:30 p.m.
  •New parking areas
        George, who made his first visit here in May, said he was impressed with several of what he called “non-traditional” innovations at the Kentucky track.

        “I like how they angled the garages so the fans can see the crews working on the cars,” said George, standing outside the IRL garage area. “The track looks nice.”

        George, a controversial figure since breaking away from CART to form the IRL in 1996, said he does not expect a unification of the series. Such hopes were raised in the aftermath of the forced resignation of Andrew Craig, the CART CEO, on June 16.

        George said since then, he twice has talked with Bobby Rahal, interim CEO of CART and the 1986 Indy 500 winner.

        “We spoke, but there was nothing significant for the short term,” George said. “Both series are so established now, it's really two different companies with two different philosophies.”

        George said he will continue to welcome CART teams back to the Indianapolis 500. CART teams boycotted the race from 1996-99 in protest of George and the IRL, but there was a thaw this year when CART's Target-Ganassi team entered — and won — the race.

        Rahal said he wants George to know CART is open to dialogue that would bring the two sides closer.

        “By keeping our schedule open, we can at least participate at Indy, and that truly is the race that is important to our teams and increasingly important to our sponsors,” Rahal said.

        LOCALS MAKE IT: Local driver Willie Green (Edgewood, Ky.) qualified his No.94 Wildwood Inn Ford 24th for tonight's ARCA race. Green is the transportation director for Covington Public Schools.

        Green, 36, a Scott High School graduate, replaced Jeff Alsip as driver on the Master Motorsports team Saturday. The Walton, Ky.-based team is managed by Bill Green, Willie's father.

        Alsip crashed the team's primary car in practice Friday. The team's backup car belongs to Willie Green, who originally was Alsip's crew chief. They agreed to switch roles Saturday.

        “It's Willie's car, and I didn't want anything else to happen,” said Alsip, a 39-year-old Simon Kenton grad.

        Many ARCA cars are used Winston Cup models, and Green's car Saturday was a Darrell Waltrip/Travis Carter “Big K-Mart Ford” car from 1999. Bill Green is an old friend of Waltrip.

        Waltrip is a paid consultant to Speedway chairman Jerry Carroll.

        “There's a story for you,” Bill Green said. “This is Darrell Waltrip's racetrack, and now he has a car in the race here.”

        UC GRAD MAKES IT: ARCA qualifiers Saturday included Matt Hutter, a University of Cincinnati graduate who will start ninth tonight. Hutter, 29, is from Chardon, Ohio.

        NO LIVE TV: Tonight's ARCA race will not be on live television, but the Speedvision network will be taping the race and airing it three times: July 21 at 9 p.m., July 22 at 1 a.m., and July 24 at 1 p.m.

        Speedvision is available on Time-Warner Cable of Cincinnati and Insight Communications in Northern Kentucky via digital service.

        OPEN MIKE NIGHT: The IRL's Pennzoil Panther Racing team is holding auditions to replace driver Scott Goodyear, whose contract was not renewed for 2001 by mutual agreement.

        Goodyear will finish the 2000 season in the Pennzoil car but is mulling retirement from Indy racing, Pennzoil team manager John Barnes said.

        Saturday, IRL rookie Sam Hornish Jr. turned laps at Kentucky Speedway in the Pennzoil car. Alex Barron gets his chance today, and others will audition in coming weeks.

       



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