IRL: Homestead open test day one notes

HOMESTEAD, Fla., Friday, Feb. 23, 2001 - At Homestead-Miami Speedway Friday, Feb. 23, Sam Hornish Jr. powered his No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone to the top of the day's speed chart with a lap of 26.981 seconds, 200.134 ...

HOMESTEAD, Fla., Friday, Feb. 23, 2001 - At Homestead-Miami Speedway Friday, Feb. 23, Sam Hornish Jr. powered his No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone to the top of the day's speed chart with a lap of 26.981 seconds, 200.134 mph.

Hornish was the fastest of 14 drivers participating on the first day of a two-day open test for the teams of the Indy Racing Northern Light Series in preparation for the April 8 Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami presented by 123.com Americatel.

Earlier in the month, Hornish was unseated from top honors on the daily speed chart in Phoenix during the Test in the West by a late-day run by Stephan Gregoire. But, he found redemption Friday when he unleashed the only 200-mph lap during his final run of the day in the closing minutes of the afternoon session. "It makes us feel great that we had the fastest time of the day," said Hornish. "I was getting ready to go out, and I asked the guys, 'Do you think we can go 200?' They said, 'Well we know you can.' So, I had to do it for them. It gives me more of a thrill to make them happy. "When we quit testing at Phoenix, we were six tenths faster (than second place). We were going to make sure we were out (on the track today) the last 10 to 15 minutes to take advantage of what we didn't take advantage of in Phoenix." Defending Indy Racing Northern Light Series champion Buddy Lazier, driver of the No. 91 Tae-Bo/Coors Light/Delta Faucet/Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone posted the second-fastest time of the day with a lap of 27.255 seconds, 198.127 mph. Felipe Giaffone, a Brazilian who pilots the No. 21 Hollywood G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone for Treadway Racing, took the third spot with a lap of 27.314 seconds, 197.696 mph. Although there were several cautions for track inspections, the only caution of the day for a car problem was at 2:20 p.m. when Greg Ray, driver of the No. 2 Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, was towed in from the back straightaway after he lost an engine. Despite the malfunction, Ray posted the fourth fastest time of the day with a lap of 27.346 seconds, 197.463 mph.

The Homestead-Miami Open Test continues Feb. 24 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (EST). <pre> The day's best laps with time and speed follow: Position Driver Best Lap Time Speed Laps 1. Sam Hornish Jr. 26.9819 200.134 mph 156 2. Buddy Lazier 27.2552 198.127 mph 92 3. Felipe Giaffone 27.3147 197.696 mph 102 4. Greg Ray 27.3469 197.463 mph 62 5. Stan Wattles 27.4071 197.029 mph 100 6. Jeff Ward 27.5406 196.074 mph 46 7. Eliseo Salazar 27.5408 196.073 mph 68 8. Airton Dare 27.5423 196.062 mph 80 9. Eddie Cheever Jr. 27.8924 193.601 mph 98 10. Robbie Buhl 27.9574 193.151 mph 105 11. Sarah Fisher 28.0782 192.320 mph 144 12. Buzz Calkins 28.3126 190.728 mph 59 13. Tyce Carlson 28.3816 190.264 mph 17 14. Jon Herb 28.3823 190.259 mph 151

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A "Dot Com" World: 123.com Americatel, an Internet service provider designed especially for the U.S. Hispanic market, has been named presenting sponsor of the Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami, Curtis Gray, president of Homestead-Miami Speedway, announced Feb. 23 at a press conference during the Indy Racing open test. "This sponsor is another great addition for our event, which will be called the Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami presented by 123.com Americatel," said Gray. "When you take America's top open-wheel teams and drivers in one of their final races before the Indianapolis 500, sponsored by two premier companies, and combined with family-friendly pricing at our beautiful speedway, assures us that Homestead-Miami Speedway is the place to be on April 6-8." As a Chile native and South Florida resident, Eliseo Salazar, driver of the No. 14 Harrah's/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, was on hand to represent the Hispanic community. "I'm quite proud to be representing 123.com whose parent company is Americatel. It is the leader in telecommunications in Chile, my home country," said Salazar. "We plan to bring a lot of people from Chile for the race. Fortunately we have non-stop flights.

"Indy Racing is a thrilling sport that appeals to all cultures. What we are trying to do is let Hispanics living in South Florida know that one of the most important races in the world takes place in our own backyard." 123.com, which launched its services last November, connects customers to the World Wide Web, providing access, a rapid connection, useful information and customer service in Spanish and English 24 hours a day.

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Heritage Debuts: Jeff Ward, who drove for A.J. Foyt in 2000, took his first laps with the newly formed Heritage Motorsports team at 11:05 a.m. Friday. "The team came together pretty quickly," said Ward. "Mitch Davis (team manager) and I had been talking about doing a team. We had the equipment, but we needed the funding."

Davis, a veteran chief mechanic and team manager, and Ward joined forces with John Mecom III and Jim Rathmann in January to form the team. "It really didn't get cranking until mid-January," Ward said. "We came down here just to shake the cobwebs out. I haven't been in a car since the Texas race (last October).

"We have two new owners, but the people on the team have been working with me for three years prior to this. We all know each other and work well together.

"My goal is to win a race. I haven't won one yet, but I've had a lot of seconds."

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Earnhardt Remembered: Racing is often referred to as a large family and it was evident at Homestead-Miami Speedway that the motorsports family was in mourning. The death of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt evoked emotions from Indy Racing drivers despite the fact that most of them had never competed against him.

Defending Northern Light Series rookie of the year Airton Dare sported a decal on his G Force chassis, which read, "In Memory 3 Godspeed Dale!" Homestead-Miami Speedway President Curtis Gray said the speedway will have memorial cards for fans to sign at the speedway's Open House Saturday, Feb. 24.

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Dallenbach Spotting: NASCAR Winston Cup driver Wally Dallenbach was spotted in the garage area of Homestead-Miami Speedway. Dallenbach, who also is an accomplished road racer, is working closely with the Pennzoil Panther Racing team, said team co-owner Doug Boles. According to Boles, the team is working to add Dallenbach to the organization, which currently fields the No. 4 ride for Sam Hornish Jr. Boles also stressed that Dallenbach is keeping his options open to compete in all forms of racing.

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Come One, Come All: Fans are invited to attend the speedway's Open House Saturday, Feb. 24. Admission is free and gates open at 9 a.m.

The Open House will include an autograph session in the garage area with many Indy Racing Northern Light Series stars from 12:05 p.m. to 1 p.m. (EST), a contest for a trip for two to this year's Indianapolis 500, a Cub Scout Pinewood Derby and Pace Car rides by Indianapolis z Indianapolis 500 legends Johnny Rutherford and Al Unser for fans who purchase their tickets for the Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami. Fans who purchase tickets also will receive a free T-shirt.

Pace Car rides for ticket buyers will take place from noon - 1 p.m. (EST).

-IRNLS/IMS-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Wally Dallenbach Sr. , Buzz Calkins , Sarah Fisher , Greg Ray , Felipe Giaffone , Eddie Cheever , Jon Herb , Robbie Buhl , Eliseo Salazar , Buddy Lazier , Stephan Gregoire , Jeff Ward , Airton Daré , Al Unser Sr. , Tyce Carlson , Stan Wattles , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr. , Johnny Rutherford
Teams Panther Racing