INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, March 29, 2001- In the first Indy Racing Northern Light Series test at the Richmond International Raceway (RIR) on Monday, March 26th, Buzz Calkins unofficially smashed the track record by over three seconds and nearly 24...
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, March 29, 2001- In the first Indy Racing Northern Light Series test at the Richmond International Raceway (RIR) on Monday, March 26th, Buzz Calkins unofficially smashed the track record by over three seconds and nearly 24 miles-per-hour. The Denver-native's #12 Bradley Food Marts/ Sav-O-Mat/ Dallara/ Oldsmobile lapped the .75-mile speedway in 17.4 seconds. Randy Tolsma set the previous track record of 20.552 seconds (131.374 mph) in 1996 driving a USAC Silver Bullet car. 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.
"We had a really good test down there," commented the 29-year-old. "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."
The fast lap was turned with 45 circuits on the Firestone tires and speed was not the focus of the day. The primary goal of the test was to become familiar with the unique three-quarter-mile oval so Calkins knows he has more in himself as well. Therefore, the 1996 Indy Racing co-champion expects times to drop prior to the June 30th night race.
"I estimate we'll get down to the 16-second range," forecasted Calkins. "We had a pretty conservative set-up 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."
The nearly four-second difference in the lap times of the Indy Racing Dallara versus the stock car of Gordon will result in some spectacular racing for the fans to witness. With nearly no time during a lap to relax, the driver and spotter combination at Richmond will be extremely important.
The Indy Racing League's inaugural event winner looks for this to be a hard night's work for the drivers and the spotters. "It is going to be, without a doubt, the busiest track we run on. You're going to be in traffic 99.9% of the time so it is important you and your spotter are working well together."
"The Indy Racing Northern Light Series cars are the fastest we have ever had at Richmond International Raceway," offered RIR president Doug Fritz. "Watching Buzz whip around our 3/4 mile track at over 150 mph was incredible. The fans that were here to watch Buzz are now even more excited than they were before for our inaugural Northern Light Series 300 on June 30th. It is really going to be a weekend of extreme speed and excitement."
While being the first Northern Lights Series event at RIR, this is not the first open wheel event, or even first Indy Racing event held at the site. In 1946, Ted Horn drove to the first Richmond event victory on what was then a half-mile dirt track- the track was paved in 1968. Since, USAC has also run on the Virginia-oval, including the 1996 Silver Bullet race.
The Indianapolis-based Bradley Motorsports team, headed by owner Brad Calkins and team manager/ engineer David Cripps, will return to RIR on April 20th for the Northern Light Series open test. The Bradley team will next race on April 8 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.