Profiles of Indy 500 Drivers
Profiles of Indy 500 Drivers
May. 23, 1998
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Profiles of the 33 drivers and alternate for the 82nd Indianapolis 500 on Sunday (w-former winner; r-rookie):
1. Billy Boat, 32, Phoenix, No. 11, Dallara-Aurora. The only driver bumped from the starting field in 1996, finished seventh as a rookie at Indianapolis in 1997. Only other Indy Racing League pole start was at Las Vegas in 1997. Best finish in eight IRL starts was second at Texas and Charlotte in 1997. Began racing motorcycles as a 5-year-old. Won first national championship on a motorcycle and began racing sprint karts at age 8. From 1980-82 won 14 of 16 races in modified midgets. Drove American Racing Series in 1986, with three top fives in 10 races. Set a USAC record for consecutive victories in any series with 11 straight in the Western States midget series in 1995. Driving for four-time Indy winner A.J. Foyt. Qualified at 223.503 mph.
2. Greg Ray, 31, Plano, Texas, No. 97, Dallara-Aurora. Attended SCCA driver school and ran several Formula Ford 2000 races in 1991. Was champion in Formula Ford 2000 series in 1992 and SCCA Formula Atlantic series in 1993, when he received Mark Donohue Award for most promising career in racing. Third in points in Toyota Atlantic series in 1994 and joined Indy Lights in 1996, with best finish of second at Milwaukee. Finished 25th in first IRL start at Indy last year. Best finish in seven IRL starts was eighth at Texas last year. Qualified at 221.125.
3. Kenny Brack, 32, Sweden. No. 14, Dallara-Aurora. Started racing go-karts and Formula Fords in Sweden. Drove Formula Three 1988-89, Formula Opel 1990-91 and won Renault Clio Scandinavian championship with nine victories in 1992. Tested Formula One car in 1993; was 11th, third and second in International Formula 3000 in 1994-96. Made IRL debut at Phoenix last year, led 24 laps but finished 11th after hitting wall while leading on lap 146. Qualified for Indy last year but was involved in a crash on the pace lap. Best finish in seven IRL starts was fifth at Charlotte last year. Driving for A.J. Foyt as a teammate of pole-starter Billy Boat. Qualified at 220.982.
4. Tony Stewart, 27, Indianapolis, No. 1, Dallara-Aurora. Began racing go-karts at age 12. USAC sprint rookie of the year in 1991 and got first USAC victory at Indianapolis Speedrome. Raced USAC midgets, sprints and Silver Crown series 1992-95. In 1995, became the first driver ever to win three USAC titles in the same year when he won the midget, sprint and Silver Crown championships. Became the fastest rookie qualifier ever at Indy at 233.100 in 1996 and moved to the pole when teammate Scott Brayton was killed in practice. Finished 24th and was Indy rookie of the year in 1996. Won IRL series championship and was fifth at Indy in 1997. Won at Orlando and second at Phoenix to lead the series after two races this season. Driving both IRL and NASCAR Busch series this year. Qualified at 220.386.
5. Robbie Buhl, 34, Indianapolis, No. 3, Dallara-Aurora. Passed Indy 500 rookie test in 1993 but crashed twice and did not qualify. Began racing Formula Fords in England in 1984, drove Sports Renault and Formula 2000 series 1985-86. Won Barber Saab Pro Series title in 1989, setting records for wins (7) and poles (6). Fourth in American Racing Series in 1990, won Indy Lights series championship in 1992. Began racing Indy cars in 1993. Finished third at Orlando in IRL debut in 1996, ninth in Indy debut in 1996 and eighth last year. Qualified at 220.236.
6. Sam Schmidt, 30, Las Vegas, No. 99, Dallara-Aurora. Raced in motocross 1973-77 but stopped after his father was seriously injured in an off-road accident. Returned to racing in 1992 and was SCCA Spec Racer series rookie of the year and Southern Pacific champion. Moved to SCCA Formula Continental series, was Southern Pacific driver of the year and won national title at SCCA runoffs in 1993. Drove Formula Cup Pro series in 1995 and Formula Ford 2000 series in 1996. Finished 34th in Indy debut last year. Best finish in eight IRL starts was seventh at Phoenix this year. Qualified at 219.982.
