Arizona Republic from Phoenix, Arizona on June 14, 1997 · Page 58
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Arizona Republic from Phoenix, Arizona · Page 58

Phoenix, Arizona
Issue Date:
Saturday, June 14, 1997
Page 58
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Saturday, June 14, 1997 The Arizona Republic C2I MOTORSPORTS n Armijo's picks Miller 400 Winner: Jeff Burton. Jeff Gordon has won of 6 of 13 and four of the past seven races. But he's also never won at Michigan International Speedway. Canadian Grand Prix Winner: Jacques Villeneuve. But don't overlook Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher. Schumacher has three wins, but also three DNF's. Pennzoil Excitement Nationals Winner: Kenny Bernstein (top fuel). Dean Skuza (funny car). Warren Johnson (pro stock). . n u n n The Arizona Republic MARK ARMUO The Arizona Republic 111 I 5 UUl 115 ' Jul. s A ' k , V. V Luyendyk, Foyt deserve1 penalties Two suggestions. After five straight wins by Championship Auto Racing Teams drivers Paul Tracy and Greg Moore, why not change it to Canadian Auto Racing Teams? As for the Indy Racing League, Indy Rasslin' League has a nice ring to it, don't you think? Although U.S. Auto Club officials likely won't decide what penalties, if any, to hand A.J. Foyt and Arie Luyendyk for a one-sided post-race scuffle, following a controversial finish in an 1RL race last week at Texas Motor Speedway, this corner believes some type of discipline is needed. Yes, Luyendyk was wrong and should be reprimanded for entering the victory lane celebration involving Foyt and initial winner Billy Boat. But Foyt overreacted when back-handing Luyendyk and knocking him to the ground. Foyt should be heavily fined. A slap on the wrist won't cut it, not with IRL still battling a credibility problem. While no one should forget the double white-flag fiasco that plagued an Australian CART race earlier this season, the fledgling IRL can't afford embarrassing incidents such as what occurred on the final lap of the Indianapolis 500 and the scoring malfunction at Texas. "What happened has nothing to do with the integrity of (the IRL)," IRL Executive Vice President Cary Agajanian said. "Every organization, whether it's the (National Football League), CART, NASCAR or us, makes mistakes. It happens." Still, because of the snafus, rumors are rampant the IRL soon will replace USAC with its own in-house officiating arm. One IRL source said the league was hoping to wait until after this season to replace USAC. But what happened at Indy and Texas prioritized the change. Slim fast Since Connie Kalitta decided to take a '" leave of absence in April to concentrate on his air-cargo business, son Scott Kalitta has made the most of the slimmed-down team. Scott ended an 1 1 -month victory drought two months ago and is optimistic as the season enters its halfway point. "It's starting to become fun again," the . younger Kalitta said. "One car is easier than two." Kalitta also has lost 30 pounds in the offseason, allowing him to race within 10 pounds of the minimum car-and-driver weight limit of 2,100 pounds. And Kalitta credits new crew chief Ed McCulloch for the turnaround. McCulloch replaced Dick LaHaie, who recently left the team. "Dick was really intense," Kalitta said. "Ed is a little bit easier to work with." ill 713 A. J. Foyt After his scuffle with Arie Luyendyk in Texas, the Indy Racing League is looking more like the World ' Wrestling Federation. Homesteading Welcome to Indianapolis West, home for Indy Racing League's Luyendyk (Scotts-dale), Boat (Glendale) and Billy Roe (Gilbert). The Valley also is well-represented by transplanted Championship Auto Racing Teams drivers Paul Tracy of Parker and Scottsdale, P.J. Jones of Scottsdale and Mark Blundell of Paradise Valley. Adrian Fernandez also is moving to the Valley in October after the CART season. Fernandez, a native of Mexico, is moving from West Bloomfield, Mich., because "it's too cold back there." Blundell, a native of England, moved here from Florida four months ago and is living in a house owned by CART car owner Bruce McCaw. McCaw bought the home four years ago, but only lives part-time in the Valley. "I'm in the process of buying a house in Scottsdale, just a few hundred yards from Arie," Blundell said. "I first came here in 1991 for the Formula One race and it struck me as a great place. There seems to be a lot of stuff to do. Florida is a little too humid." Around the circuit Individual race tickets to Phoenix International Raceway's five 1997-98 races go on sale June 24 at 8 a.m. More than $80,000 in counterfeit merchandise and cash, as well as three vehicles used to transport the items, were confiscated by local authorities and Texas Motor Speedway officials during the the IRL race week. Kmart and Dura-Lube will jointly sponsor PIR's NASCAR Winston Cup race Nov. 2. When will Formula One officials stop stepping on their tongues? The CBC asked Moore to replace Jackie Stewart as a commentator for Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix, but F-I officials protested because Moore drives for CART. Please. Blundell, however, got no such treatment