IRL Tradition Lives in Kansas City
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KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ Some things never change in motorsports, especially the names.
This weekend at Kansas Speedway two famous names in racing are trying to carry on their families’ tradition at a track and racing series looking to establish their own lore.
Sunday is the inaugural race for the Indy Racing League’s Infiniti Pro Series, the new developmental league for the IRL. Kansas Speedway is the first of seven races this season.
Leading the charge are racing names Foyt and Luyendyk, with A.J. IV and Arie Jr. making their debut in the Infiniti Pro Series.
A.J. Foyt IV, the 18-year-old grandson of his namesake, said younger drivers can benefit from their veteran drivers _ especially a when the relative has the success and reputation of his grandfather.
``Anything they help us on, we’ll listen to it,″ said Foyt, who had the fastest time during practice Friday.
His grandfather said he was pleased with his success and the opportunities the Indy Racing League was providing young drivers.
``It’s the first time he’s driven anything like this,″ the elder Foyt said. ``He’s old enough now that he can race and I’m glad to see him run as well as he did.″
The new series evens the playing field, Foyt said, getting back to the roots of open-wheeled racing and developing good talent.
Helio Castroneves, winner of the 2001 and 2002 Indy 500, still considers himself a young driver despite his success.
``I’m learning with everyone, even the guys just getting started,″ the 27-year-old Castroneves said.
In all, more than 20 former Indianapolis 500 champions are present at the weekend races, commonplace for other stops on the IRL circuit, but a new phenomenon at Kansas. The speedway is entering its second season.
Indy 500 winners present include Foyt with four, Al Unser Sr. with four, son Al Unser Jr. two, Johnny Rutherford three, Castroneves two, and single victories from Eddie Cheever Jr., Buddy Lazier and Tom Sneva.
``What you see is a lot of guys like A.J., Al (Sr.) and Rutherford staying involved,″ said Arie Lyuendyk, two-time Indy 500 winner who will be spotting for his son Sunday in the 100-mile sprint.
He admits that he is more nervous with his son on the track than during his own races. Still, Lyuendyk said his experience and connections can help his son shorten the learning curve and move quickly in his racing career.
Castroneves said he gives advice when asked, knowing that he has asks the same from Foyt, Unser and Penske consultant Rick Mears.
``It’s the only way to improve in life and in your profession,″ Castroneves said.
As for the young Foyt, he knows there is much to learn about the sport. He still has to settle one question this season: whether to hit the books or the continue racing.
``If he wants me to go to college, I guess I’ll go,″ he said, adding that a few wins might help his case to keep racing.
BOAT CHANGING HORSES MID-STREAM: Billy Boat is changing engines beginning with the Ameristar Casino Indy 200 at Kansas Speedway, moving to the Infiniti power plant.
Boat said the switch will be a good fit for his CURB Records Dallara entry, especially considering the Inifiniti’s record on longer tracks. Five of the seven remaining 2002 races are on tracks 1.5 miles or longer.
``The Infiniti has shown to excel on these longer tracks, and they’ve come a long way in terms of power and reliability,″ Boat said. ``It’s all about winning. We want to win one or two of the races still left on the schedule. We just feel that we will have a better opportunity to do that with the Infiniti.″
Boat said the team was fighting a lot of gremlins this season, `` so we feel like we need to make a drastic move to jump-start our season.″
Eddie Cheever Jr. won the inaugural Ameristar Casino Indy 200 last July with an Infiniti-powered car.
DOUBLE DUTY:It’s a busy weekend for Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series driver Ed Carpenter. After participating in the Indy Racing Experience and practicing Thursday and Friday, Carpenter flew to Winchester, Ind., to compete Friday night in a sprint car race. He will fly back to Kansas City on Saturday to qualify for the inaugural Infiniti Pro race set for Sunday.
BEATING THE HEAT: Kansas Speedway officials have taken precautions to keep the expected crowds of more than 78,000 cool and refreshed. Mist systems have been installed under the grandstands to give fans an opportunity to seek relief from the heat.
Last year, temperatures approached the century mark during the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and IRL races at the speedway. Several fans were treated for heat-related illnesses.
Temperatures Friday were near 90 degrees with high humidity and a chance of showers. The forecast for Saturday and Sunday calls for partly cloudy skies with highs in the mid-90s with light winds.