Seven years after he last drove a race car, team owner Dick Simon was the first to complete a lap at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday as practice began for the May 28 Indianapolis 500.
The 61-year-old former driver was filling in for Davy Jones, who is in Sonoma, Calif., for a NASCAR Winston Cup race. Simon, whose last race was in 1988, was required by the U.S. Auto Club to pass a physical exam and to buy a USAC license before he could drive on the Speedway’s 2-1/2 mile oval.
Three other Simon team drivers - rookies Eliseo Salazar of Chile and Carlos Guerrero of Mexico, and 1992 rookie of the year Lyn St. James - closely followed their boss in a four-car formation across the finish line to complete the first lap of practice.
“I would love to do that,” Simon said of a return to racing. “But it became apparent to both my wife and I that when I stepped out of the car and just managed and owned the team, we stepped up a notch or two as far as the ability to come up with a little bigger sponsors.
‘People don’t want to sponsor somebody’s hobby, and that’s what they consider when an owner’s out there racing.”
Simon drove in 17 Indy 500 races and was the oldest driver in the lineup each year from 1983-88. His best finishes were sixth in 1987 and ninth in 1988.
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