IPS: Final pre-season tuneup in Phoenix

Eight Menards Infiniti Pro Series drivers spent the day lapping Phoenix International Raceway's fast one-mile oval in their final preparation for the 2005 14-race campaign. In all 1363 laps were turned by these drivers with the better ...

Eight Menards Infiniti Pro Series drivers spent the day lapping Phoenix International Raceway's fast one-mile oval in their final preparation for the 2005 14-race campaign.

In all 1363 laps were turned by these drivers with the better results coming in the afternoon session, once the track had rubbered-in. During the later practice, rookie Jaime Camara in the #1 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone challenger took the best tour at 154.481mph on his 156th of 163 total laps.

The young Brazilian admitted he "learned an awful lot today. I'm getting some experience with the oval which is new to me and this is a very technical track," Camara said. "The day started out a little hard because we had a problem with cross weights, but we got that solved and it was good."

Veteran Jeff Simmons' lap of 154.495mph was good for second in the #24 Team ISI Dallara, who agreed it was "good to have a chance to test before the season starts; I've never had the opportunity before in the Pro Series," Simmons said. "We struggled in the morning but the changes we made at lunch time helped us rreally pick up a bunch of time."

Simmons was followed by the morning lap at 153.660 of rookie Chris Festa, driving the #7 Schmidt entry, set on his 39th of 188 laps. Despite being quickest in the morning Festa was "not as happy as you'd think. We went off in another direction and never found anything we liked after that."

Travis Gregg needed 151 of his total 184 laps to turn 153.474mph in the third, #11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports car to take fourth for the day. Jon Herb's lap of 152.697 with the #6 Racing Professionals car was good for fifth.

He was followed by the #4 Roth Racing Dallara of Marty Roth at 151.587mph and rookie Wade Cunningham's Brian Stewart Racing car at 150.282mph, up almost seven miles per hour from his morning best.

In all, the Kiwi turned 234 laps to acclimate himself with the car, getting a good deal of attention (and coaching?) from Ron Dixon, father of 2003 IndyCar Series champ Scott.

Jay Drake came out in the second #3 Brian Stewart this afternoon for all of 97 laps marking his best on lap 89 of 147.958mph. Drake was one of three drivers to spin on this mostly sunny day when temperatures ranged from the low 52s to around 70 degrees; Herb and Cunningham were the others who spun today without damage.

The Pro Series drivers give way to the IndyCar Series for the next two days; the League expects to announce additional entries in both series during a scheduled press conference with IRL founder and CEO Tony George at 2PM EST.

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