Test gives IRL teams plenty of experience. HOMESTEAD, Fla., Thursday, Jan. 29, 2004 -- Indy Racing LeagueÂ® IndyCarÂ® Series teams left Homestead-Miami Speedway on Thursday after a two-day open test with more knowledge of their operations, ...
Test gives IRL teams plenty of experience.
HOMESTEAD, Fla., Thursday, Jan. 29, 2004 -- Indy Racing League® IndyCar® Series teams left Homestead-Miami Speedway on Thursday after a two-day open test with more knowledge of their operations, improved communication and experience.
It was successful -- and incident-free -- test on the reconfigured 1.5-mile track. IRL IndyCar Series teams will have another opportunity to test -- in Phoenix on Feb. 11-12 -- before reconvening at Homestead-Miami for the season opener on Feb. 29.
Dialing in race and qualifying setups and getting comfortable with their cars and a new track were high on the agenda. Red Bull Cheever Racing driver Alex Barron put his Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone package through its paces in two sessions Thursday. He topped the speed chart at 218.618 mph.
"We were fortunate that we had a lot of time to run today and try out different things with the car," Barron said. "We went into this test very open-minded and it showed with our positive results. We need to make sure we continue to do our homework because a lot of things can change in the next month."
Andretti Green Racing teammates Bryan Herta (217.267 mph) and Dario Franchitti (217.188) were second and third on the speed chart. Both were recorded in the three-hour morning session.
"I'm very pleased with this test," Herta said. "This was the first opportunity for the crew of the No. 7 car to work together, and everything has gone very smoothly. Plus, the car has been quick and it feels real good."
Eighteen drivers put in a combined 2,271 laps, bringing the two-day total to 5,062.
"I'm pretty happy with what we accomplished the last two days," two-time IRL IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. said. "We were able to try a number of things and I think we're well-prepared for the race. I look forward to coming back to Homestead-Miami Speedway at the end of February for my first race with Marlboro Team Penske."
Dan Wheldon, the 2003 Bombardier Rookie of the Year, topped the speed chart Wednesday at 217.820 mph in his Andretti Green Racing Dallara/Honda Firestone car though he ran only 42 laps.
Wheldon was one of many drivers getting their first look at Homestead-Miami Speedway, which in the fall was repaved and revamped to include variable banking of 18 degrees on the bottom, 19 degrees in the middle and 20 degrees at the top plus the SAFER Barrier in the corners.
"The track did an excellent job," Marlboro Team Penske driver Castroneves said. "It's very smooth and will make for a great race."
QUOTES FROM THURSDAY
BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Pioneer/Argent Mortgage Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): "We had a difficult day on Tuesday. We didn't get in many laps. The car needed some extra attention, so we are basically a day behind everyone. Plus, we are learning a lot o thing about the G Force chassis. It's new to the team and me. The car hadn't turned a wheel until Tuesday. It's a quick learning curve for us right now, but the Team Rahal guys are good, and they will find us some speed."
ROBBIE BUHL (No. 24 Team Purex/Aventis/Dryer & Reinbold Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We're really pleased with our progress over the past two days, but that doesn't mean we're going to lay back and relax. We've got to keep working as hard as ever. We've done a lot of work since the end of the last race to be competitive. It's definitely smoother with the car on the track, so we can be more focused on pit in/pit out, launch control and seeing what Chevy can do to keep improving. Last year, we were behind at the start, so it's important for us to come out strong. As competitive as the League is, we have to keep improving. I'm really happy with the car, but hey, you always want to go faster."
DAN WHELDON (No.26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "The test went really well. The Klein Tools/Jim Beam crew has done a great job, and I've been fast in every session. Andretti Green Racing has also done a great job in producing four very competitive cars that are very equal. We just worked through a set program which is going very well, and the main thing is we are preparing for qualifying and the race here."
BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I'm very pleased with this test. This was the first opportunity for the crew of the No. 7 car to work together, and everything has gone very smoothly. Plus, the car has been quick, and it feels really good. I'm not surprised everything has come together so well, because the team was blended. I was expecting to be strong because some of the experienced guys moved over to our car and we brought in some new guys to make a good mix of people."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone: "Our two days were very productive, especially since we've all been off for the past three months. It's been a great effort by everybody at Andretti Green Racing this winter and all the Team 7-Eleven guys, as well. I'm happy. There is still a lot of work to do and a lot of things to improve, but this has been a good, clean couple of days."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "Marlboro Team Penske had a good two-day test here at Homestead-Miami Speedway. We were able to work on both qualifying and race setups, and I think we have a good, consistent race car. The track is very smooth, and the banking should make for a very exciting race. It will be probably be like Kansas or Chicago, with a lot of side-by-side racing. I look forward to coming back here at the end of February, as this is a 'hometown' race for me and a lot of my friends and family come out to cheer me on."
The 2004 IRL IndyCar Series season begins with the Toyota Indy 300 at 2 p.m. (EST) on Feb. 29, 2004, at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN and the IMS Radio Network.