INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, April 9, 2000 - Chilly temperatures and gusting winds didn't stop Eddie Cheever Jr. from posting the fastest speed at Day 1 of the Indianapolis 500 Open Test on April 9 with a top lap of 218.081 mph. "It's...
INDIANAPOLIS, Sunday, April 9, 2000 - Chilly temperatures and gusting winds didn't stop Eddie Cheever Jr. from posting the fastest speed at Day 1 of the Indianapolis 500 Open Test on April 9 with a top lap of 218.081 mph. "It's been a pretty challenging day with the dusty and windy conditions, but it's a good opportunity to put more miles on the Infiniti engine," said 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Cheever