7. Scott Sharp, 30, East Norwalk, Conn., No. 8, Dallara-Aurora. Son of six-time SCCA national champion Bob Sharp and son-in-law of Trans Am veteran Greg Pickett. Won first SCCA race entered in 1984 and won SCCA GT2 national championship for team headed by father and actor Paul Newman in 1986. Won SCCA GT1 national titles in 1987 and 1988 and competed in Trans Am series 1989-93, winning 1991 and 1993 championships with six victories both years. Finished 17th as a rookie at Indy in 1994. Co-champion in inaugural IRL season in 1996. Won at New Hampshire in 1996 and at Phoenix this season. Also won 24 Hours of Daytona last year. Qualified for fourth Indy 500 at 219.910.
8. Davey Hamilton, 35, Las Vegas, No. 6, G Force-Aurora. Father, Ken, drove in 1982 Michigan 500. Davey started racing 1979 and was CAMRA supermodified rookie of the year in 1981. Northwest supermodified champion from 1987-89. Made USAC Silver Crown debut in 1990. Won Western States Supermodified Tour and Supermodified Racing Association championships in 1993 and four series titles in 1994. Finished sixth in second Indy start last year. Had a streak of 10 consecutive top 10 IRL finishes last year and finished second in point standings. Best finishes were third four times. Qualified at 219.748.
9. Roberto Guerrero, 39, San Juan Capistrano, Calif., No. 21, Dallara-Aurora. A native of Colombia, now an American citizen. Was second twice, third and fourth in first four Indy 500 starts and fifth in 1996. Indy series rookie of the year, shared Indy 500 rookie honors in 1984. Began racing karts at age 12 in Colombia and won two national kart championships. Drove Formula Ford races in England in 1978. Drove Formula One for two years. Recorded two Indy car victories in 1987 and was in contention for the driving championship until he was seriously injured in a crash during tire tests. Set one- and four-lap records in 1992 which were later topped. Qualified for 14th Indy 500 at 218.900.
10. Scott Goodyear, 38, Canada, No. 4, G Force-Aurora. Began racing in a Formula Ford in 1980. Won the 1986 North American Formula Atlantic championship with five victories in nine races. Drove his first Indy car race in 1987. Started 33rd and finished second to Al Unser Jr. by .043 second in the closest Indy 500 ever in 1992 and second last year in third-closest Indy race. Recorded only Indy car triumphs at Michigan in 1992 and 1995. Qualified for eighth Indy 500 at 218.357.
11. w-Buddy Lazier, 30, Vail, Colo., No. 91, Dallara-Aurora. The 1996 Indy 500 winner despite suffering multiple back fractures in a crash at Phoenix two months earlier. Father, Bob Lazier, was 19th at Indy in 1981. Buddy started racing Formula Fords in 1985, recording seven finishes of sixth or better and winning title of 125cc Motocross series the same year. Has raced sports cars in Cam-Am events and endurance races. Won second IRL race at Charlotte last year. Qualified for sixth start at Indianapolis at 218.288.
12. Mark Dismore, 41, Greenfield, Ind., No. 28, Dallara-Aurora. Making third Indy 500 start. Broke his neck, both feet, right wrist and right knee in a crash during practice in 1991. Began racing karts in 1968 and won 40 grand national kart races through 1989. Made Indy car debut at Mid-Ohio in 1989, won the Formula Atlantic Pacific Division championship in 1990. Came to Indy but did not qualify in 1992-93. Won 24 Hours of Daytona in 1993 and at Nazareth in 1994 in only Atlantic start. Best IRL finish is fifth. Qualified at 218.096.
13. r-J.J. Yeley, 21, Phoenix., No. 44, Dallara-Aurora. Youngest driver in IRL series. Began racing midget cars in 1991 and sprints in 1994. USAC sprint car rookie of the year in 1997 after finishing fifth in the national point standings. Won USAC Tony Hulman Classic in 1997 and made five Silver Crown starts. Passed IRL rookie test this year at Phoenix, where he finished 25th in his IRL debut. Qualified at 218.044.
