IRL: Nashville test day report

Teams Search For Concrete Results At Nashville Test LEBANON, Tenn., Wednesday, July 11, 2001 - Seven Indy Racing teams and drivers started to unlock the secrets of speed at the all-concrete Nashville Superspeedway during private Indy Racing ...

Teams Search For Concrete Results At Nashville Test

LEBANON, Tenn., Wednesday, July 11, 2001 - Seven Indy Racing teams and drivers started to unlock the secrets of speed at the all-concrete Nashville Superspeedway during private Indy Racing Northern Light Series testing July 10 on the 1.33-mile oval.

Preparing for the inaugural Harrah's Indy 200 on July 21 at Nashville Superspeedway were:

* Indy Racing Northern Light Series points leader Sam Hornish Jr. and Panther Racing.

* 1999 Indy Racing champion Greg Ray and Team Menard.

* 1996 Indy Racing co-champion Buzz Calkins and Bradley Motorsports.

* Rookie sensation Felipe Giaffone and Treadway-Hubbard Racing.

* Robbie Buhl and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

* Shigeaki Hattori and Vertex-Cunningham Racing.

Billy Boat serving as test driver for Cheever Indy Racing, which won the Ameristar Casino Indy 200 on July 8 at Kansas Speedway with driver-owner Eddie Cheever Jr. behind the wheel.

Ray was the quickest driver around the unique, 1.33-mile oval with a top lap of 23.65 seconds in the No. 2 Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Hornish was second at 23.73 in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone.

Teams tested from 2-9 p.m. (CDT), with air temperatures in the mid-90's at the start. "I was a little apprehensive about coming to a fast track that's concrete because concrete doesn't normally have the grip that asphalt does," Ray said. "The grip was pretty good. The upside of concrete is that it's very consistent once you get in the window of operation.

"It's a fun, fast track. It's very challenging. We're very excited to be in a new market." This will be only the second all-concrete track on which the Indy Racing League will compete. Dover Downs International Speedway played host to Indy Racing events in 1998-99 on its 1-mile concrete oval.

"It's a nice track, I really like it," Hornish said of Nashville Superspeedway. "It's going to be tough to pass, but it will be a fast race. It is very line-sensitive. You are going to have to hold your line to keep your momentum up. I think it will be really exciting. It's unlike any other track I've ever raced on."

Boat is sixth in the Indy Racing points with Curb-Agajanian/Beck Motorsports but helped Cheever Indy Racing with the development of its #51 Cheever Indy Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone. Full-time driver Cheever arrived late in the afternoon at Nashville after fulfilling post-race commitments after winning Sunday at Kansas Speedway.

1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Cheever is expected to drive for the team today, as private testing continues. "We won at Kansas City, and we're all trying to figure out how to win Nashville," Cheever Indy Racing manager Richard Caron said. "We're just trying to get another win. So even though everybody is tired and exhausted and worn out from the heat in Kansas City, they know how important it is to test."

NASHVILLE TEST QUOTES:

ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone, 127 laps, best lap of 23.80 seconds): "When we first rolled out, it was definitely a tough track, a challenging track. We had to work really hard to get a comfortable and consistent car. I was real happy at the end of the day. I had a car that was enjoyable to drive. I felt that we had a successful test because at the beginning of the day, my car was not enjoyable to drive. The more we ran, the more rubber was put down on the track. The groove got wider. It's going to be a good race, a real good race."

BUZZ CALKINS (No. 12 Bradley Food Marts/Sav-O-Mat Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 80 laps): "This is a really nice facility. We just keep adding nicer and nicer tracks. There are some challenges between the transitions where they have ground some parts of the track and not others. The biggest difference between the concrete and asphalt track are the bumps. You just can't pour concrete smoothly enough. Of course, the biggest benefit is that the track doesn't change with the temperature like asphalt."

RICHARD CARON (Team manager, Cheever Indy Racing, driver Billy Boat, #51 Cheever Indy Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, 134 laps, best lap of 23.8 seconds): "It's just a continuation. We won at Kansas City, and we're all trying to figure out how to win Nashville. We're just trying to get another win. So even though everybody is tired and exhausted and worn out from the heat in Kansas City, they know how important it is to test."

DAVID CRIPPS (Team manager/chief engineer, Bradley Motorsports, driver Buzz Calkins): "When it is all said and done, we had a good day. We knew it would be a difficult track coming in. Obviously, we'd like to be a little quicker, but we are getting closer and closer. We'll be back out tomorrow to keep working on the Bradley Food Marts/Sav-O-Mat Dallara."

FELIPE GIAFFONE (No. 21 Hollywood G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 160 laps, best lap of 24.19 seconds): "The way the track looks, its surface, it looks like the balance will change a lot. We found a good baseline. Definitely, the speeds were faster at night, and I really like driving at night. It's a nice track. It may be hard to pass, but we always find a way. A good qualifying run will help, but a good race car helps more for the race."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 118 laps, best time of 23.73 seconds): "It's a nice track, I really like it. It's going to be tough to pass, but it will be a fast race. It is very line-sensitive. You are going to have to hold your line to keep your momentum up. I think it will be really exciting. It's unlike any other track I've ever raced on. I think it will be helpful if you can qualify up front, because I think it's going to be a fast race. I'm really glad it is going to be a night race. I think it will be great for the drivers, teams and the fans."

JOHN O'GARA (Team manager, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, driver Robbie Buhl): "The goal today was to get him comfortable in the car. We weren't going for a speed record today. We were looking for the right gears and right ride height. We learned a lot today, we're happy, and we're going home."

THOMAS KNAPP (Team manager, Vertex-Cunningham Racing, driver Shigeaki Hattori, No. 55 EPSON Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "We spent the day getting familiar with the facility and its unique requirements. And we haven't begun to scratch the surface." (Hattori's best speed?): "In the 195.5-mph range."

GREG RAY (No. 2 Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 180 laps, best lap of 23.65 seconds): "I was a little apprehensive about coming to a fast track that's concrete because concrete doesn't normally have the grip that asphalt does. The grip was pretty good. The upside of concrete is that it's very consistent once you get in the window of operation. It's a fun, fast track. It's very challenging. We're very excited to be in a new market."

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Buzz Calkins , Greg Ray , Felipe Giaffone , Eddie Cheever , Robbie Buhl , Shigeaki Hattori , Billy Boat , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing