IRL: CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Penske tests at Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, Oct. 23, 2000 -- For Gil de Ferran, memories of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway cover a quarter of a lap. For Tim Cindric, the Speedway brings back a lifetime of memories. de Ferran and Cindric were at the ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, Oct. 23, 2000 -- For Gil de Ferran, memories of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway cover a quarter of a lap. For Tim Cindric, the Speedway brings back a lifetime of memories. de Ferran and Cindric were at the Speedway on Oct. 22-23, testing an Indy Racing Northern Light Series car for team owner Roger Penske, who is trying to decide whether to return to the Indianapolis 500 in May 2001 for the first time since 1995. de Ferran is the Brazilian who, as a rookie driving the Pennzoil car for Jim Hall in 1995, became inadvertently involved in a first-turn crash at the start of that race and was eliminated after one lap. This year de Ferran joined Team Penske and holds a five-point lead in the CART point standings heading into the season finale Oct. 29 at Fontana, Calif. Last October, Cindric was hired away from Team Rahal to become president of Penske Racing. Cindric grew up in Clermont, Ind., just west of the Speedway, and spent his youthful years hanging out in the engine shop of Herb Porter and Rick Long. Cindric's father, Carl, worked for Porter and Long. Penske has not made an official commitment to participate at Indy next May, but Cindric said, "Obviously, we're serious or we wouldn't be here." The Penske team shared the track with a number of Indy Racing Northern Light Series teams that are involved in four days of Firestone testing this week. Among those taking part are: Hemelgarn Racing and new Northern Light Cup champion Buddy Lazier; 1999 champion Greg Ray with Team Menard; Kelley Racing's Scott Sharp and Mark Dismore, and the newly merged Hubbard/Treadway Racing team and drivers Davey Hamilton and Shigeaki Hattori. This test was the perfect opportunity to evaluate the Dallara chassis, Oldsmobile engine (the team purchased two from Long's Speedway Engines) and provide de Ferran a chance to reacquaint himself with the track and familiarize himself with the new equipment, Cindric said. In July, teammate Helio Castroneves tested at the track in a G Force car. "We're kind of taking it one step at a time, and we're here to bring our homework," de Ferran said. "If the decision is made for us to come here next year, we need to prepare ourselves well. I guess this is the beginning of that preparation to assess what the needs are to make a competitive package out here. So we're out here getting a feel for it, a feel for what the car needs, what the engine needs, for what I need, and go from there, I suppose." Cindric has an even stronger view on what the team is trying to accomplish. "If the decision is made, we want to hit the road running," he said. Penske has won the Indianapolis 500 a record 10 times as a car owner. He will determine whether his team will return to Indy in 2001 within the next couple of months, Cindric said. de Ferran, who will turn 33 on Nov. 11, is excited about the possibility of getting another chance at the Indianapolis 500 but said he would accept whatever decision Penske makes. "I am married to Team Penske, if you know what I mean," he said. "This has been a wonderful thing for my career. You always hope that one day you get that big phone call. And I was delighted obviously when it (call to join Team Penske) finally came. Once you're inside, then you understand why the team has been so successful over the years." About racing again at Indy, he continued: "I think it would be a very nice thing for me to do. Obviously, I would like to have an Indy 500 win in my resume. And the only way you can do that is to be here and challenge for it. You know, even before they (Target-Ganassi Racing) came here, it always was a desire of mine to race here. Now that I drive for one of the best teams in the business, if I ever come back here I want to come with (Team Penske). "We knew going in that the racetrack is certainly no easier than what it was before. I mean, I always regarded this track as one of the most difficult ones that we go to. And in this car, the track continues to be very challenging and very difficult." Team Penske, which had a bank of computers trackside, completed its tests Oct. 23. Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears, a consultant and driving coach for Team Penske, worked with the team during the tests. The team now heads for California and the showdown for the CART title. de Ferran admitted that driving at Indy for two days took some of the pressure off as he tries to hold off Adrian Fernandez, Paul Tracy and Kenny Brack, 1998 Indy Racing champion and 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner. "I'll tell you, you certainly can't drive around here thinking about something else," de Ferran said. "So you've got to put your mind completely to driving. Yeah, it relaxes you a little bit, takes your mind away a little from the pressure situation we'll face next weekend fighting for the championship." Testing at the Speedway certainly returned Cindric's mind to his youth. Growing up, he called engine guru Porter "Uncle Herb." As a child, he attended nearly every Indianapolis 500 and said about the Speedway, "I grew up around this place." He played high school basketball just northwest of the Speedway and then college ball at Rose-Hulman in Terre Haute, Ind., working summers for Porter and Long. Out of college, Cindric was hired by Truesports Racing and then moved over to Rahal as team manager. Like de Ferran, he also received the "big call" from Penske last fall. Cindric, 32, now lives in Reading, Pa., Penske's headquarters. He oversees the CART racing program, keeps track of Penske Cars in England and runs the Racing Experience program.

-IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Shigeaki Hattori , Buddy Lazier , Davey Hamilton , Scott Sharp , Mark Dismore , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Adrian Fernandez , Paul Tracy , Kenny Brack , Rick Mears , Roger Penske
Teams Team Penske , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing