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uploaded 5/24/2000

Contrasts: The Chosen & the Seeker

Return to Indy Qual Start Page

Sarah Fisher in her car

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

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 & Memo Gidley

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.

Memo's crew

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 race.

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 again.



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