SCHMIDT FASTEST AT FIRST DAY OF PEP BOYS IRL OPEN TEST AT DISNEY
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Jan. 7, 1999 - Sam Schmidt captured the fastest practice time at the Walt Disney World Speedway Open Test today with a lap of 169.661 mph, as Pep Boys Indy Racing League teams prepare for the Jan. 24 TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200. "This is like Christmas for me," said Schmidt, who ran the 1998 season with a limited budget. "Our team's goal today was to get familiar with the car, and it went well. It's a fantastic opportunity for me to work with these guys, and for Sprint PCS to support us. I'm still kind of an unknown commodity, so they are going out on a limb here. "This is what you race for as a driver, to achieve this. Treadway is one of the top-five teams in the series, and we have a strong opportunity to win the championship this year." Schmidt replaces Arie Luyendyk as Treadway Racing's full-time driver in the Sprint PCS G Force/Aurora/Firestone for the 1999 season. Luyendyk, still a team consultant and spokesperson, will compete in the 1999 Indianapolis 500 for Treadway, then retire from driving. Defending Pep Boys Indy Racing League champion Kenny Brack was second fastest in the A.J. Foyt Power Team Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear with a lap of 168.445 on the 1-mile tri-oval. Eddie Cheever Jr., the 1998 Indianapolis 500 champion, was third at 168.327 and Brack's teammate Billy Boat fourth at 167.077. John Hollansworth Jr., driving for the new Team Xtreme, passed his rookie test yesterday and turned in a lap of 164.241 today, fifth fastest. "It hasn't sunk in yet that I'm here today," said Hollansworth. "I had kind of a false start last year." Hollansworth, a veteran of SCCA, Formula 2000 and other road course competition, encountered a string of bad luck trying to earn his Indy Racing League competition license in 1998. He was scheduled to take his rookie test on several occasions last year. Hollansworth wasn't able to run the test at Texas Motor Speedway as planned due to rain, then at Phoenix International Raceway his car experienced engine problems - twice. "There's a reason for everything to happen," he said. "This team, Team Xtreme, it's a completely new entity, but the people know what they're doing. Working with guys who are this good in their craft is a big help for me, since I'm the one on the short end of the learning curve." Robbie Buhl returned to Walt Disney World Speedway driving the Sit Down Connection Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone for Sinden Racing Service. Buhl, who drove for Team Menard in 1998, will drive for Sinden and sponsor Sit Down Connection at the TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200. Buhl ran 76 laps and had a top speed of 163.905 today. The only incident of the day was a spin by Andy Michner in the Brant Motorsports Riley & Scott/Aurora/Goodyear. The car spun coming off Turn 3 and slid into the grass along the mainstraight at about 1:20 p.m. The nose of the car made light contact with the inside wall. Michner was unhurt and returned to the track later. His top speed of the day was 161.117, seventh fastest. The Pep Boys Indy Racing League elected to conduct this second open test at Walt Disney World Speedway because not all teams had received the equipment to update their cars to 1999 specifications by the date of the first open test, which took place Dec. 11-12, 1998. Indy Racing League open testing at Walt Disney World continues Friday, the final day of the open test. Teams will continue with private testing until Jan. 15. The fourth annual TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200, the first race of the 11-race 1999 Pep Boys Indy Racing League season, takes place Sunday, Jan. 24.
TOP UNOFFICIAL TIMES, SPEEDS OF THE DAY Driver Team Car/Engine/Tire Time Speed Sam Schmidt Treadway Racing G Force/Aurora/Firestone 21.225 169.611 Kenny Brack A.J. Foyt Power Team Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear 21.372 168.445 Eddie Cheever Jr. Team Cheever Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear 21.387 168.327 Billy Boat A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear 21.547 167.077 J. Hollansworth Team Xtreme Dallara/Aurora/Firestone 21.919 164.241 Robbie Buhl SRS Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone 21.964 163.905 Andy Michner Brant Motorsports Riley & Scott/Aurora/Goodyear 22.344 161.117
Fan-friendly: The public is welcome to attend the Pep Boys Indy Racing League Open Test at Walt Disney World Speedway on Friday, with free admission.