IRL: Chevy teams test at Michigan Speedway

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Six different IRL IndyCar Series Chevrolet powered cars took to the two-mile Michigan International Speedway oval on July 13 in preparation for the upcoming Michigan Indy 400 on August 1. Red Bull Team Cheever teammates...

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Six different IRL IndyCar Series Chevrolet powered cars took to the two-mile Michigan International Speedway oval on July 13 in preparation for the upcoming Michigan Indy 400 on August 1.

Red Bull Team Cheever teammates Alex Barron (2003 MIS Winner) and rookie Ed Carpenter, Panther Racing teammates Tomas Scheckter (2002 MIS Winner) and IRL IndyCar Series newcomer Townsend Bell, new Patrick Racing driver Jacques Lazier and Dreyer and Reinbold driver Felipe Giaffone all participated in yesterday's manufacturers test.

To lower costs, the Indy Racing League instituted a testing rule effective during the 2004 season and beyond, which prohibits individual teams to test during the season, but gives each engine manufacturer, Chevrolet, Honda and Toyota, three manufacturers tests during the season.

The fact that the Michigan Indy 400 is an important race for Detroit automaker Chevrolet is not lost on the drivers participating in yesterday's test, including Red Bull Cheever rookie driver Ed Carpenter.

"Chevy is working very hard," said Carpenter. "Anytime Chevrolet comes to Michigan it's a really big event for them with Detroit just down the road."

After working all during the morning session, 2002 Michigan Indy 400 winner Tomas Scheckter feels that a strong test at MIS and a win in the next few races are just what Chevrolet needs to keep competitive with Honda and Toyota.

"Obviously everybody needs to do their part and I know Chevrolet is working very hard," said Scheckter. "I know it's very important here to have a strong engine. The next couple of races I think we really need to put our foot down and make sure we come up with a win."

Among the drivers testing on Tuesday were two drivers that have had limited IRL IndyCar Series seat time in 2004. Jacques Lazier, who is on a race-to-race deal with Jackson, MI native Pat Patrick's team tested the No. 20 Patrick Racing car at MIS yesterday and will be the driver this weekend in Nashville. The second driver is IRL newcomer Townsend Bell recently replaced Mark Taylor in the No. 2 Menard's entry for Panther Racing.

Lazier, who drove Robby Gordon's Indianapolis 500 entry after Gordon had to leave to run the Charlotte NEXTEL Cup race because of a rain delay, saw his first laps in an IRL IndyCar Series race since May in Indianapolis. He couldn't be happier to be driving for legendary car owner Pat Patrick this weekend at Nashville and possibly beyond.

"I'm extremely honored to be driving for Pat," said Lazier. "I was fortunate to run with A.J. (Foyt) last year. Now this year I'm fortunate to run with Pat (Patrick). Just within a couple of months I was able to strengthen my resume and I'm very excited about the opportunity. I'm very comfortable with the team and I think it's an incredible team."

As for Indy Lights and Formula 3000 veteran Bell, the Chevrolet test at MIS has been the easiest part of his whirlwind first two weeks in the IRL IndyCar Series. Bell got the call June 28 while relaxing at his Malibu, California home, that Panther racing was interested in hiring him and he soon accepted the offer. He then flew to Indianapolis, took his physical, got fit for his seat and competed in the Argent Mortgage Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway on July 4 after only getting a total of one hour of practice in the car.

While running in ninth place and entering Turn 3 at 210 mph, his fire extinguisher engaged in the cockpit, blinding Bell. When the car got up to speed, the extinguisher continued to empty its contents into his face. Also, the radio button fell off the steering wheel, and later in the race his right wheel tire sensor broke and he lost traction control while exiting the pits.

Needless to say, the dust (along with the fire extinguisher dust) has finally cleared on his first days in the IRL.

"It has settled down since that first week," said Bell. "We're still finding our feet a little bit with the team. We are getting comfortable with how they do things and I think they are getting comfortable with what I like out of the car. I had a chance to run around with Tomas (Scheckter) this morning, which was nice because I got to learn more about these cars."

Bell is looking forward to returning to MIS in a few weeks and thinks the racing will be fun to watch.

"I think you'll see a great race," added Bell. "You'll see two and three wide and a big mad pack. I think it will be very exciting for the fans."

Along with Bell, several of the drivers participating in Tuesday's test are looking forward to a great race when the IRL IndyCar Series returns in a little more than two weeks.

"It's a great track and I think it is one of the best in IRL racing because you can run side-by-side all the way around," said Scheckter. "I've never seen anyone pull away from anyone except for me in 2002, but usually that just doesn't happen here."

Ed Carpenter, who's run the past two years in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series at MIS echoes Scheckter's comments.

"I enjoy racing it because it's so wide," added Carpenter. "It's going to be typical IRL racing here. Nobody is going to run away and you will see that big pack of cars and the best race car is going to win."

Tickets are still available for both the Line-X Spray on Truck Bedliners 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race on Saturday July 31, along with the Paramount Health Insurance 100 IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series and Michigan Indy 400 IRL IndyCar Series race, both to be run on Sunday August 1.

For tickets and information on the IRL IndyCar Series/Menards Infiniti Pro Series/NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series weekend at MIS, log on to www.MISpeedway.com, or call the MIS ticket hotline at 1-800-354-1010. Children 12 and under are free the whole weekend and all seats for Sunday's Michigan Indy 400 and Paramount Health Insurance 100 are just $40. All seats for the July 31 Line-X Spray-On Truck Bedliners 200 are just $30 and a combination ticket for both days, which includes three races, are just $50.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Mark Taylor , Robby Gordon , Felipe Giaffone , Jaques Lazier  , Alex Barron , Townsend Bell , Ed Carpenter
Teams Panther Racing