IPS: Medeiros fast in Phoenix

IPS: Medeiros fast in Phoenix

Seven Menards Infiniti Pro Series drivers had their first opportunity to check out the changes to Phoenix International Raceway's one-mile oval, now that a tunnel has been inserted near Turn 4, making the infield accessible throughout the ...

Seven Menards Infiniti Pro Series drivers had their first opportunity to check out the changes to Phoenix International Raceway's one-mile oval, now that a tunnel has been inserted near Turn 4, making the infield accessible throughout the day.

Thiago Medeiros.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
The changes to this fast, fast circuit will likely make racing a lot more interesting for the Pro Series drivers, as Thiago Medeiros found out today. Medeiros, who won the season-closer at Texas Motor Speedway last October, had the best lap today, in the morning and again in the afternoon, carrying over from his good test at Homestead-Miami Speedway in January.

The Brazilian found the new layout "Safer. It's wider and that makes it quicker," Medeiros related. "You can carry more speed in the corners." His #11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Team intended to make changes to springs and dampers on their Dallara/Infiniti for the afternoon, "We are working more on mechanical than aero" issues because of the time constraints.

Obviously their changes worked well for Medeiros, who improved from his morning lap of 23.0540 seconds (156.155mph) to post a hot one at 22.9712 seconds (156.718mph), on his 49th of 58 total laps this afternoon.

It's been a sunny day here in the Valley of the Sun, with temperatures in the mid-60s, just right to test drivers and cars. Unfortunately, rookie Jesse Mason, in the #3 Brian Stewart Racing Dallara clouted the SAFER barrier just installed for the purpose in Turn 4. At that point in the afternoon (about 2:40pm), Mason owned the second quickest lap of 23.2728 seconds (154.687mph), a mark he'd keep even as he sat on the sideline with a bruised elbow.

Another rookie, American Phil Giebler improved greatly from the morning session, but that was no surprise. Giebler has spent the last five years competing in Europe, trying to make his name on the Continent with the intent of being the next American in Formula One.

The kid's been pretty darn successful, winning a scholarship for the ELF/La Filiere Factory Formula 3 team in France and taking second place in his first season. Then winning the Formula Palmer Audi Winter Championship, winning a Valvoline Team USA scholarship, running British F3, Spanish F3, and working with the brilliant David Sears' FIA International F3000 squad.

"It was time to come back to the US and make my name here," Giebler said after the day was done. In the morning he had his first taste of oval racing - ever - and, "It was a lot different" from what he was accustomed to. Taking only 15 laps in the morning, Giebler was the caboose in the seven- car train of Menards Infiniti Pro Series drivers.

"I was out of my comfort zone. At lower speeds, the car doesn't do anything," and he had to find that comfort zone to improve, right? This afternoon, Phil sure improved, even though his #2 Western Union Dallara, out of the Keith Duesenberg Racing shop had similar problems with a right rear wheel bearing that cost him track time in the morning. "I was sideways into Turn 1 and almost into the wall," he admitted. "It was an eye-opener."

Giebler's lap of 23.3074 seconds (154.457mph), turned on his 64th of 106 total gave the 23-year-old from Oxnard, CA a bit more confidence by the end of the day. "It was time to come back. I loved racing in Europe, but this is a great ladder series for the Indy Racing League and they're out there promoting young talent."

Other drivers on the track this morning and afternoon included Paul Dana, fourth overall combined in the #91 Ethanol Hemelgarn 91 Johnson Motorsports machine, based on his morning lap of 23.3719 seconds (154.031mph). Rookie Brad Pollard from the Kenn Hardley Racing stables took the #24 entry to fifth overall.

Marty Roth was sixth in the #4 Roth Racing Dallara, while a disconsolate Arie Luyendyk Jr. brought up the back of the test results in his #5 Sam Schmidt Motorsports machine. "We found out that our wing was broken," causing the car to lose front downforce. "We were struggling with push all day."

Luyendyk, too, is pleased with the new look at Phoenix International Raceway. "I like it because you have more room on the outside of [Turn] 2. But then again, you don't have many references because the bridge is gone and the wall is different on the outside of 2. It's a little harder to find a reference point on the outside of Turn 2," Luyendyk revealed.

Series mentor Rick Mears had noted the changes in a drive around the circuit Monday afternoon, thinking the drivers who had previously raced at the track might have a problem finding the apex of the second turn because the cross-over had been removed. But he, too, thought the drivers would have an easier time getting more mid-corner speed on that part of the track.

The Menards Infiniti Pro Series has wrapped its pre-season test and will convene at the 1.5-mile banked Homestead-Miami Speedway for the first race of their 12-event competition. The field of cars appears to be growing slowly as MIPS series director Roger Bailey laughed, "If I had all the entries in hand three weeks before the start of the season, I'd be really surprised."

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Sam Schmidt , Rick Mears , Marty Roth , Paul Dana , Roger Bailey , Eric Gilbert , Jesse Mason , Phil Giebler , David Sears , Thiago Medeiros , Arie Luyendyk Jr.