IRL: Busy month of April

Busy teams ready to learn secrets of Nazareth Speedway. NAZARETH, Pa., Tuesday, April 2, 2002 - A busy month of April for Indy Racing League teams starts with an Open Test on April 4-5 at Nazareth Speedway, as 17 drivers from 14 teams prepare...

Busy teams ready to learn secrets of Nazareth Speedway.

NAZARETH, Pa., Tuesday, April 2, 2002 - A busy month of April for Indy Racing League teams starts with an Open Test on April 4-5 at Nazareth Speedway, as 17 drivers from 14 teams prepare for the inaugural Firestone Indy 225 later this month at the track.

Nine of the top 10 drivers in the Indy Racing League point standings will participate in the test on the tricky 1-mile oval in preparation for the Firestone Indy 225 on April 21, the first Indy Racing event at Nazareth. Among the top 10 in the standings scheduled to test at Nazareth are series points leader Sam Hornish Jr., 2001 Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, Gil de Ferran, Jaques Lazier, Laurent Redon, 2001 IRL Rookie of the Year Felipe Giaffone, 1997 Indianapolis 500 Bank One Rookie of the Year Jeff Ward, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. and 2000 IRL champion Buddy Lazier.

Testing starts both days at 9 a.m. (EST) and ends at 4:30 p.m. April 4 and 4 p.m. April 5.

This will be a vital test, as few Indy Racing teams have experience on the unique 1-mile oval in the Lehigh Valley of southeastern Pennsylvania.

The track will pose quite a challenge for drivers and teams due to its unusual layout. Turn 1 is 50 feet wide and banked 3 degrees, with Turn 2 at 60 feet wide and banked at 4 degrees. Turns 3 and 4 are 55 feet wide and banked 6 degrees.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the track is an elevation change of 34 feet.

The Open Test could intensify the already strong rivalry growing at the top of the Indy Racing League point standings between Pennzoil Panther Racing and Marlboro Team Penske. Hornish won two of the first three races of the season in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone to take a 141-115 lead over Marlboro Team Penske's Castroneves. Penske's de Ferran is third with 112 points.

Hornish only has one career start at Nazareth, in a Toyota Atlantic car in 1999. Meanwhile, Castroneves and de Ferran have 12 combined starts at the track, with de Ferran earning the historic 100th career open-wheel victory for Penske in 2000 at the track en route to the first of his two consecutive CART titles.

Castroneves and de Ferran aren't the only drivers at the test with extensive Nazareth experience. 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr., who will test along with Red Bull Cheever Racing teammate Tomas Scheckter, has recorded six top-10 finishes in seven career starts at the track. Unser, who will test with Kelley Racing teammate Scott Sharp, has nine top-10 finishes in 16 starts at Nazareth in CART and True Value IROC competition.

After the test, some teams will head straight to Indianapolis for private testing early next week at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program takes place April 12-13 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and practice for the Firestone Indy 225 starts April 19.

NAZARETH OPEN TEST NOTEBOOK

Schedule: The Indy Racing League Open Test at Nazareth Speedway takes place April 4-5. Testing starts both days at 9 a.m. (EST) and continues until a lunch break at noon. Testing then will resume from 1-4:30 p.m. April 4 and 1-4 p.m. April 5.

***

On the Net: Stay tuned to Indy Racing Online (www.indyracing.com <http://www.indyracing.com>) on April 4-5 for hourly updates of the Open Test at Nazareth Speedway. There will be no live timing and scoring from the test.

*** Tickets: Testing is open to the public from noon-4 p.m. (EST) April 5. Admission is $5 at the gate for adults, with children 12 and under free. Any fan who has purchased a ticket for the Firestone Indy 225 on April 21 will be admitted free to the test. . Fans should present their Firestone Indy 225 tickets at the gate to gain free admission or bring their confirmation to the ticket office to obtain a voucher if they have not received their event tickets.

Gate 1 will be open for admission from noon-4 p.m. April 5.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Felipe Giaffone , Buddy Lazier , Jeff Ward , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Jaques Lazier  , Laurent Redon , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske