IRL: Test in the West Wednesday notes 2002-02-06

FONTANA, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2002 - Tomas Scheckter, a test driver for Cheever Indy Racing, turned the fastest lap at California Speedway on opening day of the Indy Racing League Test in the West. In the afternoon session, Scheckter...

FONTANA, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2002 - Tomas Scheckter, a test driver for Cheever Indy Racing, turned the fastest lap at California Speedway on opening day of the Indy Racing League Test in the West.

In the afternoon session, Scheckter posted a quick lap of 32.4395 seconds, 221.952 mph driving the No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.

"Today went well," said Scheckter, a former Formula One test driver and son of 1979 F1 World Champion Jody Scheckter. "I am just getting used to it. This is a new circuit for me again and only the second time I have driven on an oval. It's gone really well. Eddie's (Cheever) helped me a lot. I am glad to see how quick we are going."

The one-day preseason test was the first official Indy Racing League event at California Speedway, located just outside of Los Angeles in Fontana, Calif. Twenty-five drivers turned a total of 2,380 accident-free laps (4,760 miles) on the 2-mile oval.

"It's been a very productive two days here at California Speedway," said Brian Barnhart, vice president of operations for the Indy Racing League. "Bill Miller (president and general manager of California Speedway) has assembled an excellent staff here, and we look forward to working with them through the race. The California portion of the Test in the West has gone flawlessly.

"Phil Casey and the rest of the technical staff are comfortable with the aero package for this 2-mile track. With speeds topping out around 221, the Indy Racing League is going to put on a great race in March."

The inaugural Indy Racing event at California Speedway is scheduled for March 24. The Indy Racing season opener is March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Jaques Lazier, from nearby Alta Loma, Calif., posted the second-fastest lap of the day at 32.4541, 221.852 in the No. 2 Team Menard Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. Cheever, who hasn't named a driver for the No. 52 machine, posted the third-fastest time of the day at 32.4638, 221.785 in his No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.

"Having a rookie (Scheckter) run with you at speeds like this and with traffic makes for some anxious moments for a car owner," Cheever said. "We ran Tomas in (a private test) Las Vegas, and he was impeccable. We ran him here in traffic, and he beat me on speed. He didn't get in trouble all day long, and he's making my decision on who we are going to pick for a second driver a lot easier.

"We are going to run him again in Phoenix, and after that we're going to sit down and make our final decision."

Indy Racing veteran Jeff Ward climbed in the No. 33 Target/Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone late in the day, replacing 1998 Indy Racing champion Kenny Brack. Ward completed 48 laps with a top lap of 32.7899, 219.580.

"I'm meeting with Chip (Ganassi) and them, and we'll see how everything goes," said Ward, a San Juan Capistrano, Calif., resident. "Everything looks good. We'd like to do the full year. I think everything is hopefully in place. This was the first step here. That's what we've been shooting for, so we'll see how everything comes together. That's what I'd like to see. Everybody would, I'm sure

"I can't remember when it started or when Chip wanted to make a jump over, but Penske was probably a big thing."

The Test in the West will continue Feb. 8-9 at Phoenix International Raceway.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Jeff Ward , Kenny Brack , Chip Ganassi , Jody Scheckter , Brian Barnhart , Jaques Lazier