GOODYEART TESTING AT NHIS
TRACKSIDE REPORT, WEDNESDAY, JULY 10, 1996<
LOUDON, N.H. -- This is the final Trackside Report for the three-day Goodyear tire test at New Hampshire International Speedway. According to Goodyear tire engineers, more than 750 tire testing miles were logged over the three-day session. Speeds were not released.
Scott Sharp, the Indy Racing League's 1996 co-champion, returned to a track this week which has both fond and not-so-fond memories for him. NHIS is a kind of "home" track for Sharp, who was born in Norwalk, Conn. He lived there until the end of 1994, when he moved to California. He's a graduate of Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., near Boston. And, in 1986, he drove the first race of his career on the road course here at age 18.
"In order to get your SCCA license, you went to a driver's school on Saturday and raced on Sunday," said Sharp, who completed Goodyear tire tests with A.J. Foyt Enterprises here on Tuesday. "I got my license, raced the next day in a Datsun 240Z and won. I was 18 and the car was 17...my dad (Bob) had raced it 17 years earlier."
Scott raced GTS-1, GTS-2 and Trans Am cars at Loudon for two years, then didn't run at the track from 1988 through 1993. He returned to New Hampshire in an Indianapolis car in 1994 but finished that race upside down.
"We were in the front half of the grid," he recalled. "It was a cold day and everyone was having trouble getting tires up to temperature. Mike Groff got (passed) a couple of guys on a restart. I saw it coming and thought I'd let him by on the outside, and he did (pass there). He spun and I went right over him and cartwheeled a couple of times. I was surprised...it was a very soft crash. I never hit the wall. I just rode over the top of Mike's car and rolled. While I was hanging upside down in the car, I hoped they'd roll me over and I could keep going, but there was more damage than that."
Sharp's next racing appearance here will be the True Value 200 on Aug. 18, and for him it will be special.
"Not so much with the idea that I think of the old track," Sharp said, "but it's an area where I know a lot of people...college friends from Boston, my family from Connecticut. I went to camp 15 miles from here at Camp Sunapee when I was eight. It's more (special because) I have a lot of friends here."
Eliseo Salazar tested from Team Scandia for the three-day period and was the only driver in the sessions who competed at NHIS a year ago.
"It's a very good track," Salazar said. "It's an oval with four distinct corners. I think it's much better than a tri-oval. I hope, for the future, we get more tracks like this one. I enjoyed the area (last year) ...with the lakes. I hope people come to this race as they come for NASCAR."
Salazar said being here last year helped with setups and gave his team somewhat of an early advantage.
"I think a little bit," he said, "it always gives you a little edge. But in Vegas with the IRL open test, everyone gets a chance to try the track. Then the edge, unfortunately for us, disappears."
He said he's looking forward to the True Value 200 here, the 1996-97 IRL season opener, but it's different to start a season in August.
"It's funny to say it," he said. "My goal is to become the '96-'97 champion, so I'm going to approach it (the race here) to get good points. I think we have a good car for Vegas. Hopefully, we'll be in the top three after Vegas, then start the new year with the new cars. You have to think of this as the season opener."
Roberto Guerrero was last off the track at the conclusion of testing.
"I think the speed on a couple of laps wasn't bad," he said. "I think we're somewhere close. The (IRL) open test (July 23-25) will be three days. We definitely have an advantage over the people who don't test at all."
He talked about the IRL and its upcoming new season.
"I think it's come better than I expected," Guerrero said. "We've been able to have a good number of cars. The races have been competitive. Indianapolis was the icing on the cake. It was a very competitive race."
"It hasn't really sunk in that it'll be a new season (starting Aug. 18 here)," he added. "The fact that we're running the same cars, it doesn't seem like a new season. In January, we'll have new cars and new engines...that'll be a little strange, too.
"I like the new rules. I think the future looks really bright."
Guerrero is to appear tonight at "Race Fever '96" on Main Street in Concord, an annual celebration of the NASCAR clan coming to town this weekend.
"You'll have to learn how to say, 'Hi, y'all!'" a crewman joked to Guerrero, referring to the southern-flavored stock car culture.
"I come from farther south than they do," was the reply from Guerrero, who was born in Colombia and is a naturalized American citizen.
Several east coast drivers have expressed an interest in taking the USAC 40-lap IRL drivers test at the League's open test July 23-25. Among them are Reggie Ruggiero, Ed Flemke Jr., Tim Connolly, Steve Park, Doug Didero and Nick Fornoro Jr. IRL officials are working to coordinate the tests.