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AUTO RACING PACKAGE: After Year’s Absence, Sullivan Trying to Fit In

March 15, 1995

Believe it or not, one of the things Danny Sullivan missed most when he failed to find an Indy-car ride in 1994 was the trip halfway around the world to Australia.

``We’ve actually had a pretty good chance to win that race a couple of times and we haven’t done it, so I’m looking forward to the chance to get the job done this time,″ Sullivan said before embarking on the long journey to this Sunday’s race at Surfers Paradise in Queensland, Australia.

Sullivan, the 1988 Indy-car PPG Cup champion and 1984 Indianapolis 500 winner, who lost his full-time ride with Galles Racing International prior to last season, is teaming with Brazilian driver Mauricio Gugelmin this year at PacWest.

Both are new to the second-year Indy-car team, and both got off to a good start two weeks ago at Miami, where Gugelmin finished second to winner Jacques Villeneuve of Canada, and Sullivan was ninth.

``It was a good finish, but that was a frustrating race for me,″ said Sullivan, who turned 45 on March 9. ``We lost a couple of spots in the pits, so I got a little frustrated and was trying to make up some ground. I got out in the marbles and I spun the car around and lost a lap. I was just trying a little too hard, maybe.″

Still, he got the car going again and was running strong at the end.

That felt good to Sullivan after a year’s absence from an Indy-car cockpit.

``I’m just learning again and fitting in with everybody,″ said the onetime glamour boy of Indy-car racing, who has 17 victories. ``A lot of these guys, I’ve worked with before from my Galles days, so I didn’t necessarily have to relearn all the people.

``But some of the systems have changed, even in a year. I’ve gone from what was an Ilmor (engine) to the Ford-Cosworth, and I didn’t have a sequential gearbox before, and now I do.″

A year ago, PacWest began with journeyman _ now part owner and vice president _ Dominick Dobson and rookie Scott Sharp as its drivers. Dobson had a career-best third at Michigan and was sixth at New Hampshire, but those were the team’s only top-five finishes.

``I think that at the begining of the season, when I joined PacWest, I was concerned about if we were behind in terms of running at this level as opposed to what they’ve been doing,″ Sullivan said. ``That’s no reflection on Dominic or Scott. It’s just that it’s hard when you’re a new team with new drives and everything’s new. Plus they had so many hidden things. They didn’t get their cars until right before the first race. They were putting one (car) together in Australia. Those are things where you never catch up.

``But we’ve really jumped a tremendous amount,″ he added. ``We have our cars. Everybody’s gelled. We’re really pumped. I think we’ve come a long way in a short period of time. We have to just continue that momentum and continue that attitude.

``That doesn’t mean we’re not going to have setback, and it doesn’t mean that at some races we’re not going to be scratching our heads going, `What’s wrong?′ But we know we’re capable of going fast and producing results.″

End ADV for Thursday March 16

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