Sunday, September 17, 2000

Auto Racing Insider

Formula One's first visit to Indy sold out

        Let's say that, on a whim, you might head over to the Formula One race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway next Sunday (Sept. 24). If so, be advised that there are zero tickets remaining. That includes general admission.

        “The race is a complete sellout,” said Ron Green, an Indy Racing League official. “There were $30 general admission tickets available, but they are all gone now.”

        The race, officially the SAP United States Grand Prix, is the first Formula One race in the United States since 1991.

        The 200,000 seats along Indy's new 2.61-mile road course range in price from $45 to $150, and were sold months ago.

        Formula One, the world's most prestigious racing circuit, rarely ventures out of Europe. F-1 left the United States nine years ago to public indifference, but the corporate-driven juggernaut long ago reserved most of Indianapolis' hotel rooms for the coming weekend.

        General admission tickets remain available for practices on Friday, Sept. 22 and qualifications on Saturday, Sept. 23. Single-day general admission tickets are $10 on Friday and $20 for Saturday, and must be purchased at the gate.

        MARIO RETURNS: The average racing fan can reel off the great F1 names of the past, such as Jackie Stewart, Nigel Mansell and Ayrton Senna. The greatest of them all, at least to many U.S. fans, is coming back for another ride.

        Mario Andretti, who won the F1 championship in 1978, will compete in preliminary races at the speedway next weekend.

        The 60-year-old Andretti, one of the most diversified and accomplished drivers ever, also has won the NASCAR Daytona 500 (1967), the Indy 500 (1969) and the 12 Hours of Sebring (1967, '70, '72).

        Andretti and Al Unser Jr. will be among competitors in the Porsche Pirelli Supercup races at the speedway on Saturday (3 p.m.) and Sunday (9:20 a.m.).“It's interesting, because I never imagined driving on a Formula One course in Indianapolis,” Andretti said. “The track is not the normal F1 road course. You go from very quick to very slow. I tested there ... it's very demanding.”

        The Porsche Pirelli Supercup is the world's fastest international single-marque sports car series, according to race promoters. Drivers compete in technically identical Porsche 911 GT# Cup sports cars in sprint races of approximately 43.5 miles.

        The Porsche races are a support series for the F1 circuit.

        COUNTERPOINT: There were complaints about the traffic near Kentucky Speedway after its Indy Racing League event Aug.27, but not everyone had trouble.

        E-mail from Dave Jameson of Highland Heights, Ky.: “We put up with bad traffic at the exit road, but we were home in an hour and 15 minutes. I have never done that well at other events.”

        BREAK'S OVER: Michael Waltrip is winless in 454 NASCAR Winston Cup starts. He leads active drivers in most Winston starts without a victory.

        But now, with Dale Earnhardt having signed Waltrip to drive for his DEI team in 2001, it's a different story. At least it had better be. “The pressure is on him to win,” Earnhardt told reporters last week. “He has a lot of credits to his name and the mix is there, so he is definitely going to be a winner.”

        Waltrip is an old friend of Earnhardt's. He's also an extremely nice guy, one of the most popular drivers in the garage, and brother of three-time Winston champion Darrell Waltrip.

        He also has no more leeway. Earnhardt's other drivers, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Steve Park, both have won their first Winston Cup races in 2000.



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