IRL: Notebook 2002-02-07

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2002 - Eddie Cheever Jr. has seen and done nearly everything during his open-wheel racing career that started more than 25 years ago, so it will take something special for a rookie driver to impress him. Tomas ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Feb. 7, 2002 - Eddie Cheever Jr. has seen and done nearly everything during his open-wheel racing career that started more than 25 years ago, so it will take something special for a rookie driver to impress him.

Tomas Scheckter just might have that special quality.

Scheckter, 21, was the fastest driver overall in the first day of the Test in the West on Feb. 6 at California Speedway with a top lap of 32.4395 seconds, 221.952 mph in the No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone. It was only his second time ever on an oval, as he first tested for Cheever late last month.

Cheever was third fastest overall at California at 32.4638, 221.785 in his No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone. But the performance of Scheckter had Cheever buzzing.

"It's one thing to tell someone how to do something, it's another to watch them go out and do it naturally," Cheever said. "We went two different directions with the cars, and we knew he was quick enough that we could do that. We got double return on our information.

"For the last two years I've been doing all the work. Normally, you can't have a young guy do that but he is crazy enough to test very well on ovals. I keep telling him that he has to respect the walls, and he tells me not to worry."

Maybe it's in the genes. Scheckter, former British Formula 3 standout and former Jaguar Formula One test driver, is the son of 1979 F1 World Champion Jody Scheckter.

"His father was the Formula One world champion and one of the most charismatic, headstrong drivers in the modern era," said Cheever, a veteran of 132 F1 starts. "The apple, in his case, didn't fall far from the tree. Tomas has had a lot of good training in Europe, racing against the best from every nation. He came very highly recommended from the Arrows Formula One team and TWR. I am surprised he caught on as quickly as he did.

"But we are just starting, and Phoenix is another story."

Scheckter and Cheever will continue testing with many other Indy Racing drivers Feb. 8-9 as the Test in the West continues at Phoenix International Raceway.

***

Foyt's team fast at Phoenix: A.J. Foyt-Harrah's Racing drivers Eliseo Salazar and Donnie Beechler posted fast laps during testing Feb. 5-6 at Phoenix International Raceway, with Salazar leading the way on the 1-mile oval at 20.36 seconds, 176.8 mph in the No. 11 Banco de Chile Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

Beechler was just behind at 20.53, 175.3 in the No. 14 Harrah's Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

"I mainly wanted to shake down the cars and get the drivers back behind the wheel because they've been off for four months," team owner A.J. Foyt said. "The cars performed really well, and I'm happy with the results. I believe we'll be very competitive when we come back next month."

The team and the rest of the Indy Racing League return to Phoenix for the Copper World Classic on March 17, the second event of the season.

A.J. Foyt IV, grandson of the four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, also was at Phoenix to test his USAC Silver Crown car and drove Salazar's No. 11 entry, his first laps in an Indy Racing car. Foyt turned 29 laps with a top speed of 157.8 mph.

"He impressed me and my crew," A.J. Foyt said of his grandson. "He listened to what I said and was pretty cool out there - a lot cooler than I was watching him. I think he went faster in the car than I did the last time I ran there in 1990."

Said A.J. Foyt IV, who turns 18 in May: "The Indy car felt more comfortable than the Silver Crown car. My grandpa told me to slow down a little bit, but I never had any scares in it. It felt real comfortable and real smooth. And very fast, especially in the corners."

Salazar also was impressed.

"It was great to see a future Indy 500 champion take his first laps in an Indy car, in my Indy car," Salazar said. "So that's a little bit of history we witnessed because I do believe he will win the Indy 500 one day."

***

Lazzaro wins class at Rolex 24: Indy Racing League rookie Anthony Lazzaro drove for the winning team in the Sports Racing Prototype II category in the Rolex 24 sports-car race Feb. 2-3 at Daytona International Speedway.

Lazzaro and teammates Bill Rand, Terry Borcheller and Ralf Kelleners finished third overall in the endurance classic in the No. 8 Rand Racing-Risi Competizione Nissan Lola.

Lazzaro will drive for Sam Schmidt Motorsports during the full Indy Racing League season in 2002.

1996 Indy Racing League co-champion Scott Sharp was a member of the Jim Matthews team that finished second overall, six laps behind the winning Doran-Lista Racing team.

Indy Racing veteran Jeret Schroeder was a member of the TRV Motorsport team that was eliminated just before the halfway point due to a crash by teammate John Schneider. The team was credited with 62nd overall and 13th in the Sports Racing Prototype category after completing 216 laps on the 3.56-mile road course.

***

Herb forms Indy Racing team: Veteran Jon Herb has formed his own team, Racing Professionals, for the 2002 Indy Racing League season.

The team's shop will be based in Indianapolis.

Herb, a veteran of seven Indy Racing starts since 2000, will drive a G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone car for the team. Mike Collier is the team manager, with Harvey Spencer as chief engineer and Ron Heck as crew chief.

Herb will continue his sponsorship agreements with International Star Registry and webergrills.com. The team is pursuing additional sponsors.

"I am pleased to be working with such an experienced group of professionals," Herb said. "We had a consistent run in the last two races of 2001, and we're looking forward to bigger and better things for 2002."

***

Nashville tickets going on sale: Tickets will go on sale Feb. 11 for the Firestone Indy 200 Indy Racing League event July 20 at Nashville Superspeedway.

The race is one of three night events on the 2002 schedule and will include an Infiniti Pro Series event.

Call (866) RACE-TIX or visit www.nashvillesuperspeedway.com <http://www.nashvillesuperspeedway.com> for ticket information.

***

Walker, Fisher receive award: Indy Racing team owner Derrick Walker and his driver, Sarah Fisher, were honored Jan. 31 in New York for being named to the Advertising Age "Marketing 100."

The award, established in 1992, has recognized companies and brands that were "visionary marketers and the brands that left an impression on advertising."

"Sharing the stage with some of the major corporations in the world for this type of achievement was quite exhilarating," Walker said.

Other companies selected included Bayer, BMW, Dell Computer, Heineken, Nestle, Red Bull, Eli Lilly, Sony and UPS.

"We appreciate the support of Advertising Age and their recognition of our efforts in marketing," Walker said. "Our company is differentiating itself in the motorsport industry by creating highly customized programs and taking them directly to target audiences. We present unique opportunities for companies to maximize impact in this field of international, technology-intensive, professional sports as a communication medium."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Ralf Kelleners , Sarah Fisher , Eddie Cheever , Jon Herb , Scott Sharp , Jeret Schroeder , A.J. Foyt IV , Donnie Beechler , Sam Schmidt , Terry Borcheller , Bill Rand , John Schneider , Jody Scheckter , A.J. Foyt
Teams Risi Competizione