GREGOIRE FASTEST OF DAY, BUT RAY REMAINS SUPREME IN TESTING
SAM SCHMIDT INJURED IN TURN 2 INCIDENT
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Thursday, Jan. 6, 2000 - Stephan Gregoire and the Dick Simon Racing team stepped up their testing efforts Jan. 6 and hit the sweet spot, posting a top speed of 167.887 mph on the second day of the Indy Racing League Open Test at Walt Disney World Speedway.
Gregoire, driving the Mexmil G Force/Aurora/Firestone, ran only a few warm-up laps Jan. 5 and did not get up to speed. But he said the team came out prepared today.
"We had a good basic setup, and we haven't changed much," said Gregoire, a native of Neufchateau, France, and resident of Indianapolis. "Dick Simon and the team did a very good job to figure out a good baseline to start with.
"I was impressed from the beginning, because I could feel the car had a lot of downforce. It had good handling, especially in Turn 1, and it didn't take me long to be flat out in Turn 2."
Robby McGehee, driving the Energizer G Force/Aurora/Firestone, was second fastest for the day at 166.984 and Scott Sharp was third in the Delphi Automotive Dallara/Aurora/Firestone at 166.883. Sharp holds the track record of 171.371, set in qualifying in 1999 with a 4-liter engine. Indy Racing League teams are using 3.5-liter engines in 2000.
Greg Ray remained supreme at the 1-mile tri-oval, however, with a speed of 168.445 set Jan. 5 on the first day of the two-day Indy Racing League open test. Ray was also fastest at the two-day December Open Test, at 169.165. Ray and Team Menard did not test today. The team conducted private tests early this week and returned to their Indianapolis headquarters today.
Al Unser Jr. completed his first official Indy Racing League test on a good note by posting a speed of 164.979, picking up nearly 3 mph from the first day.
"I feel that this was a very good test," said Unser. "The car ran flawlessly and my crew is doing a great job. I need more time to figure out the car to get it quicker, and I need to learn the track, but we are going to test here again on January 19th and 20th, so I think that we will accomplish more during those two days."
Two accidents marred the day's testing. The Treadway Racing 1999 G Force/Aurora/Firestone driven by Sam Schmidt, of Las Vegas, did a 180-degree spin exiting Turn 2 and made contact with the outside wall, heavily damaging the left-rear side of the car.
Dr. Henry Bock, Walt Disney World Speedway medical director, reported that Schmidt is listed in critical condition in the intensive care unit at Orlando Regional Medical Center with some paralysis. Schmidt, 35, is conscious and alert.
About one hour after Schmidt's accident, rookie Doug Didero, driving the Mid-America Motorsports 1999 Dallara/Aurora/Firestone, lost control of his car exiting Turn 2. The car did a 90-degree spin, then straightened but made light contact with the inside retaining wall, damaging the left side suspension. Didero was unhurt.
Indy Racing drivers completed 2,310 laps during the two days of testing, with defending race winner Eddie Cheever Jr. completing 323 laps, the most of any driver. Cheever's brother, Ross Cheever, also tested the Team Cheever Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone. He posted a fast speed of 161.936 and completed 72 laps.
Many Indy Racing League teams will keep Walt Disney World Speedway busy with extensive private testing before the season-opening Delphi Indy 200 on Jan. 29. Hemelgarn Racing and driver Buddy Lazier are scheduled to debut the 2000 Riley & Scott chassis during testing Friday and Saturday.
Other teams that are confirmed to test privately in the next two weeks are Hubbard-Immke Racing, Dick Simon Racing, Panther Racing, Team Menard, Galles ECR Racing, Tri-Star Motorsports and TeamXtreme.
PERFORMANCE HISTORY OF THE DAY FROM ORLANDO OPEN TEST (1-mile tri-oval) Indy Racing League track record, 4-liter engine: 171.371 mph, Scott Sharp, Jan. 23, 1999
Car Driver C/E/T Top Speed 7 Stephan Gregoire 2000 G Force/Aurora/Firestone 167.887 mph 55 Robby McGehee 2000 G Force/Aurora/Firestone 166.984 8 Scott Sharp 2000 Dallara/Aurora/Firestone 166.883 8T Scott Sharp 2000 Dallara/Aurora/Firestone 166.651 98 Donnie Beechler 1999 Dallara/Aurora/Firestone 165.960 3 Al Unser Jr. 2000 G Force/Aurora/Firestone 164.979 28 Mark Dismore 2000 Dallara/Aurora/Firestone 164.971 51 Eddie Cheever Jr. 1999 Dallara/Aurora/Firestone 163.354 5 Sam Schmidt 1999 G Force/Aurora/Firestone 162.016 51 Ross Cheever 1999 Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone 161.936 18 Sam Hornish 1999 G Force/Aurora/Firestone 160.987 10 Jon Herb 1999 G Force/Aurora/Firestone 159.553 43 Doug Didero 1999 Dallara/Aurora/Firestone 157.791 28T Mark Dismore 2000 Dallara/Aurora/Firestone 153.912
OVERALL PERFORMANCE HISTORY OF THE TWO-DAY ORLANDO OPEN TEST
Car Driver C/E/T Top Speed (Day recorded) 1 Greg Ray 2000 Dallara/Aurora/Firestone 168.445 mph (Wed.) 7 Stephan Gregoire 2000 G Force/Aurora/Firestone 167.887 (Thurs.) 1T Greg Ray 2000 Dallara/Aurora/Firestone 167.707 (Wed.) 8 Scott Sharp 2000 Dallara/Aurora/Firestone 167.333 (Wed.) 12 Buzz Calkins 2000 Dallara/Aurora/Firestone 167.069 (Wed.) 55 Robby McGehee 2000 G Force/Aurora/Firestone 166.984 (Thurs.) 28 Mark Dismore 2000 Dallara/Aurora/Firestone 166.752 (Wed.) 8T Scott Sharp 2000 Dallara/Aurora/Firestone 166.651 (Thurs.) 98 Donnie Beechler 2000 Dallara/Aurora/Firestone 165.960 (Thurs.) 3 Al Unser Jr. 2000 G Force/Aurora/Firestone 164.979 (Thurs.) 51 Eddie Cheever Jr. 1999 Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone 163.736 (Wed.) 5 Sam Schmidt 1999 G Force/Aurora/Firestone 163.347 (Wed.) 51 Ross Cheever 1999 Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone 161.936 (Thurs.) 14 Jeff Ward 2000 G Force/Aurora/Firestone 161.696 (Wed.) 18 Sam Hornish Jr. 1999 G Force/Aurora/Firestone 161.681 (Wed.) 98T Donnie Beechler 1999 Dallara/Aurora/Firestone 161.276 (Wed.) 10 Jon Herb 1999 G Force/Aurora/Firestone 159.553 (Thurs.) 43 Doug Didero 1999 Dallara/Aurora/Firestone 157.791 (Thurs.) 11 Jeff Ward 1999 Dallara/Aurora/Firestone 156.121 (Wed.) 28T Mark Dismore 2000 Dallara/Aurora/Firestone 153.912 (Thurs.)
