IRL: Test in the West Ends at Las Vegas, Moves to Phoenix

LAS VEGAS, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2000 - Defending Northern Light Indy Racing Series champion Greg Ray and Team Menard made the most of the rain-shortened Las Vegas leg of the "Test In The West" by setting the fastest lap of the day Tuesday in the ...

LAS VEGAS, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2000 - Defending Northern Light Indy Racing Series champion Greg Ray and Team Menard made the most of the rain-shortened Las Vegas leg of the "Test In The West" by setting the fastest lap of the day Tuesday in the Conseco-Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone machine at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Ray, at 26.270 seconds, 205.558 mph, was one of three drivers who crested the 205 mark around the 1.5-mile oval at LVMS. Mark Dismore, in the Bryant Heating & Cooling-On Star Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, finished the day with a lap of 26.331, 205.081 mph.

"I was more comfortable in the new car already than I was last year at this time," Ray said. "I am always fast here, but I have never had the race results that we wanted. We have a good package now, and I am excited. We got most of our agenda done today. We had an exceptionally good test day." Dismore's teammate, Scott Sharp, also topped 205 with a lap of 26.337, 205.035 in the Delphi Automotive Systems-MCI WorldCom Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Stephan Gregoire and Buddy Lazier rounded out the top five.

A total of 22 drivers and 26 cars turned laps today at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, recording 2,313 laps of testing in less than six hours of on-track activity. Robby McGehee's 189 laps led all drivers today, and it paid off for McGehee and the Treadway Racing team as they finished the day in the top 10.

Al Unser Jr. made his Indy Racing debut at Las Vegas Motor Speedway today. Unser was 15th on the time sheet in his #3 Galles ECR Racing Tickets.com Starz G-Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone. He ran 127 laps with a top speed of 201.395.

Sarah Fisher made her first appearance with new Indy Racing owner Derrick Walker. Fisher ran limited laps due to an oil-pressure problem. Her top speed was 198.829.

Northern Light Indy Racing Series points leader Robbie Buhl and the new Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team made another strong showing with a speed of 202.255, which put them ninth overall.

Car owners Jonathan Byrd and Dennis McCormack used today as a driver test rather than a track or equipment test. Indy Racing veterans Andy Michner and Ronnie Johncox and rookie Derek Higgins all took laps today in the Jonathan Byrd's Cafeteria G-Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Higgins, from Dublin, Ireland, passed his Indy Racing rookie test in December 1999 in a car owned by Byrd and McCormack at the Walt Disney World Speedway. He was a three-time winner in '99 in the Indy Lights series.

The Las Vegas 500 is Saturday, April 22. Tickets are on sale at (800) 644-4444.

Testing now moves to Phoenix International Raceway on Friday and Saturday.

GREG RAY (#1 Conseco/Menards): "This is the first time we ran the new car with the speedway wing. It was good right out of the box. "The high pitch sound you hear is the noise that everyone on the planet associates with open-wheel racing. From the hardcore fan standpoint, I think the new engines are great."

BRIAN BARNHART (Indy Racing League Director of Racing Operations) "With the weather yesterday, the teams were really hard-pressed to get a lot done in a short amount of time. I'm very pleased with how the equipment performed. It was the first time for the teams to run the 2000 cars in speedway configuration, and from all indications, the cars were responding very well. Our manufacturers also did a great job supplying the teams with the kits and personnel for the test. I didn't hear of any mechanical problems today. The only yellows we had were for track inspections. Right now, the speeds appear to be where we expected them when we made the change from 4 liters down to 3.5."

ROBBIE BUHL (#24 Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "Today has been fine. About midday the sun came out. The track temperature has been good. These are good track conditions. Winning increases the pressure. You always put pressure on yourself to perform. We have been to Las Vegas since the first race here. We have a couple of podium finishes. We just want to improve on that. This is a challenging track. You have to pay attention to things. "We feel as though we have accomplished what we set out to. You have to make use of every bit of track time. We are working on the car setup. At Phoenix will look to get a fast car. Then maybe we can get on the front row."

AL UNSER JR. (#3 Galles ECR Racing Tickets.com Starz): "It felt good out there today. It is a smooth racetrack, and that is definitely a bonus as I'm getting to know the tracks. We are mostly working on our motor reliability, which is why we ran so many laps today. We thought we were going to have two days of testing here, and since one day was rained out, we felt it was most important to work with our motor program. Franz Weiss is a wonderful engine builder, and we are working hard with him to ensure that any problems we had in Orlando don't surface again. We have that confidence, and we got that with our lap count today. I was also able to learn this track today, and I'm ready to come back in April."

