IRL: Phoenix: Round two preview

Phoenix International Raceway Offers Next Challenge For IRL Indycar® Series Participants INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, March 15, 2005 -- The IRL IndyCar® Series continues its 10th season of competition with the XM Satellite Radio Indy 200 Presented...

Phoenix International Raceway Offers Next Challenge For IRL Indycar® Series Participants

INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, March 15, 2005 -- The IRL IndyCar® Series continues its 10th season of competition with the XM Satellite Radio Indy 200 Presented by Argent Mortgage on Saturday, March 19 at Phoenix International Raceway.

The track, located in the foothills of the Estrella Mountains, features a unique bend in the backstretch and varies in banking from 3 degrees on the front stretch to 11 degrees in Turns 1 and 2. It is banked at 9 degrees in Turns 3 and 4.

The 1-mile oval is one of the most challenging tracks for drivers and their teams as described in the following first-person narratives:

THE DRIVER:

Tony Kanaan has won each of his two IndyCar Series starts at Phoenix International Raceway. Kanaan, the reigning IndyCar Series champion, claimed his first career victory at PIR in 2003, leading 79 laps and pulling away from Helio Castroneves on the final restart to win. In 2004, Kanaan dominated the event, leading 191 of the 200 laps en route to his second win in the Valley of the Sun.

"Phoenix International Raceway is a very difficult track to find a good setup for the car. That is because Turns 1 and 2 have a little banking to them, while Turns 3 and 4 are relatively flat. When you have the car set up properly and are feeling comfortable with the car, you will be full throttle all the way around the track.

"You have to have a really, really neutral car to get through the first and second corners. They are very fast. If you have a good car through Turns 1 and 2, you will have a good car and be fast through Turns 3 and 4 because they are very flat corners and are relatively easy to get around.

"Coincidence or not, I won the last two races there. We had good cars on the mile ovals, not just with me, but the team won all the mile races last year. I like Phoenix; it's very challenging. It's like a road-course type of oval. It takes a lot out of the drivers, and that makes the difference sometimes."

THE ENGINEER:

Eric Cowdin has served as Tony Kanaan's race engineer for seven of the last nine seasons, dating back to their days at Tasman Racing in the former Indy Lights Series. The chemistry Cowdin has built with Kanaan has produced nine Indy-style victories, including both of Kanaan's wins at Phoenix, an Indy Lights title and the 2004 IndyCar Series title. Cowdin is the race engineer for Kanaan's No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Honda-powered Dallara.

"The setup for Phoenix is unique because of the compromises you have to make, in that you have a very tight Turn 1 and 2. Turn 1 at Phoenix has legendary status almost like Turn 1 at Indianapolis. To be quick around PIR, you have to be quick through Turns 1 and 2. That's the key. That carries your speed and determines your momentum for the rest of the lap.

"The compromises in setting the car up primarily regard downforce. You can pile a ton of downforce on the car and make it comfortable going through Turns 1 and 2, but then you carry that drag for the rest of the mile. Not to say that Turns 3 and 4 aren't important, but they are the easier of the two.

"IRL downforce rules last year made Turns 3 and 4 quite difficult because we were reduced on downforce from where we were in 2003, but now we're back almost to 2003 levels, maybe a bit more with manufacturers' developments.

"The trade-off comes in what level of downforce you use to get through Turns 1 and 2 quick enough so that you aren't slow or giving up speed through Turns 3 and 4. That varies with track temperature, ambient conditions; it's a moving target, really. The sun comes out and the track warms up and suddenly you have too little downforce going through 1 and 2, or the clouds come out and now your 'too stuck' and giving up speed to be carried through 3 and 4. That in itself is the defining balance that you have to find to be quick at Phoenix International Raceway.

"A brave driver really has an advantage there. Turn 1 at Phoenix is a commitment. The driver has to trust his package and trust his ability to carry the speed into that corner, because you are really looking at a wall and realize that you are going to go almost 180 degrees around before you are done. Just the amount of turning and the g-forces attained are enough to get your attention."

WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD:

Firestone's race tire development team considers the configuration of each track as it chooses the tire compound to be used at each track. According to Firestone engineers, the short oval at Phoenix requires the highest-grip compounds and most significant stagger of any IRL venue.

RACE FACTS:

WHAT: XM Satellite Radio Indy 200 Presented by Argent Mortgage, second race in 17-race 2005 season

WHERE: Phoenix International Raceway, 1-mile asphalt oval
WHEN: 3 p.m. (EST), Saturday, March 19

DISTANCE: 200 laps/200 miles

PAST RACE WINNERS:
2004 -- Tony Kanaan.; 2003 -- Tony Kanaan; 2002 -- Helio Castroneves;
2001 -- Sam Hornish Jr.; 2000 -- Buddy Lazier; 1999 -- Scott Goodyear;
1998 -- Scott Sharp; 1997 -- Jim Guthrie; 1996 -- Arie Luyendyk.

TV:
ABC (live), 3 p.m. (EST), March 19.

RADIO:
Qualifying webcast: 5:15 p.m. (EST) March 18, www.indycar.com
Race: IMS Radio Network, 3 p.m. (EST), March 19; (XM Extreme, Channel 152)

The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues with the XM Satellite Radio Indy 200 Presented by Argent Mortgage on Saturday, March 19 at Phoenix International Raceway. The race will be broadcast live by ABC Sports and the IMS Radio Network at 3 p.m. The race also will be available on XM Satellite Radio channel "XM Extreme" (Channel 152). The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Phoenix 100 on March 19 at Phoenix International Raceway. ESPN2's telecast of the race will be shown at 3 p.m. (EDT) on March 24.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Arie Luyendyk , Jim Guthrie , Scott Goodyear , Helio Castroneves , Tony Kanaan , Sam Hornish Jr.