INDIANAPOLIS, July 2, 2001 - Walker Racing's Indy Racing League and CART teams along with drivers Sarah Fisher and Tora Takagi spent their weekends in Virginia and Ohio, with Sarah on the .75-mile oval at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday...
INDIANAPOLIS, July 2, 2001 - Walker Racing's Indy Racing League and CART teams along with drivers Sarah Fisher and Tora Takagi spent their weekends in Virginia and Ohio, with Sarah on the .75-mile oval at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday night and Tora on Sunday at the 2.106-mile temporary road circuit at Cleveland Burke Lakefront Airport.
Sarah's race day began on a high note with a front-row start at the inaugural SunTrust Indy Challenge. Sarah took the green flag with her best starting position in an IRL race to-date -- second -- on the .75-mile oval racetrack in the #15 Walker Racing/Kroger Special/ Oldsmobile/Dallara/Firestone under very slick and hot track conditions which affected most of the race field. Her first pit stop under caution on Lap 66 was a good one, and the Walker Racing IRL crew made adjustments to the car in addition to changing tires and refueling. After the stop, Sarah battled with the changing track conditions and had just set her two fastest lap times of the night before losing control and hitting the wall on Lap 107 between turns three and four. She was uninjured and finished the race in 17th position.
"It was an up and down weekend for us," Sarah said. "We had our first front-row start as a team, but the race didn't go as we expected. The car wasn't handling well during the race, and if I had to do it again, I would've brought it in to see if we could make it better. It's disappointing not only for myself, but for my team and my sponsors, but we've learned from this experience."
"Short ovals are tough racetracks," said owner Derrick Walker. "You have to have a really consistent balance, and obviously we didn't. But, it's all part of the learning curve and everybody put in the maximum effort possible, and it's on to Kansas."
Tora's day at Cleveland also began on a high note, with his best start of the season - eighth -- in the #5 Pioneer/DENSO Special/Toyota/Reynard/Firestone car.
Conditions at Burke Lakefront Airport for Sunday's Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by Firstar were in direct contrast to those at Richmond the evening before, with intermittent rain showers which ended right before the race began and unseasonably cool weather conditions throughout the 100 lap race.
Tora started strong and remained so throughout the race, making great pit stops on laps 31 and 63, where his Walker Racing CART team made only minor adjustments to the car. He was able to run as high as 5th position, until lap 73 when his car was clipped by Scott Dixon's. Tora spun and was able to recover, but dropped from 8th to 12th place in the process. He pitted for the last time on lap 89 for a splash of fuel under the green, and had moved back up to 11th place until the final lap, when he ran out of fuel on the racetrack. Tora finished 14th.
"The car was very good from the start of the race," said Tora. "I was able to keep attacking other cars on the track the entire time. Unfortunately we were bumped and spun out and then ran out of fuel, or we would have been in the top ten. All in all, the race weekend went quite well, and if we keep on improving this way, we will be tough to beat."
"Tora drove a really good race," Derrick said. "He deserved every bit of the eleventh place we should have had. Unfortunately our fuel calculations didn't add up and we were running too hard at the end of the race. But the good news is that we're turning the corner on this program. Tora is getting used to this series and is working well with the team, and it's only a matter of time."
The Indy Racing League heads west to Kansas Speedway this weekend for the inaugural Ameristar Casio Race at Kansas Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on Sunday, July 8 at 1 p.m. on ABC. The CART FedEx Championship series will take next weekend off and then heads north to Toronto, Canada for the Molson Indy on Sunday July 15. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN at 1 p.m.