IRL: Gateway open test notes 2001-07-31

MADISON, Ill., Tuesday, July 31, 2001 - It doesn't provide any points, but Sam Hornish Jr. said leading the speed chart in the Indy Racing League Open Test on July 31 at Gateway International Raceway takes him one step closer to clinching his...

MADISON, Ill., Tuesday, July 31, 2001 - It doesn't provide any points, but Sam Hornish Jr. said leading the speed chart in the Indy Racing League Open Test on July 31 at Gateway International Raceway takes him one step closer to clinching his first Indy Racing championship.

Hornish, who has a 40-point lead over reigning Northern Light Series champion Buddy Lazier, topped the overall speeds with an afternoon lap of 26.6033 seconds, 169.152 mph in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone.

"It makes us happy because we know that we have a pretty competitive car right now, and we are fast," Hornish said. "It is better than being slowest. "It does give us quite a bit more confidence. To know that you are going to be able to be fast and probably run up front gives us a lot of confidence. Buddy is not faster than us, too, so that makes us happy. I know Buddy tends to be tough to beat. It is going to be tough, but I think we are capable of doing it." Rookie Felipe Giaffone was second fastest at 26.7713, 168.090 on the 1.25-mile oval just east of St. Louis. Billy Boat, Eddie Cheever Jr. and Al Unser Jr followed him. Twelve drivers, including rookies Chris Menninga and Casey Mears, joined Panther Racing in testing for the inaugural Indy Racing Northern Light Series event at Gateway scheduled for Aug. 26. The teams completed a total of 1,383 accident-free laps during the six hours of testing. <pre>

Top five laps with time and speed:

Pos.    Driver  Time    Speed   Laps
1.      Sam Hornish Jr.         26.6033 169.152 130
2.      Felipe Giaffone 26.7713 168.090 130
3.      Billy Boat      26.8748 167.443 102
4.      Eddie Cheever Jr.       26.9987 166.675 136
5.      Al Unser Jr.    27.0045 166.639 125

</pre>

GATEWAY OPEN TEST NOTEBOOK:

Shuttle service: Eddie Cheever Jr. and Al Unser Jr. left Gateway International Raceway via helicopter after the Open Test to fly to Indianapolis where they will test Wednesday for the True Value IROC XXV season finale Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

***

Treadway gets rookie initiation: Rookie Ricky Treadway tested July 30 with teammate Felipe Giaffone at Gateway International Raceway. Late in the day of the private test, the rear wing came loose on Treadway's No. 5 Meijer Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone causing the car to crash in Turn 1. Treadway escaped without injury.

"I heard a pop, and then it came loose," said Treadway. "When that happens, there's nothing you can do. My left foot is pretty sore, but other than that I think I'm OK. It's disappointing. I would love to get a deal where I could race here and the rest of the season. We're still working towards the full 2002 season." Giaffone led with an unofficial fast lap of 27.11, 165.990.

***

Hometown hero: Although he wasn't participating in the one-day test, St. Louis native Robby McGehee visited with media members during an informal luncheon at Gateway International Raceway. McGehee is still on crutches with a broken left leg, which he suffered in an accident at Texas Motor Speedway in June. He returned to action July 8 at Kansas Speedway and finished a season-best fourth July 21 at Nashville Superspeedway. "I've never raced professionally at home," said McGehee. "I'm looking forward to it. I was ecstatic when the IRL said they were coming here. "There is a lot to sleeping in your own bed, but there are also a lot of distractions. I will probably stay downtown in the hotel with the team. It will be neat to be home, but I'm treating it like a normal race weekend." When asked where the city hot spots are, McGehee said, "I live in St. Louis, but I live in more hotels than anything."

***

Gateway, United Way team up: Gateway International Raceway and the Tri-Cities Area Division of the Greater St. Louis United Way announced a partnership for the inaugural Gateway Indy 250. The track has given the United Way a block of reserved seats to sell to selected companies and individuals. The United Way gets to keep half of the proceeds for every pair of tickets sold. Fans who wish to participate in the program can contact the United Way of the Tri-Cities at (618) 877-6780. The deadline to order tickets from the United Way is Aug. 10. As a bonus, fans who purchase tickets from the United Way will receive a free ticket for the USAC National Midget and Sprint Car race Aug. 24 at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Ill.

GATEWAY OPEN TEST QUOTES:

BUZZ CALKINS (No. 12 Bradley Food Marts/Sav-O-Mat Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 1996 Indy Racing co-champion): "This is my first visit. It's nice. It's different than the other places we go to. I think it tends to be comparable to Milwaukee in the way that it doesn't have a lot of banking. It is definitely different with the longer straights and the tighter corners."

EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (#51 Cheever Indy Racing Infiniti Dallara/Firestone, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner): "Very bizarre layout, interesting. You have to really work on the car. I think the key is getting flat through (Turns) 3 and 4 and not lifting. (Turns) 1 and 2 is noticeably narrow. So there is a trade-off between the two sides. It is a great place. I like it. It is ungodly hot."

BILLY BOAT (#98 CURB Records Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "I think it's definitely a challenging track. It is substantially different at both ends. It requires a little bit of a compromise in the setup, but the straightaways are long enough that if you can get through the corners you're going to be able to pass. It should be an exciting race. The CURB Records team accomplished what we came here to do, which was get a baseline on our setup and make sure we were in the hunt speedwise and know where to start with the gear. It helps tremendously for me to get some laps here. We accomplished what we came here to do. Now we just go back and think about it and try to get better when we get back."

BUDDY LAZIER (#91 Tae-Bo/Coors Light/Delta Faucet Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner, 2000 Indy Racing champion): (About testing tomorrow for the IROC race in Indianapolis): "Stock cars are so new to me that it is quite an adjustment to me anytime whether I was in an Indy car or not. Obviously, the IRL car is the most important thing. These are two test days (Gateway and Chicagoland) that are important to us because we are right in the middle of the championship hunt. That is the priority. In the perfect world, I would be there to run the IROC car every mile that I could, every day. There is practice open all week. I am the only open-wheel rookie left in IROC. So every one of those miles probably pays huge dividends for me." (About today's test): "The track is interesting. I raced here a long time ago in Can Am cars when it was a road course, and I got lost coming into the racetrack every time. I got lost again this morning, so it seems the same to me that way. It's a real tricky racetrack. It's the type of racetrack that handling and grip will pay big dividends. There are long straightaways, so what do you do? Do you make a car fast down the straightaways so you can pass? Do you try to make it fast in the corners or try to compromise? We don't know. It's going to be really tricky. It was the first day. We are just trying to figure it out. We were able to maintain our top speed over a very long run. In that way, it was a very productive day and really encouraging when we come back to race."

CHRIS MENNINGA (#92 Hemelgarn/Metro Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "I raced here last year in Indy Lights. Actually Felipe (Giaffone) and I qualified right next to each other. We've been teammates for the last couple of years. It's nice having him here now to discuss the difference between what we were driving to what we are driving now. The biggest thing is that this car has more downforce so you are able to carry more speed in the corners. Right now for me it is just a matter of getting as much seat time as possible and getting as comfortable with this car as possible." (About plans for future races): "I wanted to come here and get as much experience as I could and try to do the last three races and still keep my rookie status. I wanted to start logging some time and getting used to, not only the cars, but the other people I'm racing against. I wanted to get as much seat time under me this year in preparation for 2002. It is a lot easier to sell yourself if you are out there doing it."

JEFF WARD (#35 Heritage Motorsports Firestone Menards G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "This is my first time here. It is a unique track because it is so tight. It's tough to get through. It's kind of like Phoenix in a way, where Phoenix is hard to get through (Turns) 1 and 2, and then (Turns) 3 and 4 is a little easier. It's such a push down in (Turns) 1 and 2 here. You get rid of that and in (Turns) 3 and 4 you are kind of loose. So, it's a track that takes a lot of work in the car setup. We are real excited that we are here testing. Coming to this track without a test would be like a fish out of water. It's a great place. The track seems like a lot of fun. The track has a lot of grip. So far, so good. We were right in there right off the bat. We have a great car. We just need more time around here like everyone else."

SAM HORNISH JR. (#4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "I raced here in Toyota Atlantics. I ran second most of that race. We are really excited to come back here and try to win at this racetrack because I like it that much. I wouldn't say it gives me a huge advantage. Any driver who has raced Indy Lights has raced here. Felipe (Giaffone) has raced here. I'm sure there are other drivers that have been here, also. So it's not a big advantage but maybe enough."

FELIPE GIAFFONE (#21 Hollywood G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "We had a little bit of advantage because we ran yesterday. Hornish was pretty quick out of the box. He is staying for tomorrow, so he should be pretty fast tomorrow. The advantage is just because I tested yesterday. My car is setup a little better for today."

SHIGEAKI HATTORI (#55 EPSON Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "I love the track. I drove a couple of times here. I won here (in 1998 in Indy Lights). I love this track. I drove here last time in 1999 with CART."

The Gateway Indy 250 is scheduled for 2 p.m. (CDT) Aug. 26. In addition to the 200-lap Indy Racing Northern Light Series event, the Dayton Indy Lights Championship cars and the USAC Silver Bullet cars will compete. Tickets for the weekend may be purchased at the Gateway ticket office, online at www.gatewayraceway.com <http://www.gatewayraceway.com> or by calling (866) 35-SPEED.

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby McGehee , Felipe Giaffone , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Casey Mears , Buddy Lazier , Billy Boat , Chris Menninga , Sam Hornish Jr. , Al Unser
Teams Panther Racing