Foyt sounds off on IRL change
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Four-time Indy 500 champion A. J. Foyt, never one to spare words, said it was possible deals by Indy Racing League owners and not opening the race to CART that produced a rules change for the race.
The IRL announced Friday that next year’s race would feature the 33 fastest cars in qualifying. Currently, the top 25 teams in the series are guaranteed a starting spot by completing the four-lap qualification run above a minimum speed. The mark is 203 mph this year.
``It wasn’t made for CART. We don’t care if they come back over here or not,″ Foyt said Saturday. ``It was changed because in our league ... persons were trying to sell their guaranteed spots. And that ain’t right.″
Speedway president Tony George and IRL executive director Leo Mehl were in North Carolina for an IRL demonstration and were not available to comment.
Brad Calkins, the father of driver Buzz Calkins and the owner of the Bradley Motorsports entry he has qualified, confirmed Foyt’s statement.
``It had to be done,″ Brad Calkins said. ``There’s been a lot of people talking about selling their guaranteed position. You can’t run this league that way.
``It isn’t fair to the other teams, selling engines and selling qualified cars. It won’t work, and we all realize that.″
Tom Chastian, the owner of the car Stephan Gregoire placed in the field, said that while he hadn’t heard about selling guaranteed positions he thought it was time to end the policy.
``There’s been such negative criticism of the 25 and 8 rule, that I thought it was time for it to be abolished. The owners all came to an agreement on that,″ Chastian said. ``I don’t have any knowledge of anyone trying to sell a spot. ... It would upset me if that happened, because like anything else you should earn what you get.″
O’CONNELL TO MISS RACE: Johnny O’Connell’s bid to qualify for his second Indy 500 is over for this year. Doctors announced Saturday he will remain hospitalized until at least Monday and will wear a cast on his left foot another six to eight weeks after that.
O’Connell dislocated the arch of his foot Friday when he crashed in the first turn during practice for the race. He underwent surgery Friday afternoon and on Saturday was reported in good condition.
O’Connell, who was 29th in his Indy 500 debut last year, was injured only three days after joining the A.J. Foyt team as a replacement for injured Scott Sharp. He had his best lap of practice at 212.922 mph shortly before his crash.
O’Connell’s car apparently blew an engine and the front end smashed into the first-turn wall after making a three-quarters spin. The car then came off the wall and hit again with the left rear. The car was extensively damaged.
A week earlier, Sharp crashed going into the fourth turn and suffered a concussion and mild brain hemorrhage. He was released from the hospital the following day but is not cleared to drive here this month.
NEW RACING FAN: Scott Goodyear has had more than the race on his mind this month. His wife, Leslie, delivered Thursday evening. Hayley Alexandra Goodyear checked in at 7 pounds, 15 ounces and measured 19 1/2 inches.
Goodyear, who finished second to Al Unser Jr. in the closest Indy 500 ever in 1992, has had his practice time limited by the birth of his daughter. Still, he has been one of the busier drivers in practice. Goodyear, who will start his seventh Indy race in the middle of the second row, drove 371 laps in practice. Only five other drivers have completed more laps since the track opened for practice on May 3.
Goodyear’s daughter and wife were expected to be released from the hospital on Sunday.
NEW HALL OF FAMERS: Mary Fendrich Hulman, chairman emeritus of the Speedway and the matriarch of the Hulman-George family, has been inducted into the Speedway Hall of Fame. Also inducted Friday night was two-time Indy 500 champion Gordon Johncock.
Mary Hulman is the widow of Tony Hulman, who purchased the Speedway in 1945 and guided the development of what has become the world’s most famous auto race until his death. Since 1978, she has assumed the role of giving the traditional ``Start Your Engines″ command for the race.
Johncock, a veteran of 24 Indy 500s, recorded victories in 1973 and 1982. He finished the 1982 race only .16 seconds ahead of Rick Mears in what was the closest Indy race ever until Al Unser Jr. crossed the finish line only .043 seconds ahead of Goodyear.