IRL: Atlanta Open Test 98-07-07

STEWART LIGHTS UP ATLANTA WITH RECORD LAP BY NEW IRL CAR HAMPTON, Ga., July 7, 1998 - Tony Stewart upped the speed ante Tuesday during the second night of the Pep Boys Indy Racing League Open Test at Atlanta Motor Speedway, turning a lap...

STEWART LIGHTS UP ATLANTA WITH RECORD LAP BY NEW IRL CAR

HAMPTON, Ga., July 7, 1998 - Tony Stewart upped the speed ante Tuesday during the second night of the Pep Boys Indy Racing League Open Test at Atlanta Motor Speedway, turning a lap of 228.505 mph, the fastest ever by a new-formula IRL car.

Defending Pep Boys IRL champion Stewart produced the previous fastest lap of 228.012 on Lap 86 of the True Value 500 last month at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Stewart set an unofficial track record of 226.406 Monday night on the 1.54-mile quad-oval at Atlanta in the Glidden-Menards Special Dallara/Aurora/Firestone. On Tuesday night, he reached the league-record speed on the 71st of his 124 test laps.

"We had a 30-lap run tonight, and I had a good 227 lap at the end of that," Stewart said. "I passed high and low all night in turns 1, 3 and 4. I tell you that the people who don't come and watch this race are going to miss a great show."

The two-day Open Test served as a warm-up for the inaugural Atlanta 500 Classic on Aug. 29, the first night race in AMS history. Teams will participate in private tire testing Wednesday night. Approximately 10,000 fans watched nine drivers turn test laps Tuesday night.

Kelley Racing teammates Mark Dismore and Scott Sharp were second and third fastest, respectively, on Tuesday night. Dismore turned a fast lap of 221.494 in the Kelley Automotive Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear, while Sharp was right behind at 221.079 in the Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear.

Rookie Robby Unser, son of three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Bobby Unser, was fourth fastest at 218.079 in the The Children's Beverage Group-Team Cheever Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear.

"We're faster here than Texas because as a team we're running better," Unser said. "We have a better setup at Atlanta. I had heard from Dad and (uncle) Al (Unser) and everyone how much fun this place is, and they were right. It was one of my dad's favorite places to run. It's really a smooth racetrack and a great facility."

Jim Guthrie returned to the cockpit after six weeks off due to injuries suffered in a crash during the Indianapolis 500, turning a fast lap of 217.865 mph in the Cobb Racing G Force/Aurora/Goodyear. Guthrie joined the team owned by former sports car standout Price Cobb in late May after driving for ISM Racing in the first three races of the season.

Guthrie turned 63 laps.

"It seems like forever since I've been in a car," Guthrie said. "We had a slow start yesterday but did better today. It's like a preseason test for us. New team, new car, new driver. "We ran some high 217's tonight, and we are encouraged. We'll do some tire testing tomorrow. I'm real thankful to the team. We will be running at Dover, and we'll go right from there to Charlotte."

Rookie Jason Leffler made his testing debut with the Treadway Racing team, turning a top speed of 217.395 in the Sprint PCS-RadioShack-QUALCOMM G Force/Aurora/Firestone normally driven by two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Arie Luyendyk, who has family commitments in his native Holland. 1997 USAC midget national champion Leffler completed 109 laps Tuesday night, second only to Stewart. Leffler passed his rookie test last month at Texas Motor Speedway.

"It's more relaxed being out there now that I'm through my rookie test," Leffler said. "I think the most fun thing about these cars is looking down and seeing how fast you are going, and you can adjust things in the car to go faster. This is just a testing deal. We're working on sponsorship maybe for next season."

Former USAC and NASCAR Busch Grand National Series driver Stevie Reeves became eligible to compete in the Pep Boys IRL, as he passed his rookie test in the Sinden Racing Service-Menards Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone normally driven by J.J. Yeley. It took Reeves approximately 60 laps to pass the test, which has four phases of 10 laps each, each phase within a certain escalating speed range.

Reeves' top speed was approximately 212 mph before returning the car to Yeley.

"I've been wanting to do this since I was a little kid," Reeves said. "After growing up watching this, and then actually getting in the car and doing it, I just said, 'Wow.' Stewart took me around the track in a regular car, and he showed me the difference between a stock car and these cars on the track. Robby and J.J. also helped me out.

"(Car owners) Jeff (Sinden) and Joe (Kennedy) have worked with a lot of new drivers who have done their rookie tests, and they got me really comfortable in the car. The Infiniti engine was great and provided plenty of smooth power."

"Once I got up to the speeds the IRL told me to go in each phase, I was able to run the rest of the laps back-to-back."

"When I went NASCAR racing in 1994, this option (IRL) just wasn't there. I'm just really excited to be able to do this. It's always been my dream."

PERFORMANCE HISTORY FROM OPEN TESTING, JULY 7* Driver C/E/T Laps Top Speed Tony Stewart D/A/F 124 228.505 Mark Dismore D/A/G 29 221.494 Scott Sharp D/A/G 46 221.079 Robby Unser D/A/G 84 218.079 Jim Guthrie G/A/G 63 217.865 Dr. Jack Miller D/I/F 27 217.668 Jason Leffler G/A/F 109 217.395 J.J. Yeley D/I/F 26 216.969 Buzz Calkins G/A/G 62 216.115

* -- All drivers turned their fastest laps of the two-day test July 7. Chassis key - D-Dallara; G-G Force. Engine key - A-Aurora; I-Infiniti. Tire key - F-Firestone; G-Goodyear.

ATLANTA OPEN TEST NOTEBOOK

Atlanta 500 Classic schedule: The inaugural Atlanta 500 Classic starts at 9 p.m. Aug. 29. Pep Boys IRL drivers will race 208 laps on the 1.54-mile quad-oval.

Georgia Power Pole Night qualifying for the PPG Pole starts at 6 p.m. Aug. 28. Practice sessions are scheduled for 4 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. Aug. 27, 3:45 p.m. Aug. 28 and 4:30 p.m. Aug. 29.

Atlanta 500 Classic tickets: Tickets for the Atlanta 500 Classic are available by calling Atlanta Motor Speedway at (770) 946-4211.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Jason Leffler , Buzz Calkins , Scott Sharp , Arie Luyendyk , Mark Dismore , Jim Guthrie , Bobby Unser , J.J. Yeley , Price Cobb , Robby Unser , Jack Miller