OPEN TEST QUOTES:
AL UNSER JR. (#3 Galles ECR Racing): "My main goal going into this test was to stay running the whole time to get a feel for everything, and the Galles ECR team has given me great reliability so far. I am very pleased with the entire organization. I feel that our G-Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone package is strong, and that gives the whole team more confidence going into the first race. The times out there were pretty close, and I can see now after running at this track why that is so. It is a tight racetrack, but it is also very smooth, and it should make for some good racing."
ROBBY McGEHEE (#55 Treadway Racing): "We're very much in the hunt to run up front. I don't know if we can run for the pole, although I don't know why we can't because our guys have done a great job the last two days, and I can stand on the gas if I have to. We trimmed it out like we planned to, but now the wind's picking up and there's no reason to risk anything." (About the car): "To me a race car's a race car, you can make any chassis good. We really like the Comptech engines and the Firestone tires."
EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (#51 Team Cheever): "We have done 396 miles on this engine. This is now the second engine we have run with over 250 miles with no problems. I am anxiously waiting the next version of this engine, as it seems that we have the reliability back where we need it. Now we can refocus on power issues. At the end of the last test, I thought the old car would be competitive. Now we must reassess our plan and will be anxiously watching Buddy Lazier's performance in the Riley & Scott over the next two days."
MARK DISMORE (#28 Kelley Racing) (About testing despite suffering from the flu): "It's been frustrating. We unloaded yesterday with a sick driver and a great car, and we've been struggling since. Occasionally we've had a fast car, but not fast enough. It's been consistent. I'm not really unhappy with the car, per se, right now, but it's not something that's going to sit on the pole right now. We're down on speed in Turn 1 compared to what we were yesterday when we unloaded. It's an understeer problem, and we can't get the car to turn. It's been a challenge. This track has not been one of my favorites, and I guess it's going to stay on that list, but we're going to make a lot of changes and stick around tomorrow and see if we can figure out what the heck's going on."
SCOTT SHARP (#8 Kelley Racing): "We came down here with a pretty long list of things we wanted to try and things we needed to evaluate before we came back for the race. We've been working all day to get through them, and some have helped and some haven't. We're running some fast speeds, and we're happy with that. We're still trying to make the car more consistent and ultimately faster. I've always like this track, we seem to be doing well here." (About the new chassis, engine and tire package): "We're running well, but it doesn't seem like we have the advantage we had last year, when we had a couple tenths of a second on everybody. The chassis is great, the gearbox and tires are great, and the engine's going to prove to be a great move. It's just rough dialing in a new car and the Firestone tires that we haven't experienced before."
SAM HORNISH JR. (#18 PDM Racing): "I came to see what the track was like so I could know what to expect for the race. My goal for the race is to qualify in the top 15 and finish in the top 10. It's not out of our grasp. It's a good goal. I want to set a high goal so I have something to go after."
DOUG DIDERO (#43 Mid-America Racing): "The racetrack is very tricky. I drove a Silver Bullet car here, and it's relatively easy to get around it in those cars. With these cars you find it takes a great deal of attention to hit your marks through the turns. Down in Turn 1 we had a big push in the car and thought we had a real safe race car. We were just working the push out of it. The last thing we thought about was having trouble in Turn 2. I was running very comfortably through there. For some reason the car just got a little loose, and it came around. I thought I had it saved there, but I had to take the car into the grass and I caught in the inside wall. We'll go back and get the car repaired and get ready for the race. We've learned from today, and we'll come down with a little bit different setup."
JON HERB (#10 Jonathan Byrd-McCormack Motorsports): "I think the track is great, and it's nice being in Florida this time of year. I raced here in 1998 and had my best finish here. It's a very difficult track - very tricky. Each corner is very different, but it plays to drivers who have a lot of focus and are very precise and work hard behind the wheel. We're just working on comfort and getting in the ballpark. This car wasn't yet fitted for me so we're having to constantly adjust the pedals and gearshift and seat. Once we get some comfort, we will concentrate on speed and get ready for the race."
Tickets: Tickets for the Delphi Indy 200 are available by calling (800) 822-INDY.