INDY LIGHTS VETERAN HIGGINS PASSES INDY RACING ROOKIE TEST
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Thursday, Dec. 9, 1999 - Indy Lights star Derek Higgins passed his Indy Racing League rookie test Dec. 9 at Walt Disney World Speedway in a car prepared by the new Jonathan Byrd-McCormack Motorsports team. Higgins completed 105 laps and recorded a fast time and speed of 22.6 seconds, 159.292 mph in a G Force/Aurora/Firestone equipped with a 4.0-liter engine. Indy Racing Director of Racing Operations Brian Barnhart and a host of veteran drivers, including Scott Goodyear, Greg Ray, John Hollansworth Jr. and Andy Michner, served as observers for the test. "He did a nice job adapting to a tricky racetrack," said Barnhart. "Derek showed a lot of poise and professionalism. He listened to our advice and instructions during the test and showed a lot of promise." Higgins was happy with his Indy Racing League test but felt it was somewhat of a trial by fire on the difficult 1-mile Walt Disney World Speedway tri-oval. "I probably picked the wrong track to do a rookie test," he said with a laugh. "It's really a tough track, similar to Nazareth or Phoenix. But Phoenix is easier, to tell you the truth. "The horsepower of these cars certainly is quite a step up from the Lights, and due to the setup of the car the back end felt really light, despite the car's weight. It would have been nice to get more track time, but I'm pleased with my effort." Higgins, 31, from Dublin, Ireland, scored three wins in the 12-race 1999 Indy Lights season, with victories at Milwaukee, Detroit and Cleveland. His career includes championships in the Mexican Formula 3 series in 1995 and 1997, and he placed fifth and seventh in Indy Lights points in 1998 and 1999, respectively. Higgins is one of the candidates under consideration by Jonathan Byrd-McCormack Motorsports for their seat in the 2000 Indy Racing League season, said team co-owner Dennis McCormack. "Jonathan (Byrd) had this test in the works for quite some time," McCormack said. "Derek is a very competent and knowledgeable driver, and given that he has solid oval and road-course experience, he is not your typical rookie." Higgins is the second Indy Lights veteran to pass the Indy Racing League rookie test since the end of the 1999 Indy Racing season. Airton Dare completed the test in October at Texas Motor Speedway and will drive for TeamXtreme as a teammate to veteran John Hollansworth Jr. in 2000.