Las Vegas, Nev. (September 24, 1999) Sam Schmidt, of Las Vegas, set the fastest lap of the day at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in practice for Sunday's Vegas.com 500. Schmidt's fastest lap, at 208.849 miles per hour, was set in this morning's ...
Las Vegas, Nev. (September 24, 1999) Sam Schmidt, of Las Vegas, set the fastest lap of the day at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in practice for Sunday's Vegas.com 500. Schmidt's fastest lap, at 208.849 miles per hour, was set in this morning's practice session. Schmidt was also fastest in the afternoon session with a lap at 207.876 mph.
"We were fortunate to test here for Firestone about five weeks ago," Schmidt said. "The track is very similar to when we were here so we have a good start. We ran a lot of miles in the heat and the wind, everything was very similar to this. So we had a little bit of an advantage when we ran those laps (today)."
Schmidt, who took over the driving duties at Treadway Racing when Arie Luyendyk announced he would only run the Indianapolis 500 this season, finished second to Arie Luyendyk in last year's race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The local driver expects to improve upon that position by one this year. "We plan on taking the team position from last year, which was first place. Arie and Treadway won here last year and we were fortunate enough to finish second. That was a good catapult for this year."
"Not only is this our home track, I feel we have a pretty good setup here and we're pretty fast right out of the box. We're hoping to step it up another stop and repeat for the team."
Pep Boys Indy Racing League points leader, Greg Ray set the second fastest lap in today's practice sessions. Ray's fastest lap, at 208.631 mph, was also set in the morning session.
With a forty four point lead over second place in the championship, Ray isn't taking any chances this weekend. "A lot of times I drive the car hard when it's not perfect," said Ray. "I don't feel like doing that this weekend. I would rather the car be perfect if I'm going to commit to it like that."
Stephan Gregoire was third fastest overall today, setting third fastest time in both sessions. "I'm very pleased with this session," said Gregoire after the morning session. "It's the best first session for the team this season. We had some handling problems when I first ran, but Dick (Simon) started working on the car and we were able to run very fast towards the end of the session."
After the second session, Gregoire said, "The track was pretty slick when we started the session. Lots of rubber on the track from the cars running before us. But we put our rubber down and the track got faster."
Mark Dismore and Buddy Lazier rounded out the top-five today.
Lazier was the only driver in the top five to improve upon his time from this morning's session. "We feel good to have made such a gain," said the 1996 Indy 500 winner. "The guys did a good job preparing the car. We hope we can build on it tomorrow. This race track is very challenging from a grip point of view. I think it has to do with the atmosphere here in the desert, and the banking of the track. All this sounds like criticism, but it isn't. All race tracks are challenging and those are just two elements that make it challenging."
Setting sixth fastest time of the day was 1999 Sprint PCS Rookie of the Year points leader Scott Harrington. "We're taking a pretty conservative approach," said Harrington, who leads Robby McGehee by 11 points in the Rookie of the Year Standings. "This is my first time on the oval, although I've run on the road course. We want to have at least a relatively good starting position, but we didn't test here and we aren't in a position to go for the pole, so we're really happy to be among the fastest in practice."
Qualifying for Sunday's Vegas.com 500 take place from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, with live television coverage on SpeedVison at 3:00 P.M. EDT.