IRL: Indy 500 Greg Ray, Juan Montoya atop speed chart; five rookies pass test

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, April 10, 2000 - Greg Ray and Juan Montoya, the reigning champions of open-wheel racing, showed why they earned their titles April 10 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway by leading veteran open testing for the 84th ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, April 10, 2000 - Greg Ray and Juan Montoya, the reigning champions of open-wheel racing, showed why they earned their titles April 10 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway by leading veteran open testing for the 84th Indianapolis 500. Ray, the 1999 Indy Racing Northern Light Series champion, sat atop the speed chart by posting a lap of 220.713 mph in the Conseco-Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Not far behind was Juan Montoya, the 1999 CART champion, at 219.780 in the Target/Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone. It was Montoya's first test ever on the 2.5-mile oval. "These are new cars and new engines, and it was the first time we could run with low downforce, and the track is a little bit green," Ray said. "Sunday we were being a bit conservative, and the setups from last year don't necessarily apply to the new car. Once you get the car to feel the way you want it to from a confidence standpoint, you can make changes to make it faster." Said Montoya: "I don't feel like a rookie. I was able to come out with some very fast times in practice. It hasn't been too hard to adjust to the new track. Every time I go out in the car, my adrenalin gets flowing. I'm always trying to push the car to the limit." Mark Dismore was third fastest at 219.437, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr. fourth at 219.309 and Jeff Ward fifth at 219.256 in a car owned by four-time Indianapolis 500 champ A.J. Foyt. Jimmy Vasser, Montoya's teammate, was sixth fastest at 219.127. Vasser is a four-time Indianapolis 500 competitor, with a best finish of fourth in 1994. He drove on the Speedway today for the first time since 1995. Montoya and Vasser compete full time in CART and are the only CART regulars scheduled to compete in the 2000 Indianapolis 500. Speeds jumped considerably today compared to Sunday, with nine drivers going faster today than Sunday's top speed, a 218.081 lap set by Cheever. Five rookies completed the Rookie Orientation Program today: Ross Cheever, the younger brother of Eddie Cheever Jr., Airton Dare, Memo Gidley, Sarah Fisher and Shigeaki Hattori. Fisher and Hattori completed the four-phase test in the closing minutes of practice, while the others finished earlier in the day. Gidley and Dare finished all four phases today. Fisher, 19, drives the Walker Racing Cummins Special Riley & Scott/Oldsmobile/Firestone full time as the youngest competitor in the Northern Light Series. "Indy is probably the neatest place I've ever run, and it's an honor to pass the rookie test here, especially with (team owner) Derrick's (Walker) return and my beginning," said Fisher. "It's a difficult racetrack to learn, and I think the most difficult thing I'm learning is the line. We just need more practice and more laps, and then we will be flying." Sam Hornish Jr., driving for PDM Racing, completed the ROP Sunday. Russ Gamester, Doug Didero and Andy Hillenburg have completed three phases of the test and will continue the test tomorrow.

VETERAN TESTING QUOTES:

EDDIE CHEEVER JR.: "The #51 Excite@Home Indy Race Car is running very well. It's really the first time that we've had the opportunity to figure out what the Firestone tires want, and we seem to be understanding their needs. We've been putting a lot of useful miles on the Infiniti engine, as well. Our straightaway speeds are where we want them to be, and all the components are there. We haven't quite put together the perfect lap yet, but we're well on our way."

JUAN MONTOYA: "I don't feel like a rookie. I was able to come out with some very fast times in practice. It hasn't been too hard to adjust to the new track." (About competition during practice): "Every time I go out in the car, my adrenalin gets flowing. I'm always trying to push the car to the limit." (About first laps at Indianapolis Motor Speedway): "I think it has been a very fun atmosphere. I'm excited about the race, and I feel comfortable enough in the car to really push it." (Comparing CART and Indy Racing cars): "The main difference between the two cars is the horsepower. The champ cars have more horsepower, but the chassis is very similar." (About rookie status at Indy): "I've gotten some good advice from (teammate) Jimmy (Vasser), and we had a good practice session this morning. The car feels good, and we ran at a great speed, so that's encouraging."

JIMMY VASSER: "It has been easy to go flat around here, so after our first day out, I feel fine. The car has been good, but we're not racing until qualifications, so we're just trying to get it comfortable and fast." (About Indianapolis Motor Speedway): "This is a beautiful facility and a great track. It's nice to be driving it again. I think a lot has changed since the last time I was here (1995), but this race still has the same meaning and importance it always has."

JEFF WARD: "We got the car working a lot better. I'm real happy with the car ... it's solid. It feels really well balanced. It's tough to tell the times out there. You don't know if they're legit or not. The back straight is big today. If you get behind someone, you can pick up a mile per hour to a mile-and-a-half per hour if you get a really good tow. You kind of hit a lull with things because you try to use the right gear without hitting the rev limiter. Today's not that bad. If (the wind is) consistent like today, it's no problem. It's when it's gusty like yesterday when it causes problems. If it's a 15-mph wind, and then a 30-mph gust, your line changes so much."