14. Marco Greco, 34, Brazil, No. 16, G Force-Aurora. Began racing go-karts at age 9 and became Brazil national champion. Later three-time Brazil motorcycle champion. Drove Formula Three in 1987 and finished fourth in British Formula 3000 series in 1989. Competed in Indy Lights series in 1992, finishing among the top 10 eight times. Best finish in 13 IRL starts was fourth at Phoenix last year. Best finish in three starts at Indianapolis was 16th last year when he was third in the IRL series. Qualified at 217.953.
15. Jack Miller, 36, Carmel, Ind., No. 40, Dallara-Infiniti. A 1992 graduate of Indiana University School of Dentistry, known as the ``Racing Dentist.'' Started racing in the SCCA Formula Ford series in 1988-89, split time between SCCA regional and national Formula Atlantic series in 1990. Raced Indy Lights 1992-96 and had three top-10 finishes in 1996. Best finish in nine IRL races was 15th at Orlando last year. Qualified at 217.800.
16. John Paul Jr., 38, West Palm Beach, Fla., No. 81, Dallara-Aurora. Began racing in 1979, driving a Formula Ford. Captured IMSA GT championship with nine victories in 1982. Made Indy-car debut in 1983 and broke a leg while practicing at Indianapolis. Won 1983 Michigan 500. Best finish in five previous Indy 500s is 10th in 1992. Failed to make last year's Indy 500. Qualified at 217.351.
17. Eddie Cheever, 40, Tampa, Fla., No. 51, Dallara-Aurora. Indy 500 and series rookie of the year in 1990, now a car owner and driver. Best finish in eight starts at Indianapolis was fourth in 1992. Won Italian and European karting championships at age 15, moved up to Formula Fords and was a teammate of Danny Sullivan on Formula Three circuit. In 1987 and 1988 won seven world sports car prototype races. Only American driver to compete in Formula One in 1989. Recorded only IRL victory at Orlando last year. Qualified at 217.334.
18. Buzz Calkins, 27, Denver. No. 12, G Force-Aurora. Co-champion in first IRL season. Led 130 laps and won inaugural IRL race, the Indy 200 at Orlando. Was second at New Hampshire to open the 1996-97 season. Began racing motorcycles and go-karts as a teen-ager. SCCA Formula Ford Rocky Mountain Division runner-up in 1989 and champion in 1990. Drove Indy Lights 1993-1995. Won Formula Atlantic class in Tasman Series in New Zealand in 1994. Starting third Indy 500. Qualified at 217.197.
19. r-Andy Michner, 29, Grass Lake, Mich., No. 17, Dallara-Aurora. Drove in USAC midget car series 1990-97. Won for the first time in 1993, when he was third in standings. Second to Tony Stewart in 1994 and 1995. Also drove in the USAC Silver Crown and sprint series and passed Indy 500 rookie test but did not qualify in 1996. Sixth in midget point standings and 22nd in sprints in 1997. Landed a ride with Chitwood Motorsports on the second day of the 1998 ROP and passed rookie refresher the next day. Qualified for first IRL start at 216.922.
20. Jim Guthrie, 36, Albuquerque, N.M., No. 53, G Force-Aurora. Began racing motorcycles in 1973. Won SCCA regional autocross title in B-Street Prepared class 1983. Most improved driver in SCCA regional Formula Fords in 1984. Made pro debut in 1986 Mazda Pro Series. Raced International Karting Federation 1989-91, moved to USAC Formula Ford 2000 series in 1993-94. Third at Milwaukee in Toyota Atlantic Series in 1995. Recorded first IRL victory at Phoenix last year. Finished 18th and 26th in previous Indy starts. Qualified at 216.604.
