Goodyear's close shaves at Indy 500 prove irritating

ON MOTOR SPORTS

Auto Racing

May 21, 2000|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

For the past several years, Scott Goodyear could have been considered "Baltimore's Driver" in the Indianapolis500. After all, he drove for Panther Racing, a team whose ownership group included then-Ravens quarterback Jim Harbaugh.

Well, Harbaugh is no longer a Raven, but Goodyear is still driving, and he has actually set foot in Baltimore more than once - which is more than can be said for anyone else who is likely to make the field of 33 drivers that will be finalized today.

So, a little visit with Goodyear seems in order."All I want to do is win the race," he said.

You'd think his time would come sooner, rather than later.

In 1992, he started last, but wound up on race leader Al Unser Jr.'s back bumper coming out of the final turn of the final lap. By the time they reached the finish line, Goodyear had his car's nose even with Unser's rear wheel. The margin of victory - 0.043 of a second - was the closest finish in 500 history.

In 1997, he lost by .570 of a second to Arie Luyendyk.

In 1993, he was seventh, six seconds behind winner Emerson Fittipaldi."I hope the luck is going to change here at the 500," Goodyear said. "That would be sort of nice for everything to go right here."

Still, things haven't been all bad for Goodyear. He's raced here nine previous times without suffering an injury."From that standpoint," he said, "maybe ... we're a lot more lucky than a lot of others."

Sutton tries Charlotte

Kelly Sutton, the young woman whose dream it is to race the high banks of Daytona International Speedway in a Goodies Dash car, will try to make the Dash field at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte on Wednesday afternoon. If she does, she'll drive in the 9:30 race that night.

Sutton is sponsored by COPAXONE, the medication she takes to control multiple sclerosis. Her efforts at Daytona in February were cut short when her engine blew on her first qualifying lap. She says, however, that the motor has been rebuilt and tested and should be reliable this time."It's still a dream," Sutton said. "I just have to picture myself having good things happen."

Since Daytona, Sutton has had a number of good things happen. Her former husband, who remains her best friend, has recovered from shotgun wounds suffered during a hunting trip in February. Her current boyfriend has proposed, and they're planning a summer wedding. And her sponsor has turned her into a public speaker; she travels the country talking about her illness at medical conferences."They sent me to Kansas City for media training," Sutton said. "I definitely still need more, because I'm kind of a shy and withdraw person. For me, it's kind of hard to be in the spotlight. I've never been the center of attention before."

She'd enjoy the spotlight more if it came from succeeding on the racetrack.

Throttle trouble

Busch drivers who were on the scene when Adam Petty was killed in an accident during practice at New Hampshire International Speedway last week are speculating that the throttle on Petty's car may have stuck wide-open going into the third turn, causing the 19-year-old to crash.

This week, in a conference call, Winston Cup driver Mark Martin was asked what causes a throttle to stick. Martin answered and added that his wife also had a question about stuck throttles."The first thing she asked me was `Don't you immediately turn the ignition off when the throttle sticks?' and the answer is `Yes, you do - if you have time to take your hand off the steering wheel.'"But what usually happens is that it is impossible for a driver to take his hands off the wheel when the throttle sticks close to entering a corner. You let off the gas and all you can really do is grab two hands on the steering wheel. ... At a tight racetrack like New Hampshire, you can't do anything else."

At this point, however, everything is pure conjecture until NASCAR finishes its investigation of the accident.

Nuts and bolts

The Petty family has issued a statement thanking fans for condolences and support in the aftermath of Adam's death. The family also asked that all memorials for Adam be sent to: Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America, Winston Cup Racing Wives Auxiliary, 5700 Concord Parkway South, Harrisburg, N.C. 28075. Donations should be made payable to Charity Ride.

Local driving enthusiast Brian Kleeman made his Skip Barber Formula Dodge Racing debut recently on the 1.6mile South Course of Virginia International Raceway and came home with second- and fourth-place finishes. His wife, Jennifer, said spectators told her, "Watching Brian was just like watching Tom Cruise in `Days of Thunder' as he came through safely as cars crashed all around him.

"Going into today's Formula One race at Germany's Nurburgring, Mika Hakkinen is hoping to join Michael Schumacher as the winner of three straight races this season and tighten their battle for the F-1 title. Once 20points behind, Hakkinen has tightened the points race to 14. The German Grand Prix has been held in September, but this year, the event was moved to May because the inaugural United States Grand Prix in Indianapolis has been scheduled for Sept.24.

The ninth annual Jefferson 500 Vintage Races will finish up today at Summit Point Raceway, outside of Charles Town, W.Va. The event features 200 vintage and historic race cars from the 1950s, '60s and '70s. The races start at 8:45a.m.

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