Terri Popielarz will be racing on the USA
Modified Circuit in 2006
Im a girl, why should I worry about
By Terri PopielarzRace Car Driver
Before I became a race car driver, tires were
the last thing in my mind when it came to driving
my streetcar. I am a girl, girls dont need to
know those things. Many of us overlook a tires
importance because they just are not familiar with
tires. Most people think that as long as they are
round and have enough tread on them to keep air in
them that they are ok.
Believe me, tires are the most important
component of your car. They are what keep you in
contact with the road. The racing term is
contact patch. This is the area of the
tire that is touching the road at any time. The
contact patch grips the road and helps you control
your car. The are really three points of keeping a
tire performing properly and keeping you safe. They
are proper inflation, tread depth and buying a
Did you know that over one half of all motorists
dont check their tire pressure regularly? I
always thought that that I was pretty good at
keeping my car well maintained. I always looked at
the tire sidewall and filled them up to what the
tire listed as the maximum pressure allowed. I
thought that the ride was a little bumpy but hey,
they seemed to last along time! Did you know
forty-eight percent of everyone does this?
Fifty-five percent of us use an unreliable resource
when we finally do check our tire pressure. As a
racecar driver, I quickly learned that proper tire
inflation is one of the most important factor of a
keeping my racecar handling well and keeping me
safe! How do you know how much air a tire needs?
Look at your car owners manual or the placard on
the car door. Your owners manual will specify the
psi your tires need to perform properly. Your car
manufacturer logged many miles on the track and
road to come up with this value to keep your car
performing at it peak and keeping you safe. Proper
inflation effects handling, fuel economy, tire wear
and braking. If your tires arent properly
inflated they will wear bad or wear out early and
use more gas. The worse scenario is that your tire
inflation isnt even from side to side and it
pulls to the side during braking or your car
becomes uncontrollable in wet or slick
Tire quality is important! I thought that as
long as the tire was round and properly balanced
that was good enough for me. If I didnt have
any money when it came time to replace my tires, I
would get those four, for a hundred-dollar tires to
last a few months until they wore out and I had
more money. A tire is a tire right? Wrong! You
bought that twenty thousand-dollar sports car and
you are ruining its performance and handling by
using that hundred-dollar set of tires. Im
not trying to say buy a tire because of the trendy
brand name, buy a better tire because your life
that is in jeopardy. I am saying buy the best
quality tire you can at the best price. Remember,
how much is your familys safety worth! Your
speedometer might say your car can go 100 mph but
those tires cant. With a tire that isnt
right for your car it will effect youre the
way your steering feels, handling, braking,
tracking and worse yet, control of the car! How do
you know what tire you should buy? Go back to your
owners manual and see what they recommend and talk
to you tire salesman. Select a tire that is
designed for your car and how you use it. Some
tires are designed for touring or highway travel
while others are more performance minded.
Tread depth is the last point of keeping a tire
performing properly and keeping you safe. What does
the tire groove do? Racecar tires arent
grooved why should we worry about tread depth?
Remember the contact patch? The tread design
(grooves in the tires) channels water out of the
area where your tire meets the road. If you have
worn out tires, the water cant escape and
your car will hydroplane. Thats why racecars
use grooved tires in the wet, control and safety.
When I saw my tires starting to wear out I thought
that Id save money and buy two at a time,
half the money right? This was definitely wrong!
Uneven tread is was dangerous as having my tires
improperly inflated or buying cheap tires! When you
try to turn sharp with uneven tread on all four
tires the car it will understeer or oversteer.
Understeer is where you have no steering and the
backend of the car takes control spinning you
around like a pendulum. Oversteer is where the car
has too much steering. The car acts like your
snowplowing down the ski slope. Most of us have
probably experience this condition when we brake
hard on a slick road and the front end keeps
pushing you right where you dont want to
A quality, properly inflated, tire with tread on
your mini-van is as important in keeping yourself
and family safe as that baby seat. Tires do
Couple find that racing is tie that binds
By Paul Shepherd Star correspondent
Dave and Terri Popielarz might have different
views on who has the upper hand in their
head-to-head matchups at the Indianapolis
Speedrome, but the husband and wife agree that auto
racing is a major part of their lives.
