IRL: Drivers Serious About Phoenix "Test in the West"

TEAMS READY TO GET SERIOUS AT 'TEST IN THE WEST' By Paul Kelly PHOENIX, Feb. 24, 1999 - Testing sessions sometimes don't indicate a motorsports team's true speed at a certain racetrack. Some teams try ...


PHOENIX, Feb. 24, 1999 - Testing sessions sometimes don't indicate a motorsports team's true speed at a certain racetrack. Some teams try experimental chassis setups during testing. They may try different tire compounds. They may dabble with untested parts. They may concentrate on race setups rather than pure qualifying speed. But the "Test in the West" at Phoenix International Raceway is different. This annual testing session on the fast, 1-mile oval usually is an accurate barometer of future performance during the Pep Boys Indy Racing League event at the track. Quite simply, this test is the real deal. Nearly 30 Pep Boys Indy Racing League drivers are expected to participate in the "Test in the West" on Feb. 26-27 at PIR. Testing starts at 9 a.m. and will continue until 5 p.m. both days. Testing will be open to the public with free admission Feb. 27. The sheer number of drivers participating makes this test unique. Most test sessions consist of a handful of teams running laps at a relatively quiet racetrack. There is some competition among teams, but most simply concentrate on their specific testing goals. PIR will roar with activity during the "Test in the West." Teams will concentrate on their specific agenda in preparation for the MCI WorldCom 200 on March 28 at the track, but they will keep a much keener eye on the speed charts. When nearly every team is participating, competitive urges often take over. It's a matter of pride and an opportunity to flex some motor muscle. Last year was no different. Scott Sharp was the fastest driver at the "Test in the West," posting an unofficial track-record speed of 174.893 mph in the Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. One month later, Sharp held off Tony Stewart for a victory in the 200-mile race at PIR. By the way, Stewart was second fastest at the "Test in the West." Phoenix resident Billy Boat was fourth fastest at the "Test in the West" in the Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear owned by four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt, and he finished third in the race behind Sharp and Stewart. Sharp and Boat will return this year to PIR for the "Test in the West" and the MCI WorldCom 200 and should be among the fastest drivers on the unique 1-mile oval. But count on speed from many other drivers. Defending league champion Kenny Brack will look to rebound from a disappointing 22nd-place finish in the season-opening TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway. Brack was among the fastest drivers last year during the "Test in the West" in the Power Team Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear owned by four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt. Phoenix native Eddie Cheever Jr. also should show good speed during testing. 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Cheever carries plenty of momentum to PIR after winning the season opener in his Rachel's Gourmet Potato Chips-Children's Beverage Group Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. Sharp won't be the only past champion of this event to participate in the test. Jim Guthrie, who pulled off a stunning upset victory in 1997, is scheduled make his league debut this year with his own team, Guthrie Racing, at the test. 1998 Sprint PCS Pep Boys Indy Racing League Rookie of the Year Robby Unser also will make a debut of sorts at the test. Unser, son of four-time Phoenix winner and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser, has never raced a Pep Boys Indy Racing League car at PIR and will prepare for that debut with Team Pelfrey at the test. Robby Unser didn't make his league debut last year until the Indianapolis 500, in which he finished fifth. Another Phoenix rookie will be Jaques Lazier, younger brother of 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier. Jaques Lazier will drive for ISM Racing, with setup help from lead ISM driver Jeff Ward and Steve Knapp, who won the 1998 Bank One Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Award after finishing third in ISM's second car.

"TEST IN THE WEST" PARTICIPANTS (Subject to change) Team Driver(s) Team Driver(s) A.J. Foyt Enterprises K. Brack, B. Boat Metro Racing Systems Stan Wattles Blueprint-Immke Tyce Carlson McCormack Raul Boesel Bradley Motorsports Buzz Calkins Nienhouse Motorsports Eliseo Salazar Brant Motorsports Andy Michner Pennzoil Panther Racing Scott Goodyear Dick Simon Racing Stephan Gregoire SRS Robbie Buhl Galles Racing Davey Hamilton Team Cheever Eddie Cheever Jr. Guthrie Racing Jim Guthrie Team Menard Greg Ray Harrington Motorsports Scott Harrington Team Pelfrey Robby Unser Hemelgarn Racing Buddy Lazier TeamXtreme John Hollansworth Jr. ISM Racing Jaques Lazier Treadway Racing J. Leffler, S. Schmidt J. Byrd-Cunningham John Paul Jr. Tri Star Motorsports Gualter Salles Kelley Racing M. Dismore, S. Sharp Truscelli Team Racing Greg Gorden

*** "Test in the West" schedule: Pep Boys Indy Racing League testing will s tart from 9 a.m.-noon Feb. 26, continuing from 1-5 p.m. Testing will resume from 9-11:30 a.m. Feb. 27, ending with a session from 1-5 p.m.

*** Come on down: Fans are welcome to attend the "Test in the West" all day Feb. 27. Admission is free. Pep Boys Indy Racing League drivers will participate in an autograph session for fans from 11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on the track.

*** Interesting commute: Pep Boys Indy Racing League standout Billy Boat is planning the ultimate morning commute Feb. 25 when he drives to work from his home in suburban Phoenix to PIR in his A.J. Foyt Enterprises Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. Boat will receive an escort from the Arizona State Police. He will head to the track on Interstate 10 East starting at the Estrella Parkway interchange, leaving the freeway at the 115th Avenue exit and driving to the track.

Source: IRL/IMS

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Gualter Salles , Buzz Calkins , Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Robbie Buhl , Eliseo Salazar , Buddy Lazier , Stephan Gregoire , Jeff Ward , Davey Hamilton , Scott Sharp , Billy Boat , Jim Guthrie , Scott Goodyear , Jaques Lazier  , Raul Boesel , Kenny Brack , Tyce Carlson , Scott Harrington , Stan Wattles , Robby Unser , John Paul , Paul Kelly , Dick Simon , A.J. Foyt
Teams A.J. Foyt Enterprises , Panther Racing , CIP