Indy 500 not yet a sellout, doesn't have a full fieldPosted: Friday May 09, 2003 8:27 PM
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The Indianapolis 500 still has not sold out and does not yet have a full 33-car field. But Indy Racing League CEO Tony George is not too concerned.
"If we end up with a short field, we end up with a short field," George said Friday.
Drivers were still looking for rides Friday, just a day before pole qualifying. The official entry sheet lists 31 driver-car combinations. The 1947 race, with only 30 cars, was the last one without a full field.
George, who founded the IRL in 1994, blamed the weak economy and competition for the failure to fill the field early.
"With the change of equipment, with some of the teams that planned on being here not being able to find sponsorship for whatever reason, certain teams going to CART, you find yourself with fewer entrants," he said. "I expect it will get better."
He's also optimistic attendance will improve. George, who also owns Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said some tickets remain for the May 25 race.
He said corporate sponsorship has waned. George also said NASCAR's Brickyard 400 in 1994 and a Formula One race in 2001 has diluted Indy's motorsports market.
"With three events and significant challenges in the marketplace, we haven't been able to announce a sellout," George said. "I don't know if it will be noticeable."
It would be more noticeable if fewer than 33 cars started.
"I don't know if anybody's going to do anything out of the ordinary just to create a full field of 33," George said. "I think in the end, it will take care of itself."
Team Penske made its chassis decision Friday, with two-time defending champion Helio Castroneves using the Dallara and Gil de Ferran going with the G Force.
"There wasn't any clear distinction that would have made both drivers go in the same direction," said Roger Penske, whose cars have won a record 12 times at Indy.
Castroneves chose a Dallara, saying he felt more comfortable around the turns in the familiar chassis.
"I won two with the chassis," he said. "So with a team that's winning, why would you go change?"
De Ferran said the decision was tough because both cars were comparable and speeds were almost identical.
"I don't think that choice will make us win or lose the race, to be quite honest," he said.
Penske is open to adding a third car, though it was unlikely.
"From our perspective, we're concentrating on the two cars now," he said. "We'll deal with a third car later next week."
Kenny Brack, winner of the 1999 Indy 500, will spend Carburetion Day this year in a slightly different role -- rock musician.
Brack plays guitar with a band called the Subwoofers, which will be the opening act for a Carb Day concert sponsored by Miller Lite on May 22. The beer company also sponsors Brack's car in the May 25 race.
Rock band Cracker will be the concert's headlining act.
Musicians in Brack's band cover songs ranging from ZZ Top to Aretha Franklin. They make their debut Tuesday at a downtown Indianapolis bar.
"He's a much better driver than guitar player," said his car owner, 1986 winner Bobby Rahal. "You should minimize your expectations for Carb Day."
Castroneves will be a guest commentator for ESPN2's coverage of the inaugural Freedom 100 Infiniti Pro Series May 17. ... Actor Christopher Reeve, paralyzed by a horseback riding accident in 1995, will be in Indianapolis Monday for "Racing to Recovery," a benefit for the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation. Schmidt, an IRL team owner, has been a quadriplegic since crashing during a test session in January 2000.