IRL: CHAMPCAR/CART: Sarah 11th in Atlanta; CART Texas race postponed

INDIANAPOLIS, April 30, 2001 - In a racing weekend that was out of the ordinary for both Walker Racing teams, INDY Racing League driver Sarah Fisher finished 11th in the Atlanta zMAX 500 after being caught up in a fiery crash early on in the first...

INDIANAPOLIS, April 30, 2001 - In a racing weekend that was out of the ordinary for both Walker Racing teams, INDY Racing League driver Sarah Fisher finished 11th in the Atlanta zMAX 500 after being caught up in a fiery crash early on in the first Saturday night race of the IRL season, while CART FedEX Championship driver Tora Takagi and the rest of the CART drivers and teams went home from Texas Motor Speedway early when the Firestone Firehawk 600 presented by Pioneer was postponed by CART on Sunday due to extensive concerns over the unprecedented physical demands that were being placed on its drivers.

The inaugural Texas CART race event was postponed when 21 of the 25 drivers including Tora reported lightheadness or dizziness after spending several laps in the cockpit. Speeds by the CART drivers during the race weekend had exceeded more than 20 mph faster than the fastest laps recorded before in practice.

With the increased speeds came an attendant increase in the amount of gravitational force (g force), both lateral and vertical, experienced by the drivers while in the cockpit. On the 1.5-mile Texas oval drivers sustained loads of up to 5 ½ g's for 18 of the 22 seconds it took to complete a single lap. Given the potential for drivers to "grey out" or lose consciousness during their laps, the decision was made to cancel the race in the best interests of driver safety.

"It was a very disturbing weekend," said team owner and CART board member Derrick Walker. "At a time when we are focusing on building our fan base and evolving the sport to increase our entertainment value it was very unfortunate that the circumstances led us to postpone the race in Texas.

However, if there is any real lesson to be learned here, it is that we have reached a threshold that open wheel racecars have never experienced before. I'm sure that many people will say that we should have known this and should not have agreed to race in Texas long before we did, but in reality the events of the weekend, and this kind of driver condition were probably unforeseen by anybody. This experience reinforces CART's mandate to manage speed and provide better entertainment, so this will increase our efforts three-fold."

Tora had qualified the #5 Pioneer/DENSO Special/Toyota/Reynard/Firestone car in 23rd place for Sunday's race and was looking forward to the inaugural event.

"I found this track very easy to drive, although learning about drafting in traffic for the first time was a challenge. I do support the decision by CART not to race."

Meanwhile, in Atlanta, Sarah had started the #15 Walker Racing/Kroger Special/Oldsmobile/Dallara/Firestone car in 18th position and was caught up in the flying debris from an fiery crash on Lap 54 that involved 11 cars. The suspension on Sarah's car was damaged but quick work by the Walker Racing team was able to get her back on track before the flag went green again for the race. She finished in 11th place.

"We went into the race in a starting position that wasn't great, but we were running well. At lap 54, I came out of turn four and there was debris flying everywhere. I was far enough back from the accident to get down low on the track, but couldn't avoid all of the debris. The Walker Racing crew guys did an awesome, spectacular speedy job of getting me back out. I was drinking some water as I sat on the wall while they were repairing my car, and I didn't even have time to get finished with the bottle before they told me it was time to get back in the car!"

"Sarah's team fought against all odds and came out with a great eleventh-place finish at Atlanta," Derrick said. "They made a great recovery after she was involved in the accident and did a great job."

Next up on the racing schedule:

Tora will be back in action this weekend at Nazareth Speedway for the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix presented by Toyota. The race will be aired on ABC at 1 p.m. (ET).

Sarah will be preparing for the "greatest spectacle in racing" The Indianapolis 500, which will be televised live on ABC on Sunday, May 27. Practice and qualifying for the "500" start on May 6.

Sarah on TV:

Don't miss Sarah as a guest on the Friday, May 4th television show Live! With Regis and Kelly.

On May 14, Sarah, Derrick and the Walker Racing team will be the subjects of a segment on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.

Check your local listings for times.

Walker Racing website: www.walkerracing.com

-WR-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tora Takagi