DETROIT (April 20, 2001) - Dayton Indy Lights Championship teams and drivers took to the new Kansas Speedway for the first time Thursday for a full day of unofficial practice on the 1.5-mile oval that will host Round Six of the series on July ...
DETROIT (April 20, 2001) - Dayton Indy Lights Championship teams and drivers took to the new Kansas Speedway for the first time Thursday for a full day of unofficial practice on the 1.5-mile oval that will host Round Six of the series on July 8.
Nine drivers from five different teams participated in the test session and a noon press conference that drew media from four local television affiliates and the region's top daily newspapers. The day was run without incident despite heavy winds that slowed race cars by up to 10 mph at times although speeds nearing 185 mph were easily reached on some sections of the smooth, new track.
Official times were not recorded, but Dayton Indy Lights championship points leaders Townsend Bell (DirecPC Lola) and Derek Higgins (Mexpro/StarlightDiamonds.com/PrecioBase.com Lola) were generally considered the day's pacesetters with laps in the 30.5-second range.
"The track is great but I really don't think you will see the same type of flat-out, nose-to-tail racing that we have at Michigan and Fontana," Higgins said. "We came here with a Fontana set-up but really we are going to have to drive the cars much more. It is going to be a challenge for drivers and engineers and I am looking forward to it. We have to drive this track a lot more and it really reminds me more of Homestead than a superspeedway, but it has the banking that Homestead doesn't which really makes it unique."
In addition to Bell and Higgins, other participating drivers included Bell's Dorricott Racing teammates Jon Fogarty (Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Lola) and Damien Faulkner (Dorricott Racing Lola), Roquin Motorsports teammates Rolando Quintanilla (Telmex Lola) and Luis Diaz (Telmex Lola), PacWest's Dan Wheldon (Gemstar Communications/PacWest Lights Lola) and Mario Dominguez (Del Valle/Corona/Televisa Lola) and Conquest Racing rookie Kristian Kolby (Conquest Racing Lola).
"The test was really good and everything went very well," said Wheldon, who recorded an unofficial best lap of 30.7 seconds. "We tried a couple of different things in the morning and continued to work on the car throughout the day, accomplishing everything we needed to achieve. It's an excellent track, but it's not as quick as we all thought it would be. It's a combination of St. Louis and Fontana. I had a wicked day out there and really drove the car hard and fast. I'm looking forward to being on the podium once again when we race there in July."
While the teams recorded valuable data for the upcoming race in Kansas, the test also served as a good oval track primer for next weekend's race at yTexas Motor Speedway. Although the Texas track is significantly different in that it has much steeper banking, Kansas still provided a good lesson in the dynamics of circle track racing for several drivers, including European rookies Kolby and Faulkner. Wheldon and Fogarty are also rookies but the PacWest driver raced on big banks in his championship Formula 2000 season and Fogarty has two oval track races to his credit in Barber Dodge competition.
"As this is my first year in America, I have never been on an oval so it has been pretty new for me" said Kolby who lapped in the 31-second range. "I am enjoying it, it is really a different challenge and you have no run-offs like on road courses so you have no room for mistakes. Unlike a road course, if you make a mistake here, you end up in the wall. It is really different and really challenging for me so, at the moment, the key word for me is just respect it."
"All in all it was a successful test for us and we accomplished a lot," said Dominguez, who scored his only career win at Homestead in 1999. "This track is a little like Homestead which should be really good for us. Today, it was very windy, and the wind blew harder in the afternoon, which gave us the opportunity to test the car under these types of conditions. It's a new and different track, so it will be a challenge for all of us, but I'm looking forward to it."
Immediately after completing a full day on track Thursday at Kansas, Rolando Quintanilla (Telmex Lola) sprinted for the Kansas City International Airport to catch a night flight home to Los Angeles. Quintanilla is completing a degree in international business and political science at Pepperdine University and had a final exam scheduled for 7:30 this morning. He graduates next Friday but will miss commencement ceremonies while practicing for Saturday's race in Texas.
"I would definitely like to walk in the graduation ceremonies, but I will be racing instead which is even better," Quintanilla said.
MORE GREEN FOR TEXAS
The new Simple Green Clean-Up Award was not claimed in the year's opening races and will be worth $7,500 next Saturday at Texas. The new program sponsored by Simple Green - the "Official Cleaner and Degreaser" of CART - is a roll over bonus that is paid to any driver who wins, sets the fastest race lap, leads the most laps and starts from the pole or within the top five at race.
So, what are the chances a driver will hit the Simple Green jackpot in Round 3 of the Dayton Indy Lights Championship at Texas? Pretty good if you believe history repeats itself. Last year, the third race of the season was a charm for Jonny Kane who swept the Detroit round from the pole and set the fastest race lap. Any similar performances in Texas will see the Simple Green Clean-Up Award paid out for the first time.