Hampton, Ga., and Toronto, July 16, 2000 - For the second weekend of the season, the Walker Racing CART and IRL teams spent their time at the track - this time in two different countries. Walker Racing is the only open-wheel team that...
Hampton, Ga., and Toronto, July 16, 2000 - For the second weekend of the season, the Walker Racing CART and IRL teams spent their time at the track - this time in two different countries.
Walker Racing is the only open-wheel team that competes on a full-time basis in both the FedEx Championship Series and the Indy Racing Northern Light Series. An added twist is that both teams have rookies piloting their cars in 2000, former Formula 1 driver and Japanese native Shinji Nakano (CART) in the #5 avex/Honda/Reynard/Firestone car, and 19-year old rookie sensation Sarah Fisher in the #15 Cummins Special/Oldsmobile/Dallara/Firestone in the IRL.
Rookie Nakano spent his time in Toronto at the Molson Indy, a 1.721-mile temporary road course through the streets of downtown. Nakano qualified in 21st position for Sunday's race with a quick lap of .59:058 seconds. The track is a little bit like Detroit, a little bumpy," said Shinji. "I couldn't find a hole anywhere during qualifying so we started 21st. My favorite part of the track is the last corner it's very fast. You can't pass other cars there, but it's a lot of fun to drive."
Shinji started the afternoon race in Toronto in 21st position and was working on methodically passing the cars as he progressed nine positions through the field. His first pit stop was flawless and he rejoined the field without incident. The Formula 1 veteran showed his street course savvy by setting up several cars and then passing them when the time was right. However, his day too, ended early, when he retired on Lap 55 of the race, due to a mechanical failure.
"I don't know what happened," said Shinji. "Something broke in the car and we lost power. The car was good to drive before that. We got a good setup this morning in practice and were 10th. I got to do some racing today and it was fun, I had a good time until the car stopped working." Shinji finished 14th.
"This weekend wasn't the best we've had in racing," said owner Derrick Walker. "But we're encouraged by the good progress we are making. Nevertheless, there is much progress to make in the races ahead."
Rookie Fisher spent her weekend at the 1 ½-mile oval at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where she had her best qualifying effort ever. Her quick lap of 25.491 sec., 211.839 mph, earned her the 5th spot in the field for Saturday's race. Sarah's starting position is the best ever by a woman in the history of Indy-car racing. The previous high was a sixth-place start by Lyn St. James in the 1994 Indianapolis 500.
" Our team has worked very hard here, we've been very consistent in practice throughout, and we're figuring out what the car wants," said Fisher. Sarah's race was run on Saturday night, under the lights at Atlanta. After starting 5th, Fisher dropped back a little at the start and ran well until the first pit stop. The team had a problem getting the left rear tire on the car, but Sarah continued to fight to get her position back on the racetrack and was moving up well in the field, when on Lap 190 of 208, her engine failed and sent her spinning into the Turn 4 wall. She was uninjured.
"We didn't have a great night, but we were turning things around on the track as the night went on, and then the engine blew," said Fisher. "It blew up bad, and it happened at the last minute as I was setting up for the corner. We would have had a good finish in the race except for that happening." No fewer than eight engine failures occurred under the hot and humid Atlanta skies, and Fisher, like her teammate Nakano, finished 14th.
Walker Racing's corporate sponsor partners are avex, Alpine, Mitsuba, Cummins, Mead, SpeedWRX.com, emlrockfort, freeinternet.com, Dell Computer Corporation, NGK, St. Elmo Steakhouse, Honda, Reynard and Firestone.