GUTHRIE, LEFFLER AMONG DRIVERS GEARED UP FOR ATLANTA OPEN TEST HAMPTON, Ga., July 2, 1998 - The Pep Boys Indy Racing League Open Test scheduled for July 6-7 at Atlanta Motor Speedway is crucial because no league drivers have ever raced...
GUTHRIE, LEFFLER AMONG DRIVERS GEARED UP FOR ATLANTA OPEN TEST
HAMPTON, Ga., July 2, 1998 - The Pep Boys Indy Racing League Open Test scheduled for July 6-7 at Atlanta Motor Speedway is crucial because no league drivers have ever raced on the fast, 1.54-mile quad-oval.
But the test is even more important for drivers Jim Guthrie and Jason Leffler, because they face a learning curve with the track and their teams.
Veteran Guthrie will drive for Cobb Racing for the first time at the test, and rookie Leffler will serve as a test driver for Treadway Racing at Atlanta. Treadway driver Arie Luyendyk will miss the test due to family commitments in his native Holland.
At least 10 Pep Boys IRL drivers will test for two nights under the lights at Atlanta, trying to learn the speed secrets of the track before the inaugural Atlanta 500 Classic on Aug. 29. It's the first Indy-style race at AMS since 1983 and the first night race in the track's history. Among the drivers joining Guthrie and Leffler at the test will be defending league champion Tony Stewart, Scott Sharp, Mark Dismore, and rookies Robby Unser and J.J. Yeley.
Guthrie, 36, joined Cobb Racing in late May after the Indianapolis 500 but was unable to drive due to injuries suffered in a crash at Indy. He competed for ISM Racing for the first three races of this season before moving to Cobb, which made its league debut this year.
In March 1997, Guthrie pulled off probably the most stunning upset in league history by guiding the low-budget Blueprint Racing car to victory at the Dura-Lube 200 at Phoenix. Guthrie held off a last-gasp charge by standout Stewart, who drives for well-established Team Menard.
Leffler, 22, is just starting his promising career in the Pep Boys IRL after winning the USAC midget national championship last year. He breezed through his IRL rookie test June 9 at Texas Motor Speedway, driving a G Force/Aurora/Firestone fielded by Treadway Racing to speeds of 219 mph. Leffler is trying to gain more experience through the test with Treadway.
Speeds should exceed 220 mph during the test at Atlanta, more than 20 mph faster than the track record of 197.478 mph set last November by Geoff Bodine in a NASCAR Winston Cup car. Pep Boys IRL cars are nearly a ton lighter, more aerodynamic and just as powerful as a NASCAR Winston Cup car.
Stewart is a likely candidate to set an unofficial track record, as he turned a lap of 228.012 mph on June 6 during the True Value 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. That 1.5-mile quad-oval is a sister track to Atlanta, as both tracks have 24-degree banking in the turns and 5-degree banking on the straightaways.
Two drivers at the Open Test - Stewart and veteran John Paul Jr. - have ties to AMS.
Stewart has tested at Atlanta in a NASCAR Busch Grand National stock car. Paul is the only active Pep Boys IRL driver who competed in the last Indy-style race at AMS in 1983. He finished third. The track was reconfigured from a 1.522-mile oval to a 1.54-mile quad-oval last year, dulling any edge Paul might have over his rivals.
ATLANTA OPEN TEST NOTEBOOK
The lineup, schedule: Pep Boys IRL drivers scheduled to participate in the Atlanta Open Test: Tony Stewart, Jim Guthrie, Buzz Calkins, Robby Unser, Mark Dismore, Scott Sharp, John Paul Jr., J.J. Yeley, Dr. Jack Miller and Jason Leffler.
Testing will take place from 5-10 p.m. July 6, and from 5-7:30 p.m. and 8:45-11 p.m. July 7. ***
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. PPG Pole qualifying 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.