Monday, August 12, 2002

Tire blisters bounce Scheckter on lap 90


Kentucky Speedway notebook

By Dustin Dow, ddow@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[img]
Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series Kentucky 100 winner A. J. Foyt IV (left) gets a hug from his grandfather, Indianapolis 500 winner A. J. Foyt Jr., after the race at the Kentucky Speedway.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        SPARTA, Ky. — Tomas Scheckter brought his No. 52 Red Bull car from a lap down to 11th place in Sunday's Belterra Casino Indy 300 when his tires gave out — and he spun out.

        Scheckter's tires developed blisters, according to Airton Dare, who drove the No. 14 Harrah's car behind Scheckter. Dare notified his spotter that Scheckter's Firestone tires had blisters, but Scheckter never got the message. He spun 180 degrees, taking himself and Dare out of the race on lap 90 at Kentucky Speedway.

        “I thank Dare for trying to notify me,” Scheckter said. “I don't know why it wasn't communicated to me. That's what I'm trying to find out.”

        A Red Bull crew member approached Scheckter outside of the medical tent and told him that Firestone officials could not know for sure whether the tire had blisters until it was examined closer.

        “They're just trying to save themselves,” Scheckter responded. “Obviously, we need to sit down with Firestone and figure out why this is happening.”

        Scheckter had similar problems three races ago at Kansas Speedway when his tires blistered 10 laps from the finish, causing him to crash. He finished 15th in that race after starting from the pole.

        Firestone officials said throughout the weekend that high track temperatures caused tread temperatures to exceed boiling water levels. The temperature at the start of the race was 87 degrees and track temperature was 122 degrees.

        “When you combine that heat with the loading factors generated by cars on this track, you're asking a lot from a tire,” said Page Mader, manager of race tire development for Firestone.

        For the eighth time this season, Scheckter failed to finish a race either because of an accident or mechanical problems. That's a sore point for his team owner, Eddie Cheever, who added Buddy Rice to the squad before the last race at Michigan, July 28.

        Scheckter responded by winning the Michigan Indy 400, but Cheever, who himself races for Red Bull/Cheever, decided to keep three drivers for this week's event.

        “There's no bad blood between me and Tomas because of it,” Rice said. “It's just good competition.”

        STRUGGLES AT THE TOP: It was a difficult weekend for Team Penske's Gil de Ferran, who entered the race atop the IRL standings, but fell to third behind Sam Hornish Jr. and teammate Helio Castroneves following a 21st-place finish.

        De Ferran damaged the front of his Marlboro car after contacting Richie Hearn on lap 24, sending Hearn into the wall and out of the race with a broken right foot. De Ferran completed just 172 of 200 laps.

        INFINITI RACE: AJ Foyt IV held off Ed Carpenter to win the Infiniti Pro Series 100. The two drivers traded the lead four times during the 67-lap race, but Foyt led for the last 11 laps.

        The win was Foyt's third in four races. Cory Witherill, who finished third, is the only other IPS driver to win this season.

       



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