IPS: Nashville: Event preview

Newest stars of Indy Racing heading to Nashville. LEBANON, Tenn., Wednesday, July 10, 2002 -- It's probably too early to start identifying many trends for the Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series after just one event, but one thing was clear after...

Newest stars of Indy Racing heading to Nashville.

LEBANON, Tenn., Wednesday, July 10, 2002 -- It's probably too early to start identifying many trends for the Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series after just one event, but one thing was clear after the series debut: These guys can race.

A.J. Foyt IV, grandson of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt, won the thrilling inaugural Infiniti Pro Series race on July 7 at Kansas Speedway in the No. 14 Harrah's A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone. Foyt, 18, from Hockley, Texas, prevailed for the historic victory after many side-by-side duels throughout the race.

Now Foyt and the rest of the Infiniti Pro Series drivers head to Nashville Superspeedway for the second of seven races in the debut season of the Indy Racing League's new development series. The race, which takes place during the Firestone Indy 200 IRL event weekend at the track, starts at 3:30 p.m. (CDT).

Infiniti Q45 engines power new Dallara Automobili chassis built for the series, with Firestone Firehawk tires used exclusively on all cars. The V8 engines produce approximately 450 horsepower for the single-seat winged chassis, creating an ideal training ground for future Indy Racing League and Indianapolis 500 stars.

The Infiniti Pro Series got underway just 310 days after it was announced last year by Indy Racing League President and CEO Tony George and other IRL officials, a remarkably short span. But one never would have guessed that the race at Kansas was a series debut, judging by the exciting action.

Foyt showed remarkable speed and racecraft during the 100-mile race. He started from the pole and led 63 of the 67 laps, withstanding numerous challenges.

IRL veteran Ronnie Johncox and USAC short-track standout Aaron Fike took turns stalking Foyt during the first half of the race, with Foyt's lead never more than a second from Laps 15-47.

Johncox nosed ahead of Foyt by inches on a few laps as they battled side-by-side and nose-to-tail for the lead. Fike and Arie Luyendyk Jr., the 20-year-old son of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk, also joined the fray, looking for the lead.

The tension of such close racing finally claimed three cars, as Luyendyk, Johncox and Fike were eliminated in a three-car accident on Lap 47.

Then Foyt held off actor-driver Jason Priestley and Cory Witherill over the closing laps for the victory. Priestley, star of "Beverly Hills 90210," and Witherill, a full-blooded Navajo, finished second and third, respectively.

Expect similar action at Nashville, a unique, 1.33-mile concrete oval. And also expect some possible surprises, as most of the drivers in the field will compete on a concrete surface for the first time. Cars require different setups on concrete than on asphalt, and tire-wear characteristics also change.

FIRESTONE INDY 200 INFINITI PRO SERIES NOTEBOOK

Schedule: The Firestone Indy 200 Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series race starts at 3:30 p.m. (CDT) Saturday, July 20. Pole qualifying starts at 4:15 p.m. (CDT) July 19.

Practice sessions start at 11 a.m., 1:45 p.m. and 9 p.m. (CDT) July 19.

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On the air: Highlights from the Firestone Indy 200 Infiniti Pro Series race will be televised at 6 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 8 on ESPN2.

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Tickets: Tickets for the Firestone Indy 200 are available by calling the Nashville Superspeedway ticket office at (866) RACE-TIX or online at www.nashvillesuperspeedway.com.

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Arie Luyendyk , Cory Witherill , A.J. Foyt IV , Aaron Fike , Jason Priestley , Ronnie Johncox , Tony George , A.J. Foyt , Arie Luyendyk Jr.