IPS: Phoenix open test preview

Open Test Important For Many Reasons AVONDALE, Ariz., Monday, Feb. 7, 2005 -- Menards Infiniti Pro Series drivers are approaching the first Open Test of the 2005 season with anticipation for a variety of reasons. Ten drivers are expected to...

Open Test Important For Many Reasons

AVONDALE, Ariz., Monday, Feb. 7, 2005 -- Menards Infiniti Pro Series drivers are approaching the first Open Test of the 2005 season with anticipation for a variety of reasons.

Ten drivers are expected to test on the 1-mile oval at Phoenix International Raceway on Feb. 8, the first of three Open Test dates sanctioned by the Menards Infiniti Pro Series in 2005, and the only Open Test slated prior to the season opener on March 6 at Homestead Miami Speedway.

Drivers such as Jeff Simmons and Travis Gregg are returning to teams they raced with last year, but are looking to build relationships with new team members. Drivers such as Jaime Camara, Wade Cunningham and Chris Festa are new to the series and need to gain experience in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series car. All drivers value as much track time as possible and the opportunity to take a look at their competition.

"This is the first time we'll be back on the oval since Texas, so I'm really looking forward to it," said Simmons, who competed in four races with Kenn Hardley Racing in 2004. "We're working with some new guys on the team, so it's a chance to gel as a team before the season starts. It's been a while since I've been able to do that. Even in 2003 when I raced with Keith Duesenberg Racing, I didn't sign until late. It's a good chance for us to develop some chemistry together."

Simmons, the series runner-up in 2003, has two victories and two pole positions in his career.

Cunningham, a 24-year-old New Zealand native who won the 2003 CIK-FIA World Karting Championship, will be making his debut in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series car with Brian Stewart Racing.

Gregg, a former sprint car competitor, competed in three races in 2004 with Sam Schmidt Motorsports, recording two top-five finishes and a pole position.

"We've done some private testing this winter, but the Open Test is valuable because you get a look at the other teams and drivers to see how they're going to be," Gregg said. "You also get a feel for the tight racing that we're going to have, because you're not out there by yourself."

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The 2005 Menards Infiniti Pro Series season begins March 6 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be televised March 17 at 4 p.m. EST on ESPN2.

The IRL IndyCar Series begins its 10th season of competition on March 6 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN at 2 p.m. EST.

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