21. r-Robby Unser, 30, Santa Fe, N.M., No. 52, Dallara-Aurora. Youngest son of three-time Indy 500 winner Bobby Unser, nephew of four-time winner Al Unser, cousin of two-time winner Al Unser Jr. Started racing go-karts in 1975, won New Mexico International Karting Federation championship in both road-racing and dirt divisions in 1981. Raced stock cars 1983-84, sprint cars 1985 and the Skip Barber Pro-Saab Series, Formula Fords and sprint cars in 1986. Won Group A Rally Division at Pikes Peak Hill Climb in 1987, also raced sports cars and 10th in Formula Atlantic series. Won American Indy Car Series title in 1989 and five more Pikes Peak titles from 1989-96. Drove Indy Lights in 1997. Qualified for first IRL start at 216.534.
22. r-Jack Hewitt, 46, Troy, Ohio. No. 18, G Force-Aurora. Oldest driver in the lineup. Started racing in 1973, has raced midgets, sprints, Silver Crown cars, stock cars and modifieds. Winningest USAC Silver Crown driver with 20 career victories, also has 42 USAC sprint wins. Silver Crown champion 1986-87, second in 1988, third in 1995. Passed IRL rookie test at Phoenix in 1996. Qualified for first IRL start at 216.450.
23. r-Steve Knapp, 34, Salem, Wis., No. 55, G Force-Aurora. Began driving sports cars 1985 and won SCCA National Pro Sports 2000 championships in 1986 and 1987. Coordinated Newman-Haas test team for Mario and Michael Andretti in 1988-90 and out of racing the next five years. Won US F2000 championship with wins at Watkins Glen, Richmond, Mid-Ohio and Las Vegas in 1996. Had top-five finishes in Toyota Atlantic Series, with best finish of second at Vancouver in 1997. Passed IRL driver's test at Las Vegas after season ended. Qualified for first IRL start at 216.445.
24. r-Donnie Beechler, 37, Springfield, Ill., No. 98, G Force-Aurora. Began racing sprint cars in 1982, made U.S. Auto Club Silver Crown debut in 1988. Finished fourth in Silver Crown point standings in 1995, winning at Sacramento and Terre Haute. Led Silver Crown series for three months in 1997, winning from the pole at Terre Haute, but finished second after crashing at St. Louis. Finished second at Pikes Peak and third at Springfield. Qualified for first IRL start at 216.357.
25. Johnny Unser, 38, Sun Valley, Idaho, No. 9, Dallara-Aurora. Father Jerry Unser was killed at the speedway in 1959. Nephew of Indy winners Bobby and Al Unser Sr. and cousin of Indy winner Al Unser Jr. and rookie Robby Unser. Has done movie stunt driving. Raced in IMSA GTU series in 1987-88, won 12 Hours of Sebring in 1989. Was American IndyCar Series rookie of the year in 1990, finishing in the top three in every race. Made Indy car debut in 1993. Was 33rd in Indy 500 debut in 1996 and 18th last year. Qualified at 216.316.
26. r-Jimmy Kite, 22, Stockbridge, Ga., No. 7, Dallara-Aurora. Started racing quarter-midgets and dirt national champion in 1984, and won regional quarter-midget titles in 1985, 1986, 1989 and 1990. Rookie of the year in mini-sprints in 1991, made USAC Silver Crown debut with 20th-place finish at Indianapolis Raceway Park in 1995. Raced USAC midgets and made IRL debut in 1996 with a 20th at Pikes Peak. Drove in three other IRL races, with best finish of sixth at Las Vegas. Drove USAC Silver Crown and midgets in 1997, opened 1998 IRL season with 16th at Orlando and 18th at Phoenix. Qualified at 219.290.
27. Jeff Ward, 36, San Juan Capistrano, Calif., No. 35, G Force-Aurora. Finished third and was Indy 500 rookie of the year in 1997. Born in Scotland. Started racing motocross at age five. Won five AMA national motocross or supercross titles from 1984-90. Has 20 supercross and 54 career motocross wins. Drove Indy Lights 1993-96, passed Indy 500 rookie test in 1995 but failed to qualify. Made IRL debut at Orlando in 1997, finishing 16th. Best finish in five IRL starts was second this year at Orlando; won the pole and finished fifth at Phoenix in March, second to Tony Stewart in IRL standings. Qualified at 219.086.
