IRL: Richmond open test notebook 2003-05-30

RICHMOND OPEN TEST NOTEBOOK: RIR officials ready for SunTrust Indy Challenge: The IndyCar Series returns to Richmond International Raceway on June 28 for the third SunTrust Indy Challenge, and track officials are gearing up for the exciting...

RICHMOND OPEN TEST NOTEBOOK:

RIR officials ready for SunTrust Indy Challenge: The IndyCar Series returns to Richmond International Raceway on June 28 for the third SunTrust Indy Challenge, and track officials are gearing up for the exciting event according to Doug Fritz, president of RIR.

"Watching IndyCars at Richmond really gets your heart pounding," said Doug Fritz, president of RIR. "It's amazing to see these cars going nearly 50 mph faster than NASCAR Winston Cup Series cars on a short track. We bill this as our 'Extreme Speed, Extreme Excitement' weekend for a reason. Watching these IndyCars at Richmond International Raceway is unlike anything you will see anywhere in racing. With a field full of depth and experience, the SunTrust Indy Challenge is a must-see for race fans up and down the Atlantic seaboard."

IndyCar Series fans, competitors and officials will notice an improved Richmond International Raceway when they return in late June for the SunTrust Indy Challenge. After the NASCAR event in September 2002, the track initiated several upgrades, including:

*Outside of Turn 1, 3,000 seats have been added to the Veranda grandstand, as well as 120 specially designed Club Seats and six new luxury suites. All of these new grandstand seats, luxury suites, and Club Seats are sold out for all seven races on the 2003 RIR schedule, including the SunTrust Indy Challenge.

*The Old Dominion Building, which is a signature centerpiece of RIR and is located on the midway, has undergone a complete "face lift." The Old Dominion Building was used primarily for storage on race weekends in the past, but will be the new home of the Pit Stop Club corporate hospitality area.

*A 300-foot section of the inside retaining wall on the backstretch has been rebuilt and straightened, and a new drainage system has been placed around the entire apron of the track. This new drainage system will help expedite the track drying process.

*The infield Media Center has been completely renovated, and a new press box has been constructed as part of the expansion of the Veranda Grandstands and Suites.

*All pit stalls on pit road, which is located on the front stretch, have been switched from asphalt to concrete. This change is expected to aid the IRL IndyCar Series cars, which use pinpoint jacks during pit stops, and should improve traction for crew members in all series. The spotters' stand has been relocated from Turn 1 to above the suites on the front stretch for a better view of the track.

*A pedestrian walkway has been built for fans parking in the Lot G parking area located at the corner of Richmond-Henrico Turnpike and Carolina Avenue. This pedestrian walkway will direct fans toward the grandstands, allowing easier access from the backstretch. All of the grandstand gates have been renumbered, and larger signs have been put in place. An additional number of grandstand gates have also been added to allow fans easier and quicker access into the grandstands.

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Scheckter hits the links: Tomas Scheckter took advantage of the rain-shortened first day of the Richmond Open Test by playing golf at the Virginia Crossing Resort.

"It was good to relax, get your mind off things," Scheckter said. "I don't know what I shot, somewhere in the high 80's. I like it a lot. It depends, I might not play for six months and then I'll play for a month or two months."

At the 87th Indianapolis 500, Scheckter met professional golfer John Daly, who won the 1991 PGA Championship and 1995 British Open.

"He's the king," Scheckter said. "He can swing pretty hard. It was cool to meet him. I didn't get any tips from him. I just told him I could hit it far and not straight, and he says he does the same, so not to worry."

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Kanaan, Andretti Green crew bonding: Tony Kanaan and his Andretti Green Racing crew were able to bond during the downtime between the Indianapolis 500 and the Richmond Open Test. Kanaan, who lives in Miami, is in his first season with Andretti Green Racing and stayed in Indianapolis before flying to Richmond, rather than going home to Florida.

"I spent a lot of time at the shop with my guys," Kanaan said. "I took my guys out to dinner to celebrate my third-place finish. We became a lot closer since the accident."

Kanaan suffered a radial fracture of his left arm in an accident while battling for the lead with Scott Dixon at the Indy Japan 300 at Motegi, Japan, in April.

And while Kanaan was happy to spend time with his crew, he's ready to head to Miami after spending the month of May in Indianapolis.

"I enjoy myself when I'm spending time in Indy, but I'm really looking forward to going back home," he said.

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De Ferran enjoys some quiet time: With the first day of the Richmond Open Test cut short by rain, 2003 Indianapolis 500 champion Gil de Ferran was forced to stay an extra day in Richmond to test.

de Ferran got some much-needed rest in Richmond after a whirlwind media tour that included stops on "Live with Regis and Kelly," "Charlie Rose," and ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

"I tried to go to sleep as early as I could," de Ferran said. "I probably put in about 10 hours yesterday. It's been unbelievable, really -- here, there and everywhere, lots of interviews. I think you don't have a grasp of how big the Indy 500 is to the American public until you win it -- not only the American public, the attention has been from everywhere."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Gil de Ferran , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan