Parker uses fuel economy to win at Pikes Peak

Posted: Sunday, July 28, 2002

FOUNTAIN, Colo. -- Hank Parker Jr. used fuel economy to win the NetZero 250 on Saturday, easily holding off Busch Series leader Greg Biffle at Pikes Peak International Raceway.

Parker, who started 23rd in his Dodge, beat Biffle by 11.452 seconds after making only two pit stops in the 200-mile race. Parker also gambled on fuel to win last year at California Speedway, his only other Busch Series victory.

''Our car was good on long runs. It wasn't like we were just kind of throwing it up for fuel,'' said Parker, who led the final 17 laps after Kevin Lepage pitted for fuel.

''We had a fast car and we were just tying to get ourselves track position is all we were really trying to do. We weren't thinking as far as this was all going to fall on our plate. You never know. I mean, what if a caution had come out?''

Elliott tries to set Pocono record

LONG POND, Pa. -- Bill Elliott knows the value of a fast lap, and hopes to parlay his latest into a record-setting victory Sunday at Pocono Raceway.

''In any race as competitive as all these cars are, it's important to start up front,'' Elliott said.

But he realizes the qualifying lap Friday that gave him a record-tying fifth pole on the mountaintop won't be worth much unless his Dodge is still healthy in the waning laps of the Pennsylvania 500.

Da Matta back on top at Vancouver

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Cristiano da Matta wasn't down for long.

After struggling with fuel pressure problems that left him near the back of the grid in the opening round of qualifying, the runaway CART series leader stormed back Saturday to win the pole for the Vancouver Molson-Indy.

Until Saturday, the one-hour qualifying sessions this season had been 40 minutes of waiting followed by a 20-minute, highspeed traffic jam. Da Matta couldn't wait.

No smiles as Scheckter takes the pole

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Tomas Scheckter, Buddy Rice and Eddie Cheever Jr. made Indy Racing League history Saturday. Then, they talked about just about everything other than their 1-2-3 finish in qualifying for Sunday's Michigan Indy 400, the inaugural IRL race at Michigan International Speedway.

Few were interested in discussing the fact that Red Bull Cheever Racing became the first IRL team to put drivers in the first three positions, or that Scheckter and Rice will be the first rookies since the series began in 1996 to start a race in the front row.

The issue of the day was the issues within Cheever's team.

Cheever, who is an owner and driver, created waves on his team this week by adding Rice -- who hadn't driven an IRL car before -- as a third driver and giving him the crew that was working with Scheckter.

Despite earning his third pole of the season -- two more than any other IRL rookie ever -- Scheckter isn't happy.

''We came into this qualifying with a little bit of a disadvantage,'' Scheckter said. ''A lot of the performance parts that were on my car prior to this race were not on my car anymore. We've dealt with it good. I've got a setup on my car that was pretty hard to drive, and we managed to pull it off.

''It feels like we've been pushed to the underdog team.''

Cheever is not pleased that Scheckter has crashed six cars -- five in races -- this year. He dismissed Scheckter's complaining as ''static,'' and said he needs to mature.

''I have some the same issues with my 9-year-old son,'' said Cheever, who didn't join his drivers at the post-qualifying news conference. ''I'm having a difficult day with my children.''

Cheever said he's paying for the third car this week out of his own pocket because he wants his team to win its first race of the year.

Rice is in the middle of the drama, but he wants no part of it.

He just wants to drive.

Rice, who signed a one-week contract, has failed to secure anything more than testing contracts since winning the 2000 Toyota Atlantic championship.

''The problem between Tomas and Eddie is between them, it has no bearing on my situation,'' Rice said. ''It might be a one-race deal, so I might be out. I'm on a day-to-day program right now. I have no idea what's going to come as of Monday.

''I don't have a full-time ride, so I'm going to keep driving whatever I have the opportunity to drive.''

Scheckter, who was at an arm's length from Rice during Saturday's news conference, said he has no problems with Rice.

''If I was in the same situation, I'd do exactly the same as he's done,'' Scheckter said.

The South African does have a problem with the way Cheever is handling him, especially after Cheever said he was looking for another driver following Scheckter's accident last week at Nashville.

''It's disappointing for me that you have to read this sort of stuff in the press,'' Scheckter said. ''I'm taking it race by race. It depends what he says in the press (Sunday), or the next day. Maybe he'll get rid of me that way, fire me in the press.

''I'd expect my team owner, as a team owner, to be the one to call me and speak to me about it, to be the mature one. I'm willing to sit down and speak with him, but that phone call hasn't come.''

Cheever bristled at the criticism from the 21-year-old driver, whose father is 1979 Formula One champion Jody Scheckter.

''My relationship with Tomas is through his manager,'' said Cheever, referring to Enrico Zanarini. ''I spoke to his manager before the race at Nashville, after the race at Nashville and before we were going to go with a third car.''

Despite the infighting, Cheever said he is glad to have Scheckter under contract through 2003.

''I remained committed to him,'' Cheever said. ''And I remain convinced that once the lights go on, we'll have a great race-car driver. ... The greatest way that he can prove his point is to win the race. That is what I hired him for.''

IRL points leader Gil de Ferran will start 17th out of 25 drivers on the two-mile oval. Sam Hornish Jr., who is third in points, is in the fourth position and became the first IRL driver with 20 consecutive top-10 starts.

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