Hornish Saves Best For Last, Leads Final Test Day At Phoenix

AVONDALE, Ariz., Saturday, Feb. 9, 2002 - Defending Indy Racing League champion Sam Hornish Jr. ended the annual Indy Racing League Test in the West with authority Feb. 9, posting the fastest lap of the two days of testing at Phoenix International Raceway.

Hornish's best lap was 20.0219 seconds, 179.803 mph in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone during the afternoon session. Hornish also was fastest during the morning at 20.0965, 179.136 on the 1-mile oval.

"It feels pretty good," Hornish said. "It's just practice, but we like coming to Phoenix. It's always good to be the fastest. We are not happy unless we are fastest in practice, qualifying and the race.

"I'm pretty happy with the test. It's a long way before the race. We can always improve."

Helio Castroneves was just behind Hornish in second in both the afternoon and morning sessions. Castroneves' fastest lap of the afternoon was 20.1690, 178.492 in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, just off his 20.1039, 179.070 this morning.

Castroneves' teammate, Gil de Ferran, was third fastest overall on the day at 20.1369, 178.776 in the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. His best lap came in the morning.

2001 Chevy Rookie of the Year Felipe Giaffone was fourth overall at 20.2018, 178.202 in the No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone, while rookie test driver Tomas Scheckter rounded out the top five at 20.2569, 177.717 in the No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.

Drivers turned a combined total of 4,501 laps Feb. 8-9 at PIR, with only two minor incidents. Jon Herb made light contact with the Turn 2 wall Feb. 8, while rookie Anthony Lazzaro also brushed the Turn 2 wall and then made contact with a tire barrier today. Neither driver was hurt.

There were no incidents during 2,380 combined laps of testing Feb. 6 at the 2-mile California Speedway during the first day of the two-venue test. Overall for the test, drivers completed 9,261 miles of testing.

"The goals of the seventh Test in the West were accomplished," said Brian Barnhart, vice president of operations for the Indy Racing League. "Everyone has a positive attitude, and it's an exciting atmosphere heading into the first race in Miami.

"Everyone involved in the seventh Test in the West should really be proud of themselves. The teams, drivers and safety crews have done excellent work this week. It takes a great deal of coordination and cooperation to pull off an event like this. The Test in the West was essentially two events at separate venues combined into one week. Of course, the league couldn't have pulled this off without the support of the professional staffs at California and Phoenix."

Drivers will return to PIR for the Bombardier ATV Copper World Indy 200 on March 17. The Indy Racing season opener is Saturday, March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

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