Originally created 05/23/01

Simon hopes to patch up relationship with Gregoire



INDIANAPOLIS -- Dick Simon says Stephan Gregoire still is like a son to him.

He brought Gregoire into Indy-car racing and attended Gregoire's wedding in France.

Since the start of May, however, things have changed.

At this year's Indianapolis 500, Gregoire will be driving for Heritage Motorsports and Simon expects to be working in the pits with Donnie Beechler.

"When he came and asked me about me releasing him from his contract so he could get in the race, I said 'Of course'," Simon said. "I was not at all hurt. My heart broke and it brought tears to my eyes from a personal standpoint."

The breakup, however, is scheduled to be for only one race.

That's because Gregoire remains under contract to Simon, who said he expects the two to reunite at the next Indy Racing League event in Texas.

But getting everything worked out may not be as easy as it sounds.

Gregoire said Sunday that Simon questioned the line he was taking and the way he was entering turns at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"I've been driving cars the same way all the time," he said then.

Simon responded Monday by saying he was only "suggesting" ways to fix problems the team encountered in finding speed. Simon also said his engineers told him Gregoire was not providing enough information about the car.

"I tutored him in '93 and just said he might want to open his line a little to help us solve the problem," Simon said. "If you were the owner and you had some kind of a problem like that, wouldn't you try to fix it?"

Even so, Simon said he holds no grudges and expects the relationship to continue.

"I look at it kind of like an accident," Simon said. "Look at '95, when Roger (Penske) missed the race. They went on to the next race and did very well. I look at it kind of like we've had an accident. We'll pick up the pieces and go on."

RE-FUELING: A.J. Foyt's team is one of several teams working on development of a new fuel cell.

The innovation measures the pressure in the tank, which gives the crew a more accurate reading of how much fuel is left in the car. When it goes off, the driver can only go another 1 12 laps before running out.

"We're trying to make the most use on the amount of fuel in the car," said Craig Baranouski, Foyt's team manager. "The competition here is getting so much closer, you have to try and make the most of every drop."

Baranouski said that in past years, they have used a "magic number" to determine when a driver would run out of fuel.

Other drivers who may use the new cell, Baranouski said, are Buddy Lazier and Jeff Ward. The Kelley Racing team, which consists of Scott Sharp and Mark Dismore, and the Chip Ganassi team - Tony Stewart, Gil de Ferran, Bruno Junqueira and Nicolas Minassian - also may try it.

Whether it would help prevent incidents such as the one two years ago, when Robby Gordon ran out of fuel with four laps to go, remains in question.

"I don't know if it would prevent something like that," Baranouski said. "What it would prevent is someone telling him that he'd be all right and then run out."

FOYT'S OPINION: A.J. Foyt is not afraid to offer an opinion.

Asked whether his drivers - Eliseo Salazar, Robby Gordon or Donnie Beechler - ought to wear the Head and Neck Support device, Foyt offered a different kind of answer.

"I've got mixed emotions about it," Foyt said. "I'm a little old-fashioned. I've always been the type of driver where if something's coming at me, I want to duck away from it."

Foyt will not tell his drivers what to wear when it comes to helmets - or the HANS device.

"I leave that up to the driver because, as an owner, I wouldn't want that on my mind, even if I felt it was better," Foyt said."

RAPID ROOKIE: Bruno Junqueira was honored as the fastest rookie qualifier at the Indianapolis 500 on Tuesday.

Junquiera qualified May 13 at a speed of 224.208 mph.

It is the second straight year that a driver from Chip Ganassi's team has won the award. Juan Montoya, who won the 2000 Indy 500, was the fastest rookie qualifier last year.