IRL: Three teams continue busy testing at Phoenix, California

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Dec. 13, 2002 -- For the fourth consecutive day, Indy Racing League teams tested in the western part of the United States, at Phoenix International Raceway and California Speedway. Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Dec. 13, 2002 -- For the fourth consecutive day, Indy Racing League teams tested in the western part of the United States, at Phoenix International Raceway and California Speedway.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon tested Dec. 12 at the 1-mile Phoenix International Raceway, while on the 2-mile oval at California Speedway, two-time reigning IRL champion Sam Hornish Jr. tested the new Chevy Indy V8 engine along with Team Menard drivers Vitor Meira and Jaques Lazier. Mark Taylor, who will drive in the Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series for Panther Racing, tested his Infiniti Pro Series car at California.

Hornish and Lazier have a unique history at California Speedway, with Hornish edging Lazier by .0281 of a second to win the inaugural IRL event at the track March 24.

"Everything went exceptionally well," Lazier said of the test. "We put some miles on the engine, and we're just extremely happy with it. Obviously, our biggest key right now is durability, and to run a lot of miles without a hiccup of problems is exceptional. We're extremely happy with the future at Team Menard and the joint venture with Chevrolet Racing."

With each test, Lazier, 31, continues to get comfortable in an Indy Racing car after suffering a season-ending back injury in an accident during the Firestone Indy 225 on April 21 at Nazareth Speedway. He returned to the cockpit of the Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone on Oct. 12 at Kentucky Speedway and has tested several times since.

"It felt really good to get back in the car again," Lazier said. "My back feels better every single time I get in a race car. All things said and done, we're extremely happy with the test."

Dixon, 22, became the fifth driver to test at Phoenix in the last four days, driving the new Toyota Indy V8 engine with Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Tomas Scheckter, his teammate for 2003, tested Dec. 11.

"Each lap that I make behind the wheel, I get more and more comfortable in this type of car," Dixon said. "The test went very well for us. Like in Homestead, we threw a lot of changes at the car to see how those changes affected the performance. The engineers and crew guys from Team Target have been very busy these last two days making changes and getting the car ready for Tomas and I."

Dixon's day ended prematurely when he touched the wall late in the afternoon. He was uninjured.

"It wasn't a big deal at all," Dixon said. "The back end came around and just brushed the wall. If we had more time, we could have fixed it, but it was late in the afternoon. We turned a lot of laps and got a lot accomplished."

The 2003 IRL season begins March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The series races March 23 at Phoenix and Sept. 7 at California. All three races will be broadcast live on ABC and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network.

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