Barron throws off ton of frustration

ON MOTOR SPORTS

Auto Racing

July 28, 2002|By Sandra McKee

Before this season, Alex Barron had never finished better than eighth in an Indy Racing League or Championship Auto Racing Teams race.

Last week, Barron, 32, won the IRL race at Nashville Superspeedway, proving persistence pays.

"It took a weight off my shoulders," Barron said during a conference call.

A lot of weight. It was probably getting hard to breathe.

Barron hadn't seen a victory lane since he was a rookie in the Toyota Atlantic Series. It was 1997. He won five races and was named Rookie of the Year. Since then? Zilch.

Imagine the stress. Barron, a San Diego native, could look over the racing landscape and see mere children stepping into powerful teams and winning races. While he's been slugging his way up the ranks - "and trying not to slip through the cracks" - four 20-somethings have won open-wheel championships, including CART rookie Juan Montoya at age 24 in 1999 and IRL rookie Sam Hornish, 22, last season.

Barron, currently fifth in the IRL points race, didn't find the team that fit him until he was 32. In fact, finding a full-time ride in the series took so long he didn't even make the league's media guide.

"There have been a lot of ups and downs for me," said Barron. "There was a long dry spell where I was just trying to get a competitive ride.

"It was tough not having the equipment to compete."

But when the cracks widened and threatened to swallow him, Barron said, "My claws grew bigger. I'd back away for a week, realize how much I really wanted it and then came back at it harder."

In 2000 and 2001, he turned down rides for the Indianapolis 500 because they weren't good rides.

"That was hard," said Barron, who finished fourth at Indy this year in his No. 44 Rayovac Blair Racing Chevrolet. "But I knew to race a bad car would do me more harm than good."

He teamed with owner Larry Blair last season for two CART races and when Blair decided to field his team in the IRL this season, Barron was the man.

"I've been in position to win before," he said, remembering two races in 2000, a race in Fontana, Calif., last year and this last Indy 500, when he would have won with the perfect pit strategy if a yellow flag hadn't messed it all up.

"Winning at Nashville was a heck of a breakthrough," he said. "Until you do it, until you win, you don't know if you can."

Miami green-flagged

While Washington. residents continue to harangue city officials over the noise generated by last weekend's Cadillac Grand Prix that was held in the RFK Stadium parking lots, Miami officials have agreed to play host to CART and the American Le Mans Series on the same Oct. 4-6 weekend.

City of Miami manager Carlos Gimenez and Grand Prix Americas officials have signed the city permit for the race. Grand Prix Americas will be held on a 1.57-mile street circuit that will run through Bayfront Park, Biscayne Boulevard and downtown streets. The event will feature the CART Fed Ex Championship Series, American Le Mans Series and the Trans-Am Series.

After last weekend's Washington race, the ALMS point standings looked like this: LMP 900: Audi driver Tom Kristensen (114) leads teammate Rinaldo Capello (111). Frank Biela (101), also an Audi driver, moved up to third, followed by Johnny Herbert (100) and Biela's teammate, Emanuele Pirro (100). Panoz drivers David Brabham (93) and Jan Magnussen (86), who won the Washington Grand Prix, are sixth and seventh.

In the LMP 675 class, Jon Field (114) is first, followed by Ben Devlin (94).

Ron Fellows (135) leads the GTS class over Johnny O'Connell (127). Baltimore's Marc Bunting (85) is fifth.

And, in the GT class, Sascha Maassen (118) leads Lucas Luhr by three points.

Nuts and bolts

World Challenge GT driver Bob Miller of Ellicott City won the "Rogaine Hair-Raising Pass of the Day" award last weekend. Miller, who is sponsored by the hair-growth product, is the one who created the idea for the award, but had never won it. His daring move came in turn two near the end of the race when he passed fellow Marylander Gennady Soykhert. The GT series has the weekend off before heading to Trois-Rivieres, Canada, for next weekend's race.

Driver Scott Pruett will drive a third car for Chip Ganassi Racing at Watkins Glen on Aug. 11.

Baltimore's J.C. Beattie drove his ATI Chevy Monte Carlo to a 17th-place finish in the ASA Tour's Pennsylvania 300 at Jennerstown Speedway.

Hagerstown will kick off August with a four-card program Saturday night. The show will feature Late Models, Late Model Sportsman, Pure Stocks and a 30-lap Enduro dash for more than 30 cars. Race time will be 7 p.m., with gates opening at 5.

Anyone who wants to take a short vacation can drive to Loudon, N.H., Wednesday to Aug. 4 for the 12th annual Vintage Celebration. More than 100 legendary Midgets, Sprint Cars, Champ Cars, Roadsters and NASCAR stock cars are expected. Fans will have a chance to talk with the many car owners and drivers from the golden eras of motor sports. Wednesday and Thursday, the oval track stars will be featured and, from Friday to Sunday, the road-course veterans will be the focus.

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