when it was learned he would be helping out the BBC's team. . m aiOTMDire savors win By Mark Armljo The Arizona Republic When a driver has gone where Whit Bazemore has gone, which is on a journey to the darkest corners of the sport, winning always beomes sweeter. So it was with little surprise that Bazemore jubilantly welcomed career National Hot Rod Association Funny Car victory No. 1 two weeks ago at Topeka, Kan. You wait nine seasons to taste the moment, and the emotions are bound to build. "It was like we knocked 10 monkeys off our back," said Bazemore, who made it into the championship round for only the second time in his career. Hard to believe that six years ago, Bazemore hated drag racing. Absolutely loathed it. So disenchanted with the sport was Bazemore, he used to go to bed at night hoping the alarm clock wouldn't go off race mprning. "Driving scared the hell out of me," Bazemore said. "I woke up every day of a race praying it would be raining so I wouldn't have to drive." Bazemore, 34, got up anyway. Now, a team of Clydesdales couldn't drag the Indianapolis driver away from the dragstrip. "I enjoy it so much that if I couldn't race, it would upset me a lot," Bazemore said. "I couldn't take it." Different story in 1991. "There were a lot of times back then when I didn't like racing," Bazemore said. "I mean, it's a hard job sometimes. These cars can scare the hell out of you. Driving made me uncomfortable." No wonder. ' Two major fires early in his Funny Car career nearly left Bazemore shellshocked and unwilling to continue. "I didn't like being involved in something that was beyond my control," Bazemore said. "I didn't like being in a burning car going 240 miles per hour. It got to me." Somehow, however, Bazemore found the strength to tough it out. "I made myself go on," Bazemore said. "I think I kept going because of a fear of MA - , n " VST W- ,Jh v; t ;, -y j. After nine years of racing in the NHRA, Whit Bazemore finally got a victory. He reached the point a few years ago of de testing his job as a driver, but perseverance kicked in and he kept racing despite two accidents. Bazemore is loving the sport now, and that win should keep him going. Special for The Republic failure. I just couldn't let myself quit without having success. "I don't know how healthy that kind of thinking is. It's probably not really right to think that way. But I enjoy racing 200 percent more than I used to." Until two weeks ago, however, Baze-more's enjoyment hadn't transferred into wins. That part wasn't very enjoyable at all. It got so discouraging, Bazemore began to question his ability. "I've always been confident, almost to the point of cockiness," said Bazemore, who for many years raced with a smaller budget until bagging a major sponsor (Team Winston) last season. "I knew I had what it took. But it doesn't matter what you think, what matters is 'the results. If you don't win, you're not good. It's black and white. "So, when I wasn't winning all these years, it's easy to find yourself thinking, 'What's wrong with me? Why can't I do this as well as John Force?' I had a huge desire to win. But it just didn't happen for a long time." Worse, when a second motorcycle accident last season forced Bazemore to miss the final three races of the season because of a broken left leg and serious knee injuries, relief driver Dale Pulde stepped in and won at Dallas. Talk about an inferiority complex. "I'll admit, that was a little difficult for me," said Bazemore, fifth in the driver's standings entering the Pontiac Excitement Nationals on Sunday at Columbus, Ohio. "I was happy for the team because it's my team. They are guys I hired. "We started at zero nine years ago and built this team up. Then, to win, no matter who was driving, was a good feeling. But, yes, it was definitely on my mind that Dale had won and I hadn't." ; After recovering from an eight-week hospital stay, Bazemore entered this season determined to end the winless drought. Bazemore . made it to the semifinals in two of the first national events of the season, including the ATSCO Nationals at Firebird International Raceway Park, then he hit a rough stretch in which he couldn't advance past the second round until Topeka. Then just like that, it all came together. Bazemore unleashed four straight 300 mph passes during final eliminations. New chemistry fuels Team KranefussHaas By Mark Arm i jo The Arizona Republic Ask NASCAR Winston Cup car owner Michael Kranefuss to describe the difference separating this season from last season and he'll give two. Jeremy Mayfield and Paul Andrews. Mayfield, who replaced John Andretti late last season, is 10th in the driver's standings entering the Miller 400 on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway. Andrews, who came aboard this season, is a seasoned crew chief, having played a large role in helping the late Alan Kulwicki capture the 1992 driving championship. Together, Mayfield and Andrews have given Team KranefussHaas what it apparently didn't have last season: chemistry. A year ago, the word wasn't in the team's vocabulary. "Things had pretty much broken down between me and John and (former