TYCE CARLSON (#20 Hubbard-Immke Racing): "In general, the car is real comfortable with the superspeedway wings. It really felt good right out of the box and I could let it drift high or point it and push down low very easily. There was no erratic behavior. The new chassis is great. There's no problem with the bumps; it just glides right over them. For the most part, the track is smooth but quite abrasive. It feels like I was being sandblasted down the front straight if someone was ahead of me. The new cars are so much more balanced due to the learning curve of three years of engineering. The update kits each year were more of a bandage where as the new cars are more like major surgery. It'll make for much more competitive racing. When the car is comfortable out of the trailer, you can go right to work on what will make it go faster. You're not wasting time on doing things just to make the driver comfortable. This all clicks a little bit more each time as this team works with each other longer. The only bad thing about a test going well is that we'll have to wait so long to come back and race."

MARK DISMORE (#28 Bryant Heating & Cooling/On Star): "This test has gone really well. We are trying to learn about the new car and engine so we can do well at Indianapolis in May. This is our first chance to run the superspeedway configuration. We lost a day of testing with the rain. So we had to do everything today that we would have done yesterday. Then tomorrow we don't have any test time. Fortunately this test has been very smooth. We have not had any mechanical difficulties. So that helps. We are very pleased."

STEPHAN GREGOIRE (#7 Dick Simon Racing/Mexmil/Tokheim/Viking Air Tools): "We ran the car for the first time on a superspeedway today. We're very happy with the handling. We accomplished quite a bit during the test and now have good ideas about what to do next. The track was good all day long. Hopefully when we come back to race here it won't be completely different. But even if conditions are totally different, it will be better than not testing at all. We didn't have the best setup at the end. We made changes to go faster as the track got colder, but we still learned a lot."

SCOTT SHARP (#8 Delphi Automotive Systems/MCI WorldCom): "I think this is a very tricky racetrack to find the setup. This is the one of the more handling-based racetracks that we run on. It's easier to get one good lap here than it is to put a string of good laps together. We're happy with today. The car rolled out of the box running great. I think we have the fastest time at 205. We seem to be running stronger here than in the past. We played with the handling and suspension a lot today just trying to see what works and what doesn't."

SARAH FISHER (#5 The Cummins Special): "This is my first time back in a car since October. I felt really comfortable in the car. Everything felt stable. The car was really good this morning, but we had an oil pressure problem this afternoon. We're ready to start fine-tuning the car as soon as we get the oil pressure problem fixed. We tried different combinations this morning, but haven't had a chance to really explore the car today. The track is really smooth. We're going to need a lot more practice before we're ready to race. Hopefully Phoenix will get the team ready."

ROBBY McGEHEE (#55 Energizer Advanced Formula/Energizer Motorsports): "We have been working on trimming the car out. It will be a good race car. We are able to run consistently. We would like to be higher on the speed charts, but our focus is on the race setup right now."

SCOTT GOODYEAR (#4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara): "We basically worked on getting information on all the new stuff we have been putting on the car. Overall we have learned a lot today and are pleased with our performance. The car seems to run well both by itself and in traffic. We are going to take the information today, decipher it and we will be ready for the race."

BUDDY LAZIER (#91 Delta Faucet/Coors Light/Tae-Bo/Hemelgarn Racing): "This test session has been really positive for us. We learned a lot and eliminated some problem areas. Now we know where we need to improve. We tried just about everything today and found a little bit everywhere. The improvements came in pieces not big chunks. We are going to go back and make some pieces and try to get more speed out of the car. "Everybody out here is faced with the same problem. We are trying to get more speed on the long tracks. The biggest problem we are facing right now is trying to get drag out of the car without throwing the handling totally out. The track is in great condition just like it was when it was new. The LVMS staff does a great job maintaining this facility."

BUZZ CALKINS (#12 Bradley Food Marts/Sav-O-Mat): "I thought the test went well. We were quick right off the bats. We didn't have yesterday to test, but we go to everything we needed to get to. This is a challenging track. So to come out the first day and have a good car is definitely a positive. Right now we are looking for comfort in the car as opposed to speed."

***

Schedule: Testing will take place from 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. (local time) Feb. 25-26 during the second leg of the "Test in the West" at Phoenix International Raceway.

*** Gates open: The stands at Phoenix International Raceway will be open during testing, free of charge, Feb. 26.

*** Tickets: Tickets for the Las Vegas 500 are available by calling (800) 644-4444.

***

-IRL/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby McGehee , Sarah Fisher , Greg Ray , Al Unser Jr. , Robbie Buhl , Buddy Lazier , Stephan Gregoire , Scott Sharp , Mark Dismore , Derek Higgins , Ronnie Johncox , Dick Simon
Teams Dreyer & Reinbold Racing , HART