From Staff Reports
Stockbridge resident and four-time Indianapolis 500-starter Jimmy Kite has been signed to drive the Ethanol Hemelgarn Racing No. 91 Dallara-Toyota in the 89th Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29.
With that announcement today by team officials, he will now attempt to qualify and race in both the Indianapolis 500 and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Kite was approached by the 1996 Indianapolis 500 winning team owned by Ron Hemelgarn following the injuries of the team's regular Indy Racing IndyCar Series driver Paul Dana in practice on Friday, May 13.
"I'm thankful to Ron and Ethanol and everyone at Hemelgarn for this shot," said Kite. "They have proven in the past they are a top-notch, quality team and I am very, very excited about this opportunity. With all that they have done and the drivers that have been in this 91-car it is really an honor for me to be asked to drive the car. It's great to be back at the Speedway. I'm also really excited about getting to work with Tim again. He and I can really communicate well so I think we'll be up to speed pretty quickly. Paul was doing a really good job with the Ethanol car and we hate that this happened to him. I just hope that I can do a good job filling in for him the rest of this month."
Kite will put in his first laps behind the wheel of the Toyota-powered Dallara when practice resumed for the "Greatest Spectacle In Racing" today. It will be Kite's first time with the Toyota V8 powering him but the 1998 "Fastest Rookie Qualifier" has two previous starts in the Italian-built Dallara chassis and all but one of his "500" starts on Firestone tires.
Kite is looking forward to a hectic two weeks between now and the running of the most famous motorsports event in the world.
He will leave Indianapolis on Wednesday evening to fly to Charlotte, N.C. to practice and attempt to qualify for the Quaker Steak & Lube 200 presented by Click It or Ticket NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event today.
The 29 year-old driver, who will be attempting to make his third career NASCAR Craftsman Truck race, will then fly from Lowe's Motor Speedway this evening to practice for Saturday's Indy 500 qualifying on Friday morning.
A private jet will then return Kite to Concord, N.C. for the 200-mile NASCAR Craftsman Truck race scheduled to start at approximately 8:45 pm (EDT) on Friday.
Once the checkered flag falls at Lowe's, the NASCAR rookie, who currently sits sixth in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings after attempting to make only two of the sixth races held thus far, will return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to prepare for the four-lap Indy 500 Time Trials.
Kite will have both Saturday and Sunday to put the Ethanol car in the show at Indy.
While the Indy 500 will mark Kite's first time driving with Ethanol Hemelgarn Racing, he is surrounded by familiar faces. Included is Tim Wardrop, team engineer for the No. 91.
Wardrop helped engineer Kite to the lead of the 2000 IndyCar Series event at Kentucky Speedway. Kite dominated that event before an engine failure ended his day, in the lead, following the Missouri-native's second pit stop. Pat Jordan is the crew chief for the Ethanol-sponsored car. Jimmy Kite joins an impressive list of drivers that have wheeled entries carrying the Hemelgarn name in the 28 years that Ron Hemelgarn has been a part of activities at The Speedway. Included is Buddy Lazier who won both the '96 Indy 500 and 2000 IndyCar Series championship with Hemelgarn.
Others include a personal hero of Kite's two-time Indianapolis winner Gordon Johncock, 1990 and '97 Indy champ Arie Luyendyk, '83 "500" victor Tom Sneva, multi-time Indy pole sitter Scott Brayton and USAC standouts; Stan Fox, Rich Vogler and Billy Vukovich III. Paul Dana is the 2005 IndyCar Series driver of the Ethanol No. 91.