Contrasts: The Chosen & the Seeker
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Sara Fisher has a fully-funded ride with Walker racing. I
listened to them on the scanner all day Friday. She drove 109
laps. They constantly changed the setup and she fiddled with
the weight jacker and sway bars to see how different settings
change the balance of the car.
Sarah Fisher is a real race driver. You can read about her
achievements in various publications but the one thing most quoted
is her lap record at Winchester Speedway, a high-banked track
that has killed people.
She talks honestly, openly, and confidently. She moves like
an athlete, a small, stocky one. With the advantages of the best
equipment and a thousand laps she should be ready for the race.
But there are naysayers in the garage. Reports from other drivers
is she's scary to be around on the track.
Alan McCall talks with Memo Gidley sitting on the pit lane
wall. Memo has inherited Roberto Moreno's CART "Super Sub"
title and has made some of the more established CART drivers
look silly subbing this season for Patrick Carpentier. Memo raised
$30,000 and talked Dale Pelfrey into letting him use a '99 Dallara
to get through Indy 500 rookie school. One thing led to another
and the car was entered in the 500 with Memo as driver. Tom Gloy,
an Indy 500 driver himself in days past, decided to help and
some of the Forsythe Championship Racing crew members also joined.
They and driver Bryan Herta are sidelined until owner Gerry Forsythe
gets things straightened out with CART.
Here's Memo's crew on pit lane. The tall guy to the right
is Steve Ragan, Forsythe Chief Mechanic and ex-Tasman crew chief.
These guys did a great job but Memo failed to qualify for the
I'm sure the strategy was to put in a lap time and hope someone
would donate a better car on Bump Day. It never happened. Memo's
'99 Dallara never had a chance and here's why. Last year the
fast lap speeds were 227 mph. That was too fast so the IRL lowered
engine capacity from 4 liters to 3.5 liters. They allowed a 180
degree crankshaft at the same time so some of the cars at the
Speedway this year whine and some still groan.
The smaller engines make less than 700 hp, down 10% from last
year. But the best speeds are 223 for 2000 chassis. 216, 217
should be all a car can do but Dallara and G-Force spent some
time in the wind tunnel and got back half the penalty. The new
parts aren't bolt-on so the improvements aren't just body work,
they must be in the basic shape of the chassis. Memo's best time
was a 214 mph. That's all the car could do. He spun trying too
hard to qualify in a car that didn't have a chance.
If Sarah Fisher does well it will spur interest in the Indy
500 and all open-wheel racing. There is no obvious reason why
women can't compete in motorsports. The strength and endurance
issues are fading.
What worries me is what I hear her say in interviews about
what good experience she's had on dirt tracks in midgets and
sprint cars. I strongly disagree. Controlling a high-CG car on
dirt with a 30 inch tall right rear tire at 6 psi has nothing
to do with controlling a low-CG, ground-effects car on radial
tires at 230 mph at Indy.
IRL racing in general and the Indy 500 specifically have been
crashfests. I don't think there are more than a half dozen drivers
in this year's 500 that can feel the cars enough to be in control.
Most of them are just holding on. Barring random mechanical problems
Montoya and Vasser will dominate the race. Having predicted that,
the Indy 500 is a survival game and one of the wankers could
take both the Ganassi guys out.
I hope Sarah does well and the race is a safe one. It would
be fine with me if there was no race at all on that track ever