For Immediate Release
'TEST IN THE WEST'
PHOENIX, February, 26, 1996 -- Arie Luyendyk claimed fastest speed on the first of the three-day "Test in the West" for Indy Racing League machines today at Phoenix International Raceway.
Luyendyk turned a lap at 19.82 seconds, 181.634 miles per hour in the Jonathan Byrd/Treadway machine.
That's just a click off the official Desert Mile track record of 19.785 seconds, 181.952 miles per hour set by Bryan Herta last April.
"We've found out a lot about this car since Orlando, and I'm pleased with the whole package right now," said the 1990 Indianapolis 500 winner. "We cured a mechanical problem with the car since our test here two weeks ago, and the switch to Firestone has also helped. It's not a night-and-day difference from the Goodyears, but it's helped.
"The car handled the wind very easily -- I believe the faster you go the less the wind will affect you. But the last few laps the wind made the car very unstable in (Turns) 1 and 2, and it was pushing the car over 200 (mph) going into 3, so I brought it in. If the conditions were perfect, I think we could have been in the low 19s."
Five rookies are on hand to take USAC driver's tests in preparation for the March 24 Phoenix 200.
They are Fermin Velez of Barcelona, Spain, Jim Guthrie of Albuquerque, N.M., Racin Gardner of Las Vegas, Michel Jourdain Jr. of Mexico City and Rick DeLorto of Wood Dale, Ill.
Velez, in a Scandia/Simon Racing entry, and Guthrie, in a Blueprint Racing machine, passed the first two of four phases of the test today.
Gardner was first on the track when it opened for rookie practice, but his Tempero-Giuffre Racing machine lost an engine during mid-morning.
USAC short-track veterans Dan Drinan of Scottsdale, Billy Boat of Glendale and Brian Gerster of Indianapolis are among drivers at Phoenix International Raceway for the test who are trying to put together arrangements for a USAC driver's test.
Michel Jourdain's 19-year-old son, Michel Jr., is on hand to effect a driver's test for Scandia/Simon Racing.
The elder Jourdain ran the Indianapolis-type races in 1980 and 1981 in Mexico City. His brother, Bernard, was co-Rookie of the Year at the 1989 Indianapolis 500.
"The idea is for Michel (Jr.) to run all four remaining (1996 IRL) races," Michel said today. "Our plan was to stay in Mexico at least two more years and have a great series in '96 in Formula 3000 cars. We think the IRL is a great opportunity this year because of everything that's happened, so we decided to make the move."
The elder Jourdain recalled his own career, including a 50-lap test at Indianapolis.
"Bernard was Rookie of the Year in '89 and in '90, he had two cars," Michel said. "I went there for a test, and (the late USAC director of competition) Roger McCluskey was there observing me. After a very few laps, I went 199. He told me that, for sure, I would qualify. But I had too much work to do in Mexico, and I decided not to do it. It was tough, because it was my dream all my life.
"It's a different story now for me. Now it's his (Michel Jr.'s) opportunity. We hope we can find a way for him to stay in Indy cars for the next 20 years."
For most of the day, Tony Stewart was fastest in the #20 Team Menard machine at 20.39 seconds, 176.557 miles per hour. He wound up second at 179.461 mph.
Stewart got his first test in an Indianapolis-type car last fall here with A.J. Foyt. He said today's 30-miles-per-hour winds haven't been a factor.
"It's not bothering me," he said. "I don't know the difference, I guess. It's been so long since I ran A.J.'s car here that I've forgotten all the little tricks."
Stewart said the first test and today's were different.
"A.J. made the cars real comfortable, secure," he said. "We weren't worried about speed and tried to be consistent. This test, we're trying to get up to speed. We've set out a game plan for the week and we're right on schedule."
Jim Guthrie had only 150 miles in an Indianapolis-type car on the road course at Pueblo, Colo., last week before coming to Phoenix for the "Test in the West".
He's campaigning a team car to veteran Johnny Parsons for Blueprint Racing and passed the first two phases of his driver's test here today.
"This morning it seemed like the world was rushing up on us but I stayed ahead of the car," Guthrie said. "This afternoon, we went faster and I thought I was slower, so I'm getting more comfortable and can keep going with it.
"The horsepower isn't overwhelming. It feels like an Atlantic car, but you have to step on the brake harder and the gas softer. You can definitely feel the (heavier) weight. The car has a lot of downforce."
Spain's Fermin Velez also passed the first two phases. He has won two World Sports Car events on the Phoenix road course.
"Today's my first experience on an oval," he said after his runs for Scandia/Simon Racing. "In an Indy car, too, other than a few laps on a road course last November.
"I had to learn my way around ... a little bit of everything. The first lap, I was a little lost. After awhile, I started beginning to enjoy it and understand what ovals are about. It's very precise in everything you do. It's different in (layback) sitting position.
"To run these lap times is pretty easy. I suppose when you get down to the 20s (20-second laps), it's a different story.
"It's fantastic. I knew I was going to like it, but until you do it, you never know."
Unofficial Top Speeds from USAC Timing and Scoring: NO. DRIVER TEAM LAPS TIME SPEED 5 Arie Luyendyk Jonathan Byrd/Treadway Racing 55 19.82 181.634 20 Tony Stewart Team Menard 100 20.06 179.461 33 Michele Alboreto Scandia/Simon Racing 43 20.93 172.001 91 Buddy Lazier Hemelgarn Racing 34 21.18 169.971 54 Robbie Buhl Beck Motorsports/Team Zunne 75 21.33 168.776 12 Buzz Calkins Bradley Motorsports 31 21.92 164.233 16 Jim Guthrie Blueprint Racing 19 22.39 160.786 90 Fermin Velez Scandia/Simon Racing 38 22.67 158.800 75 Johnny O'Connell Cunningham Racing 20 22.98 156.657 15 David Kudrave Tempero-Giuffre Racing 11 26.56 135.542 25 Racin Gardner Tempero-Giuffre Racing 52 28.35 129.984 81 Rick DeLorto DeLorto Racing 16 32.59 110.463