IRL: Charlotte - Day 1 - J97-07-22

DAY 1 - JULY 22 Welcome to the inaugural VisionAire 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the eighth race of the 1996-97 Indy Racing League season. Mai Lindstrom, public relations director for the Indy Racing League; Ron Green,...

DAY 1 - JULY 22

Welcome to the inaugural VisionAire 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the eighth race of the 1996-97 Indy Racing League season. Mai Lindstrom, public relations director for the Indy Racing League; Ron Green, director of public relations for Charlotte Motor Speedway and their staffs are on hand to assist you throughout the weekend. If you have inquiries, please direct them to anyone "behind the counter." *** Among the NASCAR connections in the garage area is sponsorship from Richard Childress Racing on Greg Ray's machine. The sponsorship is a logical connection since Ray's car is black--like Dale Earnhardt's--and carries the No. 31--like Mike Skinner's Winston Cup car. "We are a small, upcoming team that has done relatively well with very little sponsorship and our car is solid black," Ray explained. "This is an off weekend for the NASCAR guys and with this being NASCAR's hometown, they thought it would be a lot of fun to come see the Indy(-style) cars run and show off some of the companies they are involved. with." In addition to the familiar Richard Childress Racing logo, Ray's car will also carry the logos of Action Performance Companies and Chase Racewear--two companies involved with Richard Childress and his drivers, Dale Earnhardt and Mike Skinner. "We certainly appreciate their financial support and it's an honor to be associated with Richard Childress, Dale Earnhardt and those guys. More than anything this will get our team a lot of exposure and, at this point, I believe that may be as important as the money." When asked if he thought this would make him a fan favorite, Ray said, "Lenny Baticki, the marketing guy for Richard Childress, told me half of them are going to cheer for you and the other half are going to boo you." *** Rain delayed the start of IRL practice. *** Brad Noffsinger, crew chief on Wally Dallenbach's No. 46 Winston Cup car and a two-time California Racing Association sprint car champion, spent the evening strolling up and down pit road. When asked what he was up to, Noffsinger smiled and said, "Looking for a ride!" *** IRL First Practice Notes:

7:25 p.m. -- GREEN. Track temperature was 102 degrees and temperature was 89 degrees, according to Firestone tire engineers. 7:26 p.m. -- #2 Stewart first out and first to complete a lap. 7:33 p.m. -- #2 Stewart turned a lap at 176.390, fastest of session. 7:34 p.m. -- #2 Stewart turned a lap at 194.182, fastest of session. #2 Stewart turned a lap at 206.272, fastest of session and first 200-plus lap of official practice ever at Charlotte Motor Speedway. 7:35 p.m. -- #2 Stewart turned a lap at 211.135, fastest of session. #2 Stewart turned a lap at 211.152, fastest of session. 7:37 p.m. -- YELLOW, #27 Guthrie pulled off on Legends track, front straight. 7:42 p.m. -- GREEN. 7:44 p.m. -- #91 Lazier turned a lap at 206.288, second fastest of session, second driver at 200+ in official practice ever at Charlotte Motor Speedway. 7:45 p.m. -- #91 Lazier turned a lap at 208.615, second fastest of session. 7:47 p.m. -- #1 Boat turned a lap at 208.817, second fastest of session. #1 Boat turned a lap at 209.489, second fastest of session. 7:48 p.m. -- #21 Guerrero turned a lap at 208.938, third fastest of session. 7:52 p.m. -- #2 Stewart turned a lap at 214.814, fastest of session. YELLOW, rain on front straight. ***


JIM GUTHRIE: "As soon as I shifted into second it would konk out like someone turned the key off. It's something electrical. It must be the new car blues."

SAM SCHMIDT: " I like this track a lot. I actually had a good experience here in 1993 when I ran a Shelby Can-Am car in a support race to the Winston Cup event. We didn't get a chance to qualify, but we came from 32nd to fourth in 30 laps, so I like this track. It's really exciting. At Indy, you see constant, steady cornering at 218 and that's the way it has to be. But when you look at the computer on this track, you see constant driver input, so it's a lot harder work but that's what it's all about. This is my first race as an owner/driver, but it's no different because I've always protected the equipment like I owned it anyway. If anything, I have a lot more confidence. Ever since we lost a wheel at Phoenix it's been on the back of my mind, but with this deal I know nothing is going to fall off. The car is immaculately prepared. It's a brand new car and it's time for us to show what we can do."

MARCO GRECO: "We need to work over some problems on the car. I think the car is heading in the right direction and we are very please with the speed."

ROBBIE GROFF: "There are definitely some similarities to the Ft. Worth track. It's very, very bumpy--a place you really have to work into. We really didn't get a lot of time and you don't want to go out there and jump in with both feet."

EDDIE CHEEVER: "I came down here and tested for two days. This is a wonderful facility. The good things about here is that we are coming into an area where a lot of people are racing enthusiasts and they have seen some damn good racing with the NASCAR tour. So when we come here with a totally different type of car, they get a totally different perspective on racing. This track is a bit different than Texas. I'm partial to new tracks because I always like a flat, smooth surface and this track has one or two bumps that make it a little more exciting. You can race two and three abreast. You don't want to spend a lot of time two and three abreast, but you can race two and three abreast at 210 mph. I love the southern hospitality."