Terri is a rookie driver in the USA Modified
Series and races locally at Indianapolis Speedrome.
The former pro jet skier, who in 1992 became the
first woman to win a national jet ski race, began
racing on four wheels about 7 years ago.
Dave, who moved to Brownsburg in 1992, is crew
chief for Indy car driver Dario Franchitti, who
placed sixth at this year's Indianapolis 500. Dave
occasionally races at the grass-roots level.
So who would usually win? "I'd say we split it
50/50," Dave said. Terri had a slightly different
"When we first started doing it, I kicked his
butt so bad," Terri said. "We used to drive
separate trucks to the track. By the time we'd get
home we weren't mad at each other anymore, but I
usually beat him."
The couple, first met on a blind date while they
were testing at Sebring, Fla., and married five
Terri spent time road racing sport cars and
Formula Fords before moving to oval racing. When
Dave's not traveling with the Andretti Green team,
he's helping Terri at the track.
"I guess living in Indy you're pretty much
expected to race on ovals," Terri said. "We really
have fun doing it. A lot of times we get guys from
the shop. Dario's even come to watch me race
before. It's fun. Dave works in the shop all day,
then we come home and work on my car all night. But
we do that instead of watching TV. It's our hobby.
I guess it's our life."
Terri is her own mechanic when Dave's on the
road, but confesses she has her own "call a crew
chief" on speed dial.
"It's hard (with Dave) being gone all the time
racing, but I've learned to be the mechanic and
work on the car by myself," said Terri, who will
run at Indianapolis Raceway Park on July 29.
"I do setup, gear changes, all that stuff. My
choice was learn how to do it myself or not race
anymore. So I chose to learn how. It's actually a
lot of fun and satisfying and gratifying being able
to cross the line knowing that I did it
Terri is 17th in the point standings as a rookie
in the field of 52 cars.
The couple has had regular head-to-head matchups
the past few years, racing in the Hornet Division
at the Indianapolis Speedrome. Terri won two
championships in the division in 2003, and Dave is
the track record-holder.
"We were pretty fast," recalled Dave, who spoke
via telephone from Fort Worth, Texas, where he was
busy preparing Franchitti's car for last Saturday's
Bombardier Learjet 500K.
"We'd end up running against each other
inevitably and end up trading a little paint, or
we'd run one of the other guys into the wall or
something. She races hard, and I race hard."
They appreciate the sport and what it offers at
the grass-roots level. Terri actively promotes
cystic fibrosis awareness at her races.
"It's nice to be in grass-roots racing," Dave
said. "It's a good alter-ego to the professional
side. People who support professional racing, I
wish they'd support the grass-roots stuff a little
bit. . . . I think people would have a lot of fun
if they went to local races."
Residence: Indianapolis, Indiana
Grew up in Longmont, Colorado
Family: Husband Dave Popielarz - Dog's Trixie and
Hobbies: Racing, Racing, and more Racing.
Favorite Food: Hot Mexican Food and Chocolate!
Oval Racing Experience:
USA Modified Series Most Improved Driver
USA Modified Series-13th overall out of 118
USA Modified Series Rookie Season-12th overall
out of 91 Drivers
USA Modified Woman of the Year
Indianapolis Speedrome April-June Hornet
Championship 2nd Place,
July-Sept Championship 4th Place
2 Dash Wins, 12 - Heat wins, 7 - Feature Wins
Indianapolis Speedrome Powder Puff Stock Track
Indianapolis Speedrome Carmel Sod Hornet
Champion & Lady Hornet Champion
Road Racing Background
Women's Global GT Series, Skip Barber Formula
1998-1999, National SCCA, Michelin One Lap of
Raced "Jet Ski's" professionally for 7 years
& was the 1st woman to win a National Tour
Event in the Pro Runabout Division, was a Sea-Doo
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