chief mechanic) Tim Brewer," said Kranefuss, who shares co-ownership with Carl Haas. "I realized too late how bad it was. We kept talking and talking, and we'd go to the racetrack and see some improvements. "Then, two weeks later, it was same old, same old. This is a professional sport. There are people (sponsors) expecting better things from us than ending up in the wall. "That's the difference between (Andretti) and Jeremy. When you give Jeremy a bad car, he doesn't wreck. He just backs off. With John, he still was trying to win, and it was costly for the team." ' ' , . ) i - j) , , ; I ' l 11 i i 1 Jeremy Mayfield In the end, it cost Andretti his job. In 53 starts for Kranefuss spanning two seasons, Andretti had seven top-10 finishes and 17 races in which he didn't finish because of accidents or mechanical failures.. In 20 starts, Mayfield already has five top-10 finishes. But it's unfair to place all the blame on Andretti, who, ironically, replaced Mayfield on the team owned by Cale Yarborough. Although Andretti wound up 30th in the final driver's standings, much of a team's performance is based on compatibility and its ability to communicate, not just driving talent. Some combinations work, some don't. "It didn't work out with John and this race team, but I really believe a driver has to be with the right team," said Mayfield, who only had three top-10 finishes in 62 starts for Yarborough. "Dale Jarrett is a prime example. Look what he's done since going to (car owner Robert Yates)." And look what's happened to Mayfield, who sees more than a light at the end of a tunnel. He sees a trophy with his name on it. "Realistically, we thought we were a year (away) from winning at the beginning of the season," Mayfield said. "But we've got a lot of the mechanical stuff fixed that we were having problems with, and I really feel like we can go to Michigan and win." DRIVER STANDINGS Wlniton&ip Dmg&acing i NHRA Winston Cup Points Top Fuel: Points 1. Terry Labonte 1,955 1. Gary Scelzi ' '! 844 (tie) Jeff Gordon 1,955 2. JoeAmato 687 3. Mark Martin 1,894 3. Kenny Bernstein 549 4. Dale Jarrett 1,826 Funny Car: , 5. Jeff Burton 1,772 1. John Force 747 6. Dale Earnhardt 1,687 2. Randy Anderson 567 7. Bobby Labonte 1,602 3.' Chuck Etchells 566 8. Ricky Rudd ' 1,586 Pro Stock: 9. Michael Waltrip 1,508 1. Jim Yates :' 787 10. Jeremy Mayfield . 1,467 2. Warren Johnson 754 3. Kurt Johnson 649 , . . . Grand National Indy Racing League Pmnt, 1. Mike Groff ul NASCAR Grand National Points 2. Davey Hamilton 143 1- Randy LaJoie 2,218 3. Buzz Calkins 137 2- Todd Bodine 2,208 4. Tony Stewart 133 3. Phil Parsons 1,990 5. Marco Greco 131 Jeff Green 1,898 5. Steve Park 1,816 CART Points Formula One 1. Paul Tracy 94 Formula One pojnts 2. Michael Andretti ,86 i Jacques Villeneuve 30 ' 3. ; Greg Moore 85 2. Michael Schumacher 27 4. Jimmy Vasser 69 3 Oliver Panis 15 5. AlexZanardi 67 4 Eddie Irvine 14 Sources : Associated Press, Indy Racing League 5. David Coulthard 11 The Arizona Republic RACES ON TV NASCAR: Winston Cup Miller 400 . TV: 10 a.m., Sunday, CBS Defending champion: Rusty Wallace Site: Brooklyn, Mich. Race is No. 14 of 32 this season, scheduled for 200 laps (400 miles) over 2-mile Michigan International Speedway oval. Skinny; It pays to start near the front at Roger Penske's racetrack in the Michigan countryside. Of Winston Cup's 55 career races there, 49 winners have started from the first five rows, and 36 have started from the first two rows. Thirteen winners have started from the pole. But over the last 10 races, only winners Rusty Wallace and Bobby Labonte have repeated. Wallace; however, isn't exactly on a tear. He has six DNFs in 13 starts this season. Opposite Wallace is Mark Martin, who has seven straight top-five finishes. FORMULA ONE: Canadian Grand Prix TV: 9:45 a.m. Sunday, ESPN2 Defending champion: Damon Hill Site: Montreal, Canada Race is No. 7 of 17 this season, scheduled for 69 laps (189.543 miles) over 2.747-mile Gilles Villeneuve road course. Skinny: The twisting circuit favors cars that can brake and accelerate in and out of turns, which could mean bad news for Williams-Renault driver Jacques Villeneuve. Villeneuve's focus also may come into play as he has to deal with off-track ordeals this week. Because he has openly criticized new technical and safety rules scheduled to be implemented next season, Villeneuve was summoned to Paris on Wednesday to meet with the sport's governing body, the International Automobile Federation. Still, this is Villeneuve's home track (it is named after his late father), and he finished second here last season. ,' Michigan Speedway This facility is recognized of motorsports' premier speedways partly because of its wide racing surface and , high banking. ' Miller 400 Defending champ: Rusty Wallace Race record: Rusty Wallace, 166.033 mph, set June 23,1996 Qualifying record: Jeff Gordon, 186.611 mph, set June 16, 1995 . I j0S Turn 4 " . trStainlsh Pitarea A It iuiii i limn iBiiyiu. c nines s ff Banking: Straights; Front -12, jm2 Jf l Back-5, Corners-1 8 S CvK Turn 2 ?' MICHIGAN, Lansing . - Associated Press

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