IRL: Season opening day at Homestead-Miami

MIAMI (February 28, 2002) - Tomas Scheckter picked up where he left off at Test in the West by setting the fastest lap of the day, averaging 204.497mph around the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway. Most teams used the 45 minute morning session working on qualifying setup as evidenced by the top three times of the day coming in that session.

Tomas Scheckter.
Photo by photo by Ron McQueeney.

Scheckter's teammate and owner of Team Cheever, Eddie Cheever was second fastest at 203.378 mph. Neither of the top two drivers ran in the draft, setting their best laps while running alone.

"I think the Infiniti power engineers are maybe a quarter of a step ahead of General Motors right now," said Cheever. "I hope they keep up the pressure but it will be very difficult."

Chevrolet and Infiniti powered cars spilt the top six positions with the Chevrolet powered cars of Helio Castroneves, Sam Hornish Jr. and Buddy Lazier taking positions three through five, respectively.

Robbie Buhl, driving one of four Infiniti-powered cars in then field, was sixth.

After working on the qualifying setup in the morning, teams moved to race setup mode in the afternoon, with Scheckter and Cheever slipping to ninth and fourth position in the session.

"The night before the first practice session, at the start of the season, is always difficult because you don't know what you have," said Cheever. "After today I would say that we did our work well, although we still have a lot of work remaining."

Although fastest of the day, Scheckter has never raced on an oval before. He spent 2001 racing in Japan in the Formula Nissan Championship, finishing second in the championship.

"We achieved what we wanted to achieve," said the 21 year-old Scheckter. "Hopefully we can keep the performance from today and bring it up tomorrow."

Notes from the 20th Anniversary Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead Miami Speedway:

A blast of artic air descended on Southern Florida today keeping temperatures in the mid-50s. At 1:55 p.m. the ambient temperature was 59 degrees with the track temperature 67 degrees. "The hardest job for the engineers this weekend is to stay on top of the temperature because it dramatically changes the setup of the car," said 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever.


Anthony Lazzaro will do double duty this weekend, driving in the Indy Racing event and the Rolex Sports Car Series. After racing on the 1.5-mile oval in Sam Schmidt's Indy car, Lazzaro will see duty on the road course, relieving Terry Borcheller in the Rand Nissan Lola. Lazzaro scored a SRP II class victory at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in his last appearance in the Rolex Series.