IPS: IRL: Drivers ready for final tune-up at Homestead-Miami

HOMESTEAD, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2003 -- Nearly all of the top drivers in the IRL IndyCar Series will make their final tune-up for the season-opening Toyota Indy 300 during an Indy Racing League Open Test on Feb. 17-18 at Homestead-Miami ...

HOMESTEAD, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2003 -- Nearly all of the top drivers in the IRL IndyCar Series will make their final tune-up for the season-opening Toyota Indy 300 during an Indy Racing League Open Test on Feb. 17-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The test is significant for two reasons. One, it's the final Open Test before the opener March 2. Two, the test takes place on the same 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami track that will play host to the Toyota Indy 300.

That will give teams, drivers and fans an ideal barometer of performance in the race less than two weeks before the event.

Testing takes place from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. (EST) both days, with a lunch break from noon-1 p.m.

Many of the same drivers and teams testing at Homestead-Miami recently participated in the IRL Test in the West on Feb. 3-8 at California Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway. While those tests gave an indication of which drivers and teams were strong, California and Phoenix are very different facilities than Homestead-Miami.

California is a fast, wide, high-banked 2-mile oval that places a premium on pure horsepower and aerodynamics. Phoenix is a relatively flat, tricky 1-mile oval that requires an accurate chassis setup and good engine torque and drivability to pull cars through its asymmetrical corners.

Homestead-Miami can be considered a combination of both those tracks.

It has long, fast straightaways and relatively flat, tight-radius turns with varying width and degrees of banking. Width varies from 60 to 72 feet in the four corners, while all four turns have only 6 degrees of banking. Only Nazareth Speedway has flatter turns among the 15 tracks the IRL IndyCar Series will visit in 2003.

That will pose an interesting setup challenge for teams and drivers as they come to grips with the track.

Among the 24 drivers scheduled to participate in this test, Tony Kanaan and Felipe Giaffone are among the better bets to be strong performers.

Kanaan arguably was the top driver in the Test in the West. He posted the third-best speed Feb. 4 at California, the third-fastest speed Feb. 7 at Phoenix and the fastest speed Feb. 8 at Phoenix in the No. 11 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone.

2001 Bombardier Rookie of the Year Giaffone was fastest at California and third- and sixth-fastest in two days of testing at Phoenix in the No. 21 Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone.

There will be plenty of other talent on track at Homestead-Miami, too Three IndyCar Series champions -- two-time reigning champ and Toyota ThIndy 300 race winner Sam Hornish Jr., Kenny Brack and Scott Sharp -- Thwill be on track. And there will be four Indianapolis 500 winners Th-- two-time reigning winner and Miami resident Helio Castroneves, Thtwo-time winner Al Unser Jr., Eddie Cheever Jr. and Brack.

Past CART champions Gil de Ferran, a Fort Lauderdale resident, and Michael Andretti are scheduled to test. 2002 IRL Infiniti Pro Series champion A.J. Foyt IV, grandson of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt, also will continue to prepare at the test for his IndyCar Series debut in the Toyota Indy 300.

HOMESTEAD-MIAMI OPEN TEST NOTEBOOK

*Schedule: The daily on-track schedule for the IRL IndyCar Series Open Test at Homestead-Miami Speedway (times local):

Monday, Feb. 17: 9 a.m.-noon; 1-4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 18: 9 a.m.-noon; 1-4:30 p.m.

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Fans welcome: Fans are welcome to attend both days of the Open Test at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Admission is free. Fans can sit in the Speedway Club level of the grandstands.

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Race tickets: For ticket information for the season-opening Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami, call (305) 230-RACE or visit www.homesteadmiamispeedway.com.

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Felipe Giaffone , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , A.J. Foyt IV , Tony Kanaan , Kenny Brack , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr. , Mo Nunn