Some of the top IndyCar Series teams and drivers tested on Wednesday 3 December at Phoenix International Raceway in preparation for the 2004 season.
Drivers Dan Wheldon (Andretti Green Racing), Robbie Buhl (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing), Sam Hornish Jr. (Marlboro Team Penske), Scott Dixon and Darren Manning (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) tested on the one-mile desert oval.
25-year old Wheldon won the 2003 Bombardier Rookie of the Year title and finished 11th in points, despite competing in only 14 of 16 races. He did not compete at Phoenix in 2003, but has tested at Phoenix many times for Andretti Green Racing.
Wednesday's test was Wheldon's first opportunity to drive on the slightly re-configured track. Construction crews eliminated the opening in the backstretch wall and widened the exit to Turn 2. In addition, a portion of Turn 4 was torn up to build a tunnel, and a piece of asphalt in that area had to be re-paved.
'It really hasn't changed too much, as far as what the driver feels,' Wheldon said. 'The entry to Turn1 is still obviously quite tight, so you've still got to get the car through there and through the middle of the corner.
'You do have a bit more road to play with on the exit, so if you're under-steering, it does make it a little bit more comfortable from that standpoint. In (Turns) 3 and 4, the bump on the exit is perhaps not quite as harsh now. There is definitely not a huge difference.'
Wheldon - from Emberton, Buckinghamshire, England - feels the biggest change may come during racing conditions: 'It will perhaps make a difference during the race because you will have a little bit more ro om on the exit," Wheldon said. "But, as far as a qualifying lap, your speed is still dictated by entry and how you get through the middle of the corner.'