Many race fans have viewed the bitter dispute between Championship Auto Racing Teams (IndyCar) and the new Indy Racing League as a trial separation, figuring the two sides eventually would resolve their differences in the best interests of the sport.
That might have been the case, before the IRL served IndyCar with divorce papers this week.
The long-awaited IRL chassis rules announced in Indianapolis will make it virtually impossible for IndyCar teams to convert their current cars to IRL specifications.
That suggests that unless one of the sanctioning bodies makes drastic concessions, it’s highly unlikely the sport’s top teams and drivers will compete in the 1997 Indianapolis 500, either.
They certainly won’t be there this May. With 25 of Indy’s 33 starting spots guaranteed to IRL competitors, the cream of the IndyCar crop will be running in a rival race on Memorial Day weekend, the U.S. 500 at Michigan International Speedway.
Unless IndyCar teams compete in both series, defect to the IRL or purchase one of the new cars to run Indy only, legends of the Brickyard such as Al Unser Jr., Bobby Rahal, Emerson Fittipaldi and Michael Andretti may have turned their last lap at the 2-1/2-mile oval.
In keeping with its promise to lower racing’s prohibitive costs, the new IRL chassis has a $263,000 (minus engine) price tag. A new IndyCar chassis lists for about $400,000.
The new non-turbocharged Oldsmobile and Nissan IRL engines will cost $75,000, as compared to IndyCar’s $1-million engine-leasing programs.
Scott Brayton set an unofficial record for the fastest lap ever at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when he drove one at a speed of 237.555 mph.
Brayton on Wednesday topped the previous high of 234.913 mph set by Arie Luyendyk on the last day of practice before pole qualifying for last year’s race. Official records can only be set during qualifying or the race. The 37-year-old driver’s speed was 4.937 mph quicker than the official one-lap record of 232.618 mph established by Roberto Guerrero in winning the pole in 1992. Guerrero set the record four-lap average of 232.482.
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