28. w-Arie Luyendyk, 44, Netherlands, No. 5, G Force-Aurora. Indy 500 winner in 1990 and 1997, holds record for career Indy winnings with more than $5 million. Fastest qualifier in 1996 and 1997. Set an unofficial record of 239.260 in practice in 1996, then set one- and four-lap qualifying records of 237.498 and 236.986. Also set race record of 185.981 for the 500 miles in 1990. The series top rookie in 1985. Began racing European Series Formula Vee in 1972. Won Super Vee championship in 1984. Earned first pole position in an Indy car at Indianapolis in 1993 and finished second by 2.862 seconds. Qualified for 14th Indy start at 218.935.
29. r-Stan Wattles, 36, Sewall's Point, Fla., No. 19, Riley&Scott-Aurora. Owner-driver for Metro Racing Systems. Began racing sports cars in 1986, including three straight SCCA regional wins. Won at Watkins Glen in 1987 and 1988. Out of racing 1990-92, won two SCCA regional races in Formula 2000 series in 1993 and six national features in Formula Atlantic in 1994. Drove Toyota Atlantic series in 1995 and made IRL debut with 13th at Orlando in 1996. Injured during practice at next race in Phoenix. Formed his own race team in 1997, finishing eighth at Las Vegas. This season, 22nd in opener at Orlando but failed to qualify at Phoenix. Qualified at 217.477.
30. Raul Boesel, 40, Brazil, No. 30, G Force-Aurora. Still seeking his first Indy-car victory after 171 starts. Has finished second four times. Began racing in 1979 and in 1980 had nine Formula Ford victories. Returned to Brazil in 1981 and drove in Formula Three. Drove 10 Formula One races in 1982. Started on the front row at Indianapolis in 1993 and 1994. Best finish in nine Indy starts was third in 1989. Drove in CART series and was not at Indy in 1996-97. Joined McCormack Motorsports in IRL in 1998, with best finish eighth at Phoenix. Qualified at 217.303.
31. Stephan Gregoire, 29, France, No. 77, G Force-Aurora. Fastest rookie qualifier and finished 19th in 1993 race, his best in three starts at Indy. French go-kart champion in 1987. Won 10 races in the Porsche 944 French Cup series and the French Citroen AX Berline champion in 1988. Drove French Formula Renault series in 1989 and won French Formula Three B title with nine victories in 1990. Drove in Formula Three A series in 1991-92. Best finish in 14 IRL starts was second at Pikes Peak in 1997. Fourth both at Orlando and Phoenix this year. Qualified at 217.036.
32. Mike Groff, 35, Los Angeles, No. 10, G Force-Aurora. Fastest rookie qualifier at Indy in 1991. Won 200 of 250 starts in quarter-midgets from 1971-78, winning three Grand National titles. Super Vee rookie of the year in 1985. Won American Racing Series in 1989. Best finish in 11 IRL starts and 65 Indy-car career starts overall was second at Orlando in 1997. Best finish in four Indy 500 races was 12th last year. Qualified at 216.704.
33. Billy Roe, 41, Gilbert, Ariz., No. 33, Dallara-Aurora. Native of Indianapolis who worked as a mechanic for eight Indy-car teams. Started his own racing career in go-karts, has also driven stock cars, midgets, super modifieds, sprint cars, Formula Fords, Continentals, Atlantics and Can-Am cars. Best finishes were thirds in Atlantic races. Passed USAC driver's test in 1996. Finished 22nd as rookie at Indy last year. Qualified at 217.835.
Eliseo Salazar, 42, Chile, No. 15, Riley&Scott-Aurora. Argentine Formula Four champion in 1978. Drove British Formula Three in 1979, second in British Formula One series in 1980. First Chilean to compete in Formula One with 24 starts from 1981-83. Won Chilean rally hill climb titles in 1984-85 and drove Formula 3000 in 1986-87. Raced sports cars 1988-90 and IMSA World Sportscar series in 1994. Fourth in Indy 500 as a rookie in 1995, sixth in 1996 and 24th last year. Qualified at 216.259 but bumped by Billy Roe.