From Staff Reports
Kentucky Speedway joined the IRL IndyCar Series for the 2000 season and was immediately to the liking of Stockbridge Jimmy Kite, driver of the No. 91 Ethanol/ Life Fitness Toyota-powered Dallara. Kite, 29, led 16 laps in that inaugural AMBER Alert Portal Indy 300 fighting his way back into the lead from a lap down not just once but twice before a blown engine, while leading, dropped him out of the running.
On that August day Kite dropped his head in his hands struck by his unbelievably bad luck.
Sunday, the 30-time IndyCar Series starter returns to the 1.5-mile tri-oval for the first time since that day five years ago. In an odd twist, it was the No. 91 Hemelgarn Racing entry that Kite now occupies that went on to win that first Kentucky event.
"I can remember that like it was yesterday and I still can't believe it," reflected Kite shaking his head still stunned by the turn of events. We had the field coveredé twice. I can close my eyes and remember what had become a familiar feeling of the engine letting-go as I went down the backstraight right after our second stop. But, I learned a lot that day about racing and about myself. That race probably had a lot to do with why I didn't give-up and why I am back here again this week with the Ethanol Hemelgarn team. I really like the track. It's been a few seasons but I'm hoping to pick-up with the same performance only a little better reliability."
Kite joined the Ethanol Hemelgarn team in May when regular driver Paul Dana (St. Louis) was injured in a practice accident for the Indianapolis 500.
Kite was called-upon to step in and make the most of the remaining days of the month. He started 32nd and would finish there in his fifth Indianapolis 500.
He has since raced in six more IndyCar Series events in the blue and white No. 91 for Ron Hemelgarn (Toledo, Oh.) taking the checkered flag in the last five straight. He has earned a season-high finish of 13th three-times and earned a total of $424,605 in the seven races of 2005. Kite, who debuted in 1997 leading laps in his second IndyCar start, is currently ranked 22nd in the season-long point standings.
"We've struggled some this season," commented Kite on the seven races he has run with the two-time Indianapolis 500 winning operation. "At first we fought the setup but we're getting that.
We still don't have the power where we need it to be but the Ethanol Hemelgarn guys are working their tails off. I can promise you that. Seeing how hard these guys work to get the most out of the car in the garage makes me want to try that much harder to get that much more out of it on the track. I guess in some ways that isn't any different than in 2000. So, maybe we can bring it all together like we almost did back then. Just this time I want to lead the last 16 laps."