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Thursday, January 17

Pit Bull to sponsor car
By Robin Miller

A pair of names with considerable open-wheel history are returning to Indy-car racing in 2002 as Brayton Racing and McLaren Engines have thrown their helmets into the Indy Racing League.

Todd Brayton, whose brother, Scott, competed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for 15 years before losing his life during a practice run in 1996, wants to carry on the family tradition.

"I decided in 1998, after watching Eddie Cheever win Indy with our motor that it still wasn't enough," said Brayton, whose father (Lee) is a former racer who has been building IRL engines since 1997.

"We were supposed to win with Scotty in the seat and we'd have put our own team together before now if he hadn't been killed."

With wife, Teri, assuming the duties of car owner and Todd serving as team manager, Brayton Racing has purchased the used cars of Tri-Star Motorsports and will run rookie John deVries with sponsorship from Pit Bull energy drink. Lee Brayton will build the engines.

"I'd love to be driving but John brought a much larger commitment," said Brayton, who captured the 1984 Skip Barber championship and made over 170 open-wheel starts before becoming a businessman. "Pit Bull is based in Las Vegas, where John lives, and he bought half their company and we've got a five-year deal, but we have to grow their business.

"Dad gained a motor customer and will be my advisor, as always, while Teri has been through every step of this business and knows it inside out. Chuck Bucknum will be our engineer/crew chief and we've got Billy Bignotti and Mike Koss on our crew."

DeVries won the 1998 Formula Holden title in Australia and has also competed in touring cars.

"Scott Dixon (CART's 2001 rookie of the year) told me John has a lot of talent, he's simply had no funding," said Brayton, whose team will also include New York Knicks' forward Latrell Sprewell.

"Latrell is a big fan of Indy cars and he's agreed to do endorsements for us as well as let us use his shop in Los Angeles when we're out west."

Brayton Racing will be based in Coldwater, Mich., and despite its heritage, faces a tough test with a new team and rookie driver.

"We're not under-funded but we're under-funded," Todd said with a laugh. "We're a minority-owned team but, like my brother always said, this business is about marketing and perception.

"Our job is to go fast and sell our product."

McLaren backs Blair
Alex Barron's inaugural season in the IRL will be powered by one of the most respected names in motorsports as McLaren Engines has struck a deal with Blair Racing for 2002.

Based in Livonia, Mich. since the late '60s, McLaren Engines first gained notoriety at Indianapolis in 1971 when Peter Revson upset Mark Donohue for the pole at Indy. That was followed by Johnny Rutherford's Indy wins in 1974 and '76 for Team McLaren. Its last salvo came in 1985 when McLaren Engines built the Buick V-6 that Pancho Carter put on the pole in 1985.

"We've never left motorsports," said Steve Rossi, president and CEO of McLaren Performance Technologies. "We haven't been to Indy in a quite a while but we've been involved with Cadillac's program at Le Mans.

"Our ethic is grounded in motorsports but we do a lot of quality auto work for a lot of different people."

Blair, who went from sponsor to owner last year in CART before opting for the more affordable IRL, has hired John Dick to engineer Barron and Bob Sprow will continue as team manager while former racer Tom Gloy is president.

Wiley McCoy, a fixture in racing and at McLaren for two decades, will be the IRL project leader.

"We've got a lot of history together," said Gloy, who will also continue to field a Trans-Am team in 2002. "When I met Wiley he was Bobby Rahal's mechanic in Formula Atlantic in the late '70s and John (Dick) worked with him on the BMW program way back when.

"I can't think of a better way to go Indy-car racing than with McLaren Engines."

Brack tests at Daytona
Kenny Brack's two days of testing Chip Ganassi's Dodge at Daytona left him with a distinct impression of Winston Cup racing.

"It's similar to IROC, a little faster and a little less downforce, but the feel of the car is similar," said the 35-year-old Swede, who finished second in CART last year after winning a season-high four races for Team Rahal.

"You've got to run the cars pretty loose to go fast, you don't want to have any push in the corners or it really slows you down. But it's fun, I like it."

Brack, who captured the 1998 IRL title and '99 Indy 500 before moving to CART in 2000, also understands what this form of superspeedway racing is all about.

"You can do a little with springs, shocks, roll bars and the rear axle but it's all about aerodynamics and power at Daytona," he said. "The bodies of these cars are extremely difficult to get through the air and since everything is built by hand no two cars are alike. Lots of gains and losses are by the body and it's quite interesting.

"In CART, we're chasing one- or two-tenths of a second but down here you're chasing a hundredths of a second."

Brack, who now drives for Target/Ganassi in the FedEx Championship, isn't sure whether he'll be back for next month's race as a teammate to Jimmy Spencer.

"I'd like to but I don't know that yet," he replied. "It all depends if they find sponsorship. But whatever happens, I enjoyed this testing."

Papis new Sigma driver
As speculated here two weeks ago, Max Papis will take over Oriol Servia's seat with Sigma Racing in CART. A two-time winner last year, Papis was let go by Team Rahal but got an opportunity when Servia signed with PacWest (which is also unofficial at this time, but a done deal).


  • In an effort to restrict testing (read Roger Penske into this), IRL vice president of racing operations Brian Barnhart has limited private testing to 30 sets of Firestone tires. Previously, there was no restriction on private testing but Team Penske has been on a non-stop testing program since last November and, obviously, Barnhart is concerned about the most successful team in Indy-car history getting non-stop track time as it prepares for its initial IRL campaign.

  • George Mack, trying to become only the second African-American to compete at Indianapolis, recently passed the speed portion of his IRL rookie test at Homestead, Fla. for the 310 Racing team.

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