The People of IMS

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Roberto Guerrero

He is a familiar name who made his mark at the Speedway but you wish it could’ve been just a touch better. Roberto Guerrero was racing in Europe after leaving his native Colombia when the Indy cars drew his attention. He was lightning fast. But things just seemed to happen to him.

That was then. Now? “A little bit here, a little bit there,” he said quietly from his home in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. “I broadcast the ALMS races and Grand-Am for SPEED in Latin America. I do a lot of work for Jaguar at its performance driving academy here. I also work with the new models and just finished work on the XJ that’s coming out in May.”

Guerrero returned to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May 2011 for the first time since 2001. “I’ve never been a good spectator,” he said. “There wasn‘t any real reason to be there. This year, I have a purpose. When I have a purpose, I love to go there.”

The Speedway has been both kind and unkind to him. He is second only to Bill Holland in Speedway history for the best record in his first four starts. Holland finished 2-2-1-2 in 1947-50. Guerrero went 2-3-4-2 in 1984-87. On May 9, 1992, he set the track record of 232.618 mph for the pole but crashed on the pace lap. The record stood for four years until Davy Jones broke it with 233.064 on May 11, 1996.

In a testing session, he was seriously injured in an accident and in a coma for 17 days. The next March, he started on the front row for the season opener at Phoenix. He and wife, Katie, organized a tennis event for CARA Charities back in those years.

“I’m still playing, but Katie’s playing a lot,” Roberto said, laughing. The Guerrero flock has grown now. Marco, 24, is a mechanical engineer who enjoys working with the technical part of race cars — and doing the Baja 1000 with his dad. Evan, 21, is graduating from Lehigh as a biology major and is headed to medical school. Haley, 17, is a high school junior who is already being recruited by colleges for their soccer programs.

“Looks like we’ll have a Dr. Guerrero in the family,’ Roberto said. “And mention Haley because people leave her out of stories, and I get in trouble.”

His biggest thrill at Indy? “It had to be setting the lap record in ‘92,” Guerrero said. “My rookie year when I finished second, I don’t think I appreciated it until time went on.

“Indy is and was a very special place for us. We have a lot of good memories.” He was a part of the European invasion at the Speedway.

“In my family, the Indianapolis 500 is the biggest thing in the world,” he continued. “I grew up with Indy 500 on my brain ever since my dad got that go kart for me and started teaching me the desire and the sacrifice, and the level of concentration, all that that you have to have to be a winner and to be a champion. When I won Indy that first year and that wreath was going over me, all of a sudden there was a lot of pressure that was lifted off of me.”

The fire still smolders. “I would love to test it,” Guerrero said of his possible return to Indy. “I would like to drive it.

“I’m 51 years old. It would be interesting, but time doesn’t stop for anybody.”

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Fun Fact #29
Seven-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi won the inaugural Red Bull Indianapolis GP in 2008.
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