JIMMY KITE: (Before practice session) "I'm looking forward to running 200. I've never gone 200 before. That's my first goal. My second goal is to get ready for tomorrow since my sponsor--Old Navy--is doing pole night." (After practice session) "We were bottoming out real bad. The whole car bottoms out. The initial hit is the biggest problem. I can feel it hit the front end and go all the way back. The car recovers real good, but then you hit another bump. I think we can get at least another 5 to 10 mph once we get set- up to handle the bumps."

DAVEY HAMILTON: "We know we can be better. The car is fair. The track is really rough. We need to do some work on the car to get it over the bumps better. We'll have to do some shock work."

BILLY BOAT: "Everything went well. I didn't know how fast I was going because my dash board was out. The track is definitely a lot rougher than Texas. It takes a while to get used to. There is a lot left in the car as soon as we can get a feel for where the bumps are."

KENNY BRACK: "We have to make some changes on the car before it will be comfortable and ready to race on Saturday. Other than that, I feel good about the car and my crew."

VINCENZO SOSPIRI: "It's unbelievable. It's so bumpy--it's like motocross. If you don't get the car perfect, it's just impossible to drive. The car moves left and right. It's never relaxing out there."

TONY STEWART: "Basically, we brought the same race car back that we tested, started where we left off and went from there." (about the track): "The shape's the same (as Texas)...there's a few more bumps than we had at Texas. Every race track, there's no substitute for track time. It's probably less (important) here because we ran at Texas and it has the same feel. (Turns) 1 and 2 seem identical to the way Texas was. (Turns) 3 and 4 are about the same, decreasing radius corners. It's not a tough deal to try to get used to." (about the championship battle with Davey Hamilton): "The last couple weeks since Pikes Peak, I reflected back to '95 when I was going for three different championships. I've got the feeling that this is the time. If he (Hamilton) were to have trouble one night, we could get the jump on him and vice versa. These last two tracks (Loudon and Las Vegas) are ones that are favorites of mine and I think we can gain some ground there." (about the new IRL cars and the emergence of short-track drivers in them): "These cars, compared to what we're used to driving, are no more difficult, whether it be myself, Hamilton, Boat or Kite. These are actually easier than last year's cars. The guys who came in this year have it easier than we did last year." (about qualifying): "I hope it rains all the way up to qualifying. We have less to gain than these other teams. I think we'll see some 213s, 214s tomorrow."

JIM GUTHRIE: "A couple of weeks ago, when I found my back wasn't broken, it breathed new life into me. I've got that new Flex Tex seat that they showed on ESPN at Indy. It's like a shell with foam behind it. We took almost 80 Gs and it did a good job. Quarter- inch foam makes a lot of difference. You glue it in and put the Nomex back over it. I know IRL is working on it really hard -- cushion to soften the wall, gearbox, they're looking into the cockpit. They're approaching this thing from all corners." (about '98): "If everything goes well, we'll be in the Jacuzzi car next year." (about the season): "We've been quick everywhere we've been with limited track time. At Texas, we had 49 laps of track time before the race and we were right there."

ROBERTO GUERRERO: "early in the session, we were having problems with the ECU (electronic control unit) so we could never really get up to speed. Finally, we got it fixed, so I went out and did one warmup lap and one lap kind of hard but it bottomed out so bad in (Turns) 3 and 4 that I brought it in. Once I got there, they said it was the third fastest lap and I said, 'No way.' I couldn't believe it. That's great. That's very encouraging. Basically, we haven't had a chance to read anything with the car yet but obviously, we're somewhat close."

AFFONSO GIAFFONE: "We didn't test here...just getting to know the track, really. I thought it was going to be much bumpier. Everyone said it was going to be just like Texas but bumpier. But it's not that bad." (about increasing speed): "We never bring it up to speed this early. We got a brand-new crew. I'm looking forward to tomorrow. We should get around 212. We shouldn't have much difficulty to get up there."

JOHN PAUL JR.: "It felt pretty good but I am a little rusty. I've got to get my brain up to speed. The car chatters quite a bit over the bumps up in (turns) 3 and 4 which lifts my feet off the pedals. It'll take time but I'll find the fast way around this place. I have more difficulty getting into the car with the angle my legs go in." (He has a carbon-fiber brace on the right leg.) "It's much easier getting out of the car. It feels great to be back."

MARK DISMORE: "I'm really happy with this car on a high-speed oval. Considering the few number of laps we ran (15), we're real close. This was really our first test session down here since we were not able to make the open test. Maybe the rain was a blessing because it gives us a chance to think about" *** The track closed at 8:50 p.m. because of wet conditions. *** Among the visitors to CMS today was Gary Nelson, competition director for NASCAR's Winston Cup Series. *** Dress code for pits and garage for the week: open-toed shoes and shorts are permitted in the IRL garage area and behind the wall on pit road. *** A meeting for all P.R. representatives is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday in the photo trailer neaar the Winston Media Center.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Wally Dallenbach Sr. , Mike Skinner , Greg Ray , Davey Hamilton , Brad Noffsinger
Teams Richard Childress Racing