IRL: Phoenix testing notes 96-02-28

For Immediate Release RECORD SPEEDS END IRL 'TEST IN THE WEST'; DRIVER TRYOUTS CONTINUE AT P.I.R. PHOENIX, February 28, 1996 -- A total of 20 drivers took part in the IRL's "Test in the West" this week at Phoenix International Raceway ...

For Immediate Release

RECORD SPEEDS END IRL 'TEST IN THE WEST'; DRIVER TRYOUTS CONTINUE AT P.I.R.

PHOENIX, February 28, 1996 -- A total of 20 drivers took part in the IRL's "Test in the West" this week at Phoenix International Raceway (P.I.R.), completing 2,915 miles during the three days.

"It's just one more step in our plan," said IRL Executive Director Jack Long. "The quality of the drivers and the progress that was so obviously made by everyone here is a good indication (of what we'll see when) we come here March 22-24 and run the Phoenix 200. They're ready to take a shot at the track record and to repeat the great race we had in Orlando."

***

Richie Hearn pushed his Della Penna Motorsports car to 185.854 miles per hour (19.37 seconds) at 10:04 a.m. today, eclipsing Buddy Lazier's unofficial P.I.R. track record of 184.899 miles per hour set in testing in January.

Hearn recorded consecutive laps of 183.579 miles per hour (19.61 seconds) and 184.615 (19.50 seconds) prior to his record lap.

"The Goodyear tires are working real well today," said a very happy team owner John Della Penna. "The car is well balanced and Richie is real happy. Every day he comes out to the track and he just picks up where we stopped the night before. He's great to work with."

***

During the morning session, Roberto Guerrero became the third IRL driver (following Lazier and Hearn) to break Herta's track record speed with a lap at 182.926 miles per hour (19.68 seconds). His fast time was accomplished in less than 50 laps of total testing.

"It's going well, we had a lot of little problems in the first part of testing, but today it felt smooth," said Guerrero. "It was a good baseline. We ran fast, and it felt good."

"We didn't get much time out here Monday and Tuesday, so we're real pleased with today's effort," said team owner Allan Pagan. "Our crew chief, John Barnes, has worked here a lot, so we came here with a plan and we didn't have to run as many laps. Roberto's very happy and that makes me happy. We just signed a deal with Pennzoil, so we just want to do well out here for them."

***

At 2:42 p.m., Tony Stewart became the fourth driver to lap faster than Bryan Herta's track record. The Team Menard driver ran a lap at 183.299 miles per hour (19.64 seconds) in the No. 20 car.

"We tried to run consistent, not fast," said Stewart. "This is our first time running with the Menard aluminum V6, and we put 100 miles on the (No. 20) car today." At 3:53 p.m., Tony Stewart spun the No. 2 Team Menard car in Turn 2 and backed into the outside wall, the car coming to rest on the grass before the inside crossover. Stewart, awake and alert, was transported via ambulance to Phoenix Good Samaritan Hospital for further evaluation. He was released shortly after 5 p.m.

***

USAC and the Indy Racing League announced it will conduct two days of IRL driver tryouts at P.I.R. Thursday, Feb. 29 and Friday, March 1. A number of promising drivers are expected to perform their USAC rookie tests during these days, including Phoenix's Billy Boat, Chandler's Billy Roe, Danny Drinan (a former resident of Scottsdale), Brian Gerster and Kevin Olson.

Two teams participating in this week's "Test in the West" will provide cars for the tryouts. Blueprint Racing will test Boat and Roe, and PDM Racing (formerly Automatic Sprinkler Systems) will test Drinan, Gerster and, time permitting, Olson.

"This will be an invaluable opportunity for these young drivers to get needed seat time," said IRL's Jack Long.

***

Michel Jourdain Jr. passed the final phase of his USAC rookie test shortly after 1 p.m. and is now cleared to participate in the March 22-24 Indy Racing League Phoenix 200.

"It was very good, I think I was consistent," Jourdain Jr., who used the Scandia/Simon Racing entry for his test. "The last session I passed, I made four or five more laps but I really think I can go faster."

"It's great, quite an impressive young man with no previous experience in an Indy car or anything with as much horsepower that I know of," said Johnny Rutherford, IRL Special Projects Coordinator who oversees the rookie tests. "He just went out there and did it. He's obviously going to have a brilliant future in this business."

***

A number of teams used this afternoon's final session for practicing pit stops. Bradley Motorsports ran some pit stops this morning before packing up for the day. Della Penna Motorsports ran six simulated stops with a best of 12 seconds. Hearn drew a crowd with his burnouts and drew some reaction from team owner John Della Penna: "Whoah, whoah, whoah! Keep the car to a reasonable speed limit!"

***

Johnny Parsons got his first laps of the test in the No. 16 Blueprint Racing car this afternoon after Jim Guthrie completed his rookie test.

"The car's really comfortable, and it felt really good," said Parsons. "Guthrie's performance this morning was excellent. The track's in great condition, the crew's done a fantastic job with the car and it turned out to be a good combination."

***

Scott Sharp got his first laps in the No. 41 A.J. Foyt Enterprises car this morning after teammate Davey Hamilton shook down the car Tuesday, getting down to 20.19 seconds, 178.306 miles per hour in the morning session.

"I'm a lot more comfortable driving around Phoenix this time," said Sharp. "Two years ago it was my first time on an oval. This time, I know what to expect, and being with A.J. gives you the confidence to go fast."

...PIR96-03...

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