Volk, St. James and Schroeder's Goal Is to Finish the Rolex 24 of Daytona
24 January 1998TOLEDO, Ohio - Straightaway speeds of 190 mph for an average of 115 mph around Daytona International Speedway's road course are hardly slow, but the TRV Motorsport Chevy Kudzu team is banking that a steady albeit slower pace than some of the Ferraris in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona Jan. 31-Feb. 1 will be its best strategy.
The Toledo-based team's Supreme Exhaust Systems Products Chevy Kudzu No. 95 is admittedly slower than the fastest car in testing for the race earlier this month, a higher-horsepower Ferrari which turned the 3.56-mile road course at an average speed of 128.664 for an unofficial new track record. But the team owner and one of its drivers, businessman Tom Volk of Blissfield, Mich. and Toledo, Ohio, knows that the race doesn't always go to the fastest car, and he's a firm believer in the racing axiom, "to finish first, first you must finish."
The third driver Volk has chosen for his teammate at Daytona is one of America's brightest rising stars, 28-year-old Jeret Schroeder of Vineland, N.J. Schroeder competed in the SCCA KOOL/Toyota Atlantic series for the last two years as well as having two Indy Racing League (IRL) Indy car starts in 1997. (He finished 14th at Disney World and 19th at Phoenix). In 1995 he won the championship of the U.S. Formula 2000 series, one of open-wheel racing's leading developmental series.
The fourth driver has not yet been chosen from a long list of hopefuls still vying for the spot.
The quartet will share two-hour driving stints around the clock in one of an estimated 80 cars which will start the 24-hour classic at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 31. Along with LeMans and Monaco, the event is considered to be one of the top-three road racing endurance events in the world.
This year the race will be sanctioned by the newly-formed United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC). Other stops on the tour will be at Homestead, Fla.; the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course; Minneapolis; and Watkins Glen, N.Y., and more dates are expected to be announced later.
There are four basic classes of cars competing in the race this year: Can-Am, GT1, GT2 and GT3. TRV Motorsport's yellow and black Chevy Kudzu is in the Can-Am class, which was the fastest class in a three-day test session at Daytona Jan. 9-11. The team was established in 1990, and last year it had three top-10 finishes out of the seven IMSA World Sports Car races it entered, including an eighth on the brand-new Pikes Peak (Colo.) Int'l Raceway.
"Daytona is this type of racing's biggest event of the year in America" said Volk, who owns five businesses in three states. In addition to owning the race car team, he owns three other automotive businesses - Ohio Belting & Transmission in Toledo; auto parts wholesalers Supreme Distribution Center in Elk Grove, Ill. and Specialty Sales in Indianapolis - and a hunter/jumper horse farm, Brookside Farm of Toledo. Volk's wife, Pamela, and their three children - David, Amy and Kathryn -are all equestrians.
Volk runs his team as a business, but he admits that driving competitively is his avocation and his passion, not his profession. He started driving competitively in Formula Fords in 1988 and drove Trans-Am and GT1 cars before moving into this class four years ago. This year's Rolex 24 will be his second 24-hour race. St. James and Schroeder, on the other hand, are both professional race car drivers, although Schroeder has never before competed in this type of race nor on the high banks of Daytona International Speedway.
Volk said that Schroeder is a quick study. "I'm very impressed with him," he said. "He got into a car that was different than anything he ever drove before, and he was fast and consistent. By the second day in the car [during the test], Jeret was turning virtually the same times as both Lyn and myself. All three of us were within a few tenths of each other, and that's very unusual in this type of competition. I'm really pleased, because not all teams are able to say that, and I think that consistency is most important.
"Remember, if we are able to run the whole race we will do more than 700 laps, which is over 2,000 miles," Volk explained. "We certainly will have something break; it's a question of what and how long it takes to fix it. That is all part of this type of racing. But our goal is not to be fastest, but to finish."
"This is different than anything I've ever done before," said Schroeder, the son of Bill and Nadine Schroeder of North Palm Beach, Fla. "Atlantic races are usually only about a half-hour or 45 minutes long, not 24 hours. You have to drive 110% to win them. This race I need to drive 80% and save both the equipment and myself. It's really more of a race against time than it is a race against other drivers. There is no way we're going to be able to compete with the Ferraris. That's why our strategy is not to be fastest, but to finish the race. That's our goal."
For guidance, Schroeder has to look no further than his teammates, Volk and St. James. The latter is involved in the sports' leading personal development company, Human Performance International. In 1993 she established a non-profit organization for professional race car driver development, especially for aspiring young women, called the Lyn St. James Foundation. She served as president of the Women's Sports Foundation from 1990 to 1993 and is still very active in that organization. In 1994 she created the "Make a Difference" campaign, a program which helps girls in the Indianapolis area gain self-esteem through sports and leadership programs. She is also the chairperson of the advisory board of the Colorado Silver Bullets, the first all-female baseball team in the North American Professional Baseball League; a former consumer advisor for the Ford Motor Company; an author; a TV commentator; and one of the country's top motivational speakers.
The team's crew chief is Mike Madden. Aerospace engineer John Green designed the car and he serves as the race engineer. The car was built by Jim Downing, with the engine prepared by Comptech.
Stars from all over the racing world are entered. Some of the other big names who will be competing include Arie Luyendyk, Ernie Irvan, John Paul Jr., Derek Bell, Hurley Haywood, Jim Downing, Brian Redman, Vincenzo Sospiri, Ron Fellows, Raul Boesel, Scott Pruett, Boris Said, Dorsey Schroeder, Butch Leitzinger, Elliott Forbes-Robinson, Danny Sullivan, Paul Newman and Jason Priestley, to name just a few.
Practice and qualifying will begin on Thursday, Jan. 29, and ESPN2 will cover that live at 3 p.m. that day and at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 30. The network will provide nine and one-half hours of live race coverage beginning on Saturday, Jan. 31 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and resuming on Sunday, Feb. 1 from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
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