week has started another month at the Brickyard. Honestly, I’ve
been chomping at the bit to get back here. I drove up to Indy
on Friday from Charlotte, it seemed like driving was even faster
that getting on a plane. I guess my mind is just racing with anticipation
to race again at the Speedway.
have always held the Indy 500 in high regard. Even though I missed
the race in 1996 because of the CART/IRL split, I came back and
raced in 1997 with a team formed between me and Felix Sabates.
Unfortunately, we had a fire that year due to a faulty O-Ring
around the fuel port.
That is an interesting story. We were quite fast in practice and
plenty good after Carb day. In order to make sure everything was
right, we took the car completely apart and re-sassembled it inch
by inch before the race. We even went as far as replacing all
the gaskets and O-Rings.
for us, when we replaced the O-Ring around the fuel port, the
G-Force catalog for replacement parts called for the wrong “crush”.
The O.D was correct but the “crush” was off. This probably wouldn’t
have created a problem under normal circumstances. But if you
recall in 1997, the race was stopped because of rain. All the
cars were topped off with fuel and sealed away in the garages.
The car sat over night and the fuel in the car leaked into the
underside of the drivers cockpit. The next morning every one topped
off one last time and rolled the car to pit lane to begin the
race. At this point no one on our team had any idea what had happened,
nor did anyone notice that a gallon or two was gone from when
we topped off the evening prior. We had moved from 18th to like
4th if I remember correctly. Upon the race restart after two laps
I called in saying my seat was all wet. No one thought anything
other than my water bottle was obviously leaking. “Don’t worry,
it’s just your water bottle leaking” they said. Ok. Seemed logical
very next lap my rear started to fry. I mean hot. I called in
again. “My ass is very hot! I mean very hot.” I said. As I entered
turn 3 at speed I could feel my rear starting to boil. I started
to look around for the medical unit. I didn’t see it. I missed
pit in and decided that the best place to pull over was in the
grass. At least I could roll in the grass and put out this fire.
It seemed like a million years. I couldn’t get there fast enough.
The heat was starting to climb up my back. “This fire is going
to get me,” I thought to myself. I ejected like a bottle rocket
and rolled to the turf. If you saw it on TV, it looked like I
had fire ants in my pants.
result 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree burns on my upper thigh and rear
hip and my wrist. The fuel was coming out through the gear shift
hole when I was at speed. The fuel then leaked down under my seat.
Today I have some nasty scars to remind me how terrible a fuel
fire is anywhere around an Indycar. You can’t see the menthol
fire. It just burns you. My wounds have healed.
It seems like fuel has been a problem for me at the Speedway.
Too much fuel in 1997 and not enough in 1999.
Maybe 2001 will be the one for me.