Battle Creek Enquirer from Battle Creek, Michigan on May 23, 1996 · Page 16
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Battle Creek Enquirer from Battle Creek, Michigan · Page 16

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Battle Creek, Michigan
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Thursday, May 23, 1996
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Page 16
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Battle Creek Enquirer Rookie leads Indy field Next 'Great One' racing at U.S. 500 1 V-I?"fc. Angelique S. Chengeus Gannett News Service BROOKLYN - His car number is 99, and in the sports world that can mean only one thing - The Great One" is driving. OK, so it isn't Wayne Gretzky, but it is Greg Moore, 21, a goalie-turned-racer who has quickly served notice he may be the next great IndyCar driver. In this, his rookie season, he is fourth in the point standings. And if his driving skills aren't enough to turn CTfW4CTT History shows 500's opening turn is dangerous Hank Lowenkron Die Associated Press INDIANAPOLIS - Skill and fate have put Tony Stewart, the fastest rookie qualifier in the history of the Indianapolis 500, in the pole position for Sunday's 80th running of the race. Stewart, who grew up less than an hour's drive from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, will have the challenge of trying to safely lead the flying start into the first turn, possibly the most jittery moment of the race. As history has shown, it's also one of the most dangerous moments. "I'm going to do exactly what the stewards ask, bring the field to the start at the speed they want with the 33 cars and three wide. Then, well go racing. I'm not interested in breaking away immediately," said Stewart, who inherited the inside front-row start after teammate Scott Brayton, the pole qualifier, was killed in practice. : As the second-fastest qualifier on the opening day of time trials, Stewart now gets the responsibility of leading the fastest Indy field in history, a 33- car lineup that averaged a record 227.807 mph, almost 1 mph quicker than the previous mark set last year. When the green flag falls, the front row of Stewart, Davy Jones and Eliseo Salazar will begin jockeying for position going into the initial turn at about 190 mph. The first lap is always the most dangerous," said Keith Ward, a longtime official at the race who is working as chief steward for the first time this year. "You've got a lot of cars to get through that number one turn. There's an awful lot of turbulence and things that guys don't experience day in and day out" There have been first-lap crashes five times in the past 14 years, including last year's six-car, first-turn melee that critically injured driver Stan Fox. The list includes Roberto Guerrero, who started the 1992 race on the pole after a record qualifying effort and never completed a lap. Guerrero's race ended on the parade lap when his car spun into the inside fence of turn two. One year earlier, Gary Bettenhausen spun to the inside of the track on the first lap and Buddy Lazier's first Indy start ended when he locked up his brakes to avoid the veteran's car and spun into the first turn wall. And in 1982, Kevin Cogan was in the middle of the front row at the start when his car veered to the outside and into four-time Indy 500 winner AJ. Foyt's car. That accident came on the pace lap, and the cars of Dale Whittington, Mario Andretti were also caught in the accident Foyt was the only driver able to get his car repaired to start the race, and he finished 19th. Perhaps the biggest accident to start the race came in 1973 when Salt Walther was badly burned in an accident that damaged 11 cars and injured 11 spectators, including nine who were taken to the hospital. The race was then rescheduled for the next day, but halted again by rain after two laps. Stewart who qualified at 233.100 mph, will be only the fourth rookie to start the Indy 500 on the pole. "This isn't the first time I'm starting a race on the pole," said Stewart, who last year became the only driver ever to win U.S. Auto Club sprint, midget and dirt car championships in the same season. "This may be the biggest race in the world, but you've got to treat it like it's another race. You get in your car, get strapped in and be ready to race when the flag flies," said Stewart, who knows he can't win the race on the first lap. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Rookie Tony Stewart keeps an eye on practice while sitting on te pit wall at the Speedway. f AUTO RACING heads, check out his hometown of Maple Ridge, British Columbia, where he still lives with his parents. Among its notable sports products are Colorado Rockies outfielder Larry Walker, the Boston Bruins' Greg Moore: Drives car No. 99 500 will have to do, however, since Moore, along with the regulars of the IndyCar series, are competing in that inaugural event Sunday at Michigan International Speedway. Tve been following him the whole time," Morrison said of Moore's racing career. "Auto racing is pretty crazy, but being a goalie is pretty crazy, and he did that, too. It takes a lot of nerve'tb stand in there and have pucks coming at you. It parallels racing, because you have to make snap decisions and react quickly." Moore had to make an important decision when he was 14. His father, Ric, wanted him to choose between hockey and racing, which he had picked up four years earlier. Moore was playing hockey five days a week and racing go-karts the other two days. Somehow, school had drifted in the background. The decision was fairly easy. Racing it was. Nothing seems to unsettle Moore, who appears bookish and more suited for studies at Oxford than the seat of a race car. He describes his driving style as aggressive, yet patient "Sort of a Rick Mears, Ayrton Senna cross," Moore said, laughing. That combination has served him well. He won the Indy Lights title last year in record fashion, taking 10 of the 12 races in his third year in the IndyCar feeder series. Fellow Canadian Paul Tracy held the previous record with nine victories. This year, competing for Player'sForsythe Racing in a Reynard-Mercedes-Benz, Moore is getting closer to that breakthrough race. He led the Rio 200 twice and was 18 laps from the victory when the car brushed the wall and subsequently had an engine problem. He arrives at MIS fresh from a career-high second at Nazareth, Pa i "I would be surprised if he didn't win a race before the year is out," Canadian driver Scott Goodyear said. Indianapolis 500: 1 1 a.m. Sunday (Ch. 13, 41). Fans say this year is different Cam Neely, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim's Paul Kariya and Michigan hockey standout Brendan Morrison, who scored the goal that clinched the NCAA championship two months ago. Considering that talent pool, it is even more impressive that Moore twice was named the town's athlete of the year. Moore, a goalie, played pee wee hockey with Kariya, winning the B.C. provincial championship. Moore's relationship with Morrison began a few years later in high school, and the two have remained in touch. They laugh now about what they scribbled in each other's yearbook - promises they probably thought were farfetched at the time. Morrison said he would give his friend tickets to the Stanley Cup playoffs when he finally made it, and Moore promised tickets to his first Indianapolis 500. Tickets to the U.S. U.S. 500: 2 p.m. Sunday (ESPN). Hamilton to her friends. "Last time, the drivers didn't have time to do that," Goode said. "You used to have to beg them to do anything like that, and now they're right here offering to do it" Eino Aaltonen of Lafayette agreed. "There's a nice brotherhood here now," he said. "Still a fierce competition, but a friendlier setup altogether." As they ran toward the man responsible for the transition, Jim Bourke and his sister, Kim Bentley, yelled out praises and asked for just one autograph. . "He's a god," Bourke said of George. "I admire him for trying to get racing back on track." Street vendors selling everything from Indianapolis 500 key chains and cigarette lighters to shirts and jackets say business is still booming. "On the weekend, you can really tell nothing has changed around here," said Dan Hatmaker, an Indiana State University sophomore. Kids lined the stands, catching drivers as they left the pits. "I'm just trying to get as many autographs as I can," said 11-year-old Paul Durant, counting the 16 names on his blue baseball cap. Doug Tattini of Indianapolis said he comes out at least once a year to watch practice. "I wouldn't miss coming out to see these guys, no matter who it is in the cars," Tattini said. "Right now, it's just like I remember it But it'll be real interesting to see what happens on race day." WHICH RACE WILL YOU WATCH? Will it be the Indy 500 or the U.S. 500? If you could only watch one, what would it be? Call us at 966-0678 and let us know (Callers must leave their name and phone number to have their results count.) rje - J r:ilir!HHiJt1HillAiti)iiTilJJ.WRlW7THl 1 V " hlHlllRiTTyTTiH.llf-.liiil M M Join Us For The BIG ONE... , Michigan Infl Speedway Brooklyn, Michigan Drug Pro I" M M m r sir? 4 Marcia Benedict Tlie Associated Press : INDIANAPOLIS - Crowds still line Gasoline Alley, the smell of hot dogs and beer still drifts through the air, and the roar of car engines coming around the turn still resounds through the stands. But fans and spectators alike say the atmosphere surrounding this year's Indianapolis 500 isn't the same. In some ways, it's better. ; "It's great" Steve Steinway said, while he checked out a rookie's car in the garage area. "We've got the real race drivers out here now, not just the rich kids who're out playing with daddy's money. This year if s different" ' The feud between Speedway president Tony George's new Indy Racing League and the established Championship Auto Racing Teams has sent many of the top teams and drivers to Brooklyn, Mich., for the renegade U.S. 500 on the same day, May 26, as the Indy 500. Some fans miss the familiar faces, others are excited. Steinway, of Indianapolis, said the rookie drivers add atmosphere to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A female passerby echoed Steinway, saying, "Remember, the older guys used to be rookies, too." "Most of these guys are running around in T-shirts and jeans, not high-dollar racing suits. It's just like it was back in the 70s," Steinway said. ; But Carl Harper of Noblesville said he thinks the track has taken a turn for the worse. ; "Because of Michigan, there ain't nobody out here," Harper said. "No drivers and no fans. Streets out here used to be packed on days like this, but where are they today?" Persistent rain and cold may have cut attendance. 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