IRL: Buzz Calkins Homestead pre-race ntoes

Buzz Calkins currently sits ninth in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series points championship. With a season-opening top-ten in the Pennzoil Copper World Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) Bradley Motorsports is making a serious run...

Buzz Calkins currently sits ninth in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series points championship. With a season-opening top-ten in the Pennzoil Copper World Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) Bradley Motorsports is making a serious run at the Northern Light Cup in 2001. The #12 Bradley Food Marts/ Sav-O-Mat Dallara has 22-points following the PIR event. The team took home $43,100 for finishing 197 laps of the 200-mile event.

Bradley Motorsports set the unofficial overall track record at Richmond International Raceway (RIR) while testing on Monday, March 26th. Turning a lap of 17.4 seconds around the .75-mile oval, Calkins smashed the old track record of 20.552 seconds (131.374 mph) set in 1996 by Randy Tolsma in his USAC Coors Light Silver Bullet open-wheeler. Three-time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon set the Winston Cup track record in 1999 with a quick lap of 21.344 seconds (126.499 mph). Calkins' time was good for 154.99 mph.

Calkins expects to see times drop when the Northern Light Series returns to Richmond on June 30th.

"I estimate we'll get down to the 16-second range," said Calkins. "We had a pretty conservative setup on the car in the test. As we trim the car out to where it is more neutral the speeds will fall. That is were the time will come from. We had a really good test down there. We got up to speed right away and found a good balance with the car. I was a little apprehensive about going to Richmond because of the length of the track but now that I have been there and seen how wide it is and how much grip it has, I feel a lot better about it."

Buzz Calkins was awarded the KECO Challenge Award for his performance at last season's final event, the excite 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on October 15, 2000. He earned the award, for which KECO donated $1,000 in Calkins' name to the "Racing for Corey" charity, for being able to stay focused on his Indy Racing Northern Light Series career and earn his Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from the prestigious Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. Calkins graduated in June of 2000 and finished 15th in the season-long title chase.

The KECO Challenge Award was given to one driver at each of the 2000 Northern Light Series events. Beyond honoring the driver and team, the award helps raise awareness and money for "Racing for Corey." "Racing for Corey" is a charity devoted to granting the wishes of children with life-threatening and terminal illness.

Calkins was the last recipient of the KECO Challenge Award as the prize has been replaced by the "KECO Leader at Lap 50" award for 2001. The new KECO prize awards the driver leading on lap 50 of each Northern Light Series event.

Buzz Calkins will appear on ESPN 2's RPM 2Night in a feature interview. The show, taped following Bradley's test day at Richmond, will highlight Calkins' views on the upcoming race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the Richmond test, the 2001 Indy Racing Northern Light Series and the changes that Bradley Motorsports has implemented over the off-season to maximize the team's chances of winning. The interview is scheduled to appear on Thursday, April 5th at 7 pm (EDT).

The top-ten run at Phoenix increased Bradley Motorsports' streak of taking the checkered flag to 73.1% of the races the team has entered. Bradley has finished nearly 75% of all the laps ever run in the Northern Light Series and, of the events completed, finished in the top-ten in 56.6% of the time. The start also lengthened Calkins' streak of starting all but three Northern Light Series races since winning the inaugural event at Walt Disney World in 1996. That is fourth on the all-time list to Davey Hamilton who has started each of the 44 events. Eddie Cheever and Buddy Lazier are tied for second having only missed one race apiece in their Northern Light Series career. Stephan Gregoire has missed two races in his career.

Buzz sits on the board of directors for Natural Ties. The charity, based in Evanston, Ill., was designed to help college-aged individuals with disabilities to assimilate into mainstream society. Natural Ties uses college-age kids to help associate their peers with many interests on college campuses. To learn more visit www.naturalties.org .

What do you thing of the Homestead track?

Buzz Calkins, driver

"We went down there (Homestead-Miami Speedway) testing twice over the winter. It is a larger scale Loudon, which we used to run on. It is flatter and smoother than a lot of the tracks we run on so there is nothing to go off of. After a couple of days (testing) down there we feel we have a pretty good handle on what's going on. I feel good about where we are at with the Bradley Food Marts/ Sav-O-Mat Dallara."

What is the hardest challenge at the Homestead track?

"The lack of grip and the way the track changes will be the biggest challenges. The wind affects the car more than any other track we run because there is nothing to block it. It comes straight across the track and upsets the car. Also, without banking, you have to get the setup right. Banking can hide a poor-handling car but there is nothing to mask a bad setup at Homestead."

How will you handle the unique design of the Homestead-Miami Speedway:

"You have to get your car balance right. The way you are on and off the throttle on the long-straights and tight turns, it really upsets the car. You have to have the setup right to overcome what is really pretty rough driving."

How will you approach Homestead's turn four where you had your testing crash?

"I think it (turn-four) is something extra to keep in mind. I was aware of it before and it didn't do much good. It is going to be the key corner to setup the car in. The IRL is making some aerodynamic changes that will help the problem but you are just always going to have to be aware of it."

What are the engineer's challenges at Homestead-Miami Speedway:

David Cripps, team manager and engineer "The main challenge is the fact that it doesn't have a lot of banking. The challenge in that is getting grip out of the corner to put the power down without putting too much downforce in the car. Downforce will slow the car down the straights. The other challenge is keeping up with the changes of the track. The changes can catch you out... as we learned in testing with the accident."

How do you feel about the team's prospects for the 2001 season: "I don't really think that Phoenix was a true representation of where we should fit in ultimately. We were probably three to five positions off where I think we should have been. The Homestead crash was a bit of a setback in that respect. We expect to see the true benefits of where we are by Atlanta. I think we will start to hit our stride at Atlanta. I can promise we'll be fast there. That is not to say that Homestead is a washout. We have a very good shot there, as good a shot as any, but Atlanta is where the effort will start to show itself.

-BM

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Buzz Calkins , Eddie Cheever , Buddy Lazier , Stephan Gregoire , Davey Hamilton , Randy Tolsma