STEPHAN GREGOIRE: "Today was like starting all over from scratch. Today we put some parts on. We did a 217.9 with the new parts. We put new tires on to try to go out and get a fast lap, and that's when they called the session, so we don't know what we could have done." (What are the new parts?): "A new suspension and new aerodynamic devices from G Force. It takes time to drive 100 percent as a driver when you get new parts. Every time you get a new part, you start over. If we didn't touch the package we could probably run 220."

MARK DISMORE: "Everybody's getting familiar with the cars. This is the first time everybody's been here with the new equipment, and we're just getting acquainted with it and getting a handle on the cars. Yesterday we had a list about three times longer of 'don't do's' than 'to do's.'" (Do you notice a difference in the 1999 cars than the 2000 cars at Indy?): "You know, the '99 car was a really good car so I can't say I notice a big difference, but what I really notice is that the Firestone tires are so much better. I hate to say it because Goodyear was good to us, but the Firestone is such a superior product. It's day and night, honestly. That's not to say I wouldn't like to see Goodyear come back, but I'm afraid I'm going to be on Firestones the rest of my career. Their tires are awesome." (Are you happy with today's accomplishments?): "I went out at the end of the day after we threw a set of stickers on and ran a 219, so I'm pretty happy."

GREG RAY (Where did the speed come from, comparing yesterday to today?): "These are new cars and new engines, and it was the first time we could run with low downforce, and the tracks a little bit green. Sunday we were being conservative, and the setups from last year don't necessarily apply to the new car. I have enough miles around the track to know what I like, and we didn't quite get the feel on the car, and we're still not there yet. We're working on race setup right now, just trying to get the right feel. Once you get the car to feel the way to want it to from a confidence standpoint, then you can make changes to the car to make it faster. That's a big issue. We made the car better today, and we have a long way to go." (So what's the next step in testing?): "We'll keep on working on it. I'd tell you what we' re going to do but then I'd have to kill you."

BUDDY LAZIER: "We've been working really hard. There's a lot of information we've taken in. It's the second day on the Riley & Scott chassis around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The other two people running the car are rookies and they're getting up to speed, so there isn't a lot of information going into this test. Now we have a tremendous amount of info to take out of it. We haven't had the speed we were hoping for, but at the same time the car's been really good. I think we'll utilize every testing day that's available to us here. With the testing limitations, there's only so many days so that's a disadvantage when you have an unproven car." (Are you confident the car will be as good on the superspeedways as it has been on the short tracks?): "I'm really confident in the people that I work with on the team, and the Riley & Scott crew are very talented. Now that we have a lot of information to input into the engineering machine, we should be able to come out with some solid results."

ROOKIE TESTING QUOTES:

ROSS CHEEVER: "It's a great opportunity, and I'm very happy to take the opportunity to complete this program and start preparing for the Indianapolis 500. It will make my job much easier to get sponsorship for the #52 car, which needs to happen for us to compete next month. The car actually was as good yesterday as today. There is a temperature difference and change in humidity. The car is so sensitive to those changes, especially at this track. There was in particular a great deal of drag on the car today."

AIRTON DARE: "We tried to do rookie orientation yesterday, but we couldn't run more than 195 mph. (The car) was real bad yesterday. We changed the setup and it was good right away. Now we can go out and test and see what we can do. The rookie test is a good deal, because you control your speed and learn how to be patient. You learn the line, and since you cannot go faster you really concentrate on finding a good line. We're going to come back and test more. The wind is blowing quite a lot. We're picking up quite a push coming out of Turn 4. We're going to try to fix that and see if the wind changes next session." (Impression of the track): "It's really good to drive around, given the speed you're running. You can run flat through the corners, and overall, it's very impressive."

SARAH FISHER: "Indy is probably the neatest place I've ever run, and it's an honor to pass the rookie test here, especially with (team owner) Derrick' s (Walker) return here and my beginning, and I'm really proud to be here. It 's a difficult racetrack to learn, and I think the most difficult thing I'm learning is the line. Every time I go around, I gain more and more confidence. I still have some to gain from a driver's perspective, and we still have some more work to do on the car, but it's definitely starting to come together. We just need more practice and more laps, and then we will be flying."

SHIGEAKI HATTORI: "Right now, the car is comfortable. Unfortunately, this morning we had engine problems. I drove just 10 laps. My mechanics did a good job changing the motor for me. I was happy to get through Phase 3 and 4 and just run practice. I was really happy to get through it because everybody says it's going to rain tomorrow." (About help from two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk): "Arie, our driving coach, he helps a lot. He knows everything. We watch tapes. Yesterday, we went to the grandstand and watched the lines. This line is good, this line is no good."

MEMO GIDLEY: "I've been on pins and needles all week. I didn't have to practice at every speed, I just went on to the next one. For me, it was real natural."

-IRLNS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Shigeaki Hattori , Jeff Ward , Arie Luyendyk , Airton Daré , Mark Dismore , Jimmy Vasser , Andy Hillenburg , Chip Ganassi , Russ Gamester , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing