IPS: Legge has edge on day 2 of Nunn IPS testing

Temperatures may have been a bit cooler today on the Texas Motor Speedway 1.5-mile oval, but the activity was hot, as seven expert female drivers from around the globe took part in the second of three days of testing for Kathryn Nunn's Menards Infiniti Pro Series team.

Katherine Legge.
Photo by Gregg Ellman - IRL.
Six ladies had been chosen for this three-day shootout but the alternate nearly stole the show. Katherine Legge, 24, of Silverstone, England earned an hour's worth of time trials on the tricky banked oval during the lunch break and used the time to her benefit, logging laps nearing Thiago Medeiros' pole speed of 27.627 seconds.

In fact, of the five women who tested today, most ran in the 28.1 to 28.5- second bracket, causing raised eyebrows and smiles from the Nunn Motorsports team led by crew chief Butch Winkle, engineers Brian Welling and Jerry Gordon.

"They give good feedback to us," Gordon indicated during the lunch break, "but everything they're saying is different from what we're accustomed to hearing from our regular drivers," P.J. and James Chesson, who accounted for Nunn's four wins in the final six 2004 Menards Infiniti Pro Series races.

Sarah McCune was the first driver on the track this morning and needed time to warm up tires and engine before getting some hot laps in. Juliana Chiovitti, on her first exit nearly smacked the pit wall and set-up pad, causing the Indy Racing League's videographer to leap the wall out of her way. Thankfully, there was no harm, no foul.

Kathryn Nunn.
Photo by Gregg Ellman - IRL.
During the lunch break, Kathryn Nunn discussed her Menards Infiniti Pro Series program and declared, "Despite starting at mid-season, I'd have to say it's going well." Of her women's driver development test she said, "We had candidates with outstanding credentials of 21 worldwide applications. In fact, we had two enquiries from the UK just yesterday.

"I'm impressed with what these women have done and since I do have a vacant seat for 2005, I would like to have a female driver," the IRL's sole woman team owner declared. "As we've gone deeper into this test I'm thinking I'd like to have a two-car team comprised of women."

Lyn St. James, who proposed the program to Nunn, was equally effusive after viewing five drivers on-track today. "I wish I were 20 years old again so I could drive here today," she moaned.

This is the first time St. James has been able to put together a proper all- woman driving test. "They've been very supportive of one another and they're all doing their best to go out and win this ride. There have been no cat fights," which can occur with men testing to gain a ride, she noted. "No more pace car teams for these women," St. James suggested: "These are legitimate racers."

After lunch Sondi Eden got her second go-round in the Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone racer from the Mo Nunn shops; she was first out yesterday morning and had to shake down the car for the balance of the field.

Rossella Manfrinato.
Photo by Gregg Ellman - IRL.
Once Eden ripped off her hour and a half of lapping, Rossella Manfrinato had her second drive in the car. Hers was fraught with difficulties as the radio failed to operate and then there were pieces of debris that returned her to pit road. Manfrinato's day ended when she moved to avoid some debris and went down to the white line, having a moment in the process.

League officials decided to call it a day at that point and commence, once more with Wendy Mathis up at 8AM CDT on Wednesday. A cold front is expected to arrive in central Texas this evening and could bring moisture along with cooler temps and cloudy skies. The four remaining drivers hope that won't happen so they can receive their full complement of time behind the wheel and show their capabilities.

And if it rains? Well, that's racing.