Scheckter out to win in Michigan for a second time


Mon, Jul 28, 2003 - Page 19

Tomas Scheckter wants to repeat last year's victory at Michigan International Speedway without the off-track drama.

Scheckter earned his second straight pole at the Indy Racing League event Saturday, putting himself in good position to win his second Firestone Indy 400.

Scheckter turned a fast lap of 357.935kph for his second pole of the season and fifth of his career.

A repeat victory at MIS on Sunday would make Scheckter the third driver in track history to win two straight Indy-style races along with Mario Andretti and Bobby Unser.

Scheckter's first IRL victory came last season at MIS during a week in which he verbally sparred with team owner Eddie Cheever of Red Bull Cheever Racing.

Just before last year's race, Cheever added a third driver, Buddy Rice, and gave his new driver the crew that was working with Scheckter.

Scheckter lashed out at Cheever last year and did so again earlier this season.

Now a member of the Target Chip Ganassi Racing team, Scheckter refused to be drawn into controversy Saturday.

"I have to apologize to the press that this year's press conference is not as exciting as last year's," Scheckter said, smiling. "I'm a lot happier this year and it's great to have a teammate like Scott [Dixon] and a great team like I do.

"It's great to have all the tools to do the best job you can do and to know that every time I go out there that everybody does everything within their power to make sure Scott and I are in front."

Dixon's streak of three straight pole starts was snapped by his teammate. He'll start second in the 21-car field.

"It is good for the team," Dixon said. "It doesn't really bother me."

Two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves will start from the second row with Sam Hornish Jr., who got a boost from his new Gen IV Chevy Indy V-8. Hornish, who won a record five races in 2002, is winless this year. In fact, none of the drivers using a Chevrolet engine have won. Hornish's average starting point has been 13.6 in nine races.

The IRL said last week that Hornish would be able to use the new engine, a move intended to help the competitive balance between drivers with Chevy engines and those with Toyota and Honda engines.

The next Chevy driver in the points standings will be able to race with the new engine Aug. 10 at St. Louis, before all teams are able to use the new engine Aug. 17 at Kentucky. While Dixon called the rule change "shady," Hornish said it was fair.

"We had some good laps [Friday] and a lot of people were upset about that, thinking we had something that had a lot more horsepower," Hornish said. "I think this puts us to even as far as horsepower goes. A lot of people were complaining about it. I would rather be fast and have them be unhappy than be in the back and have the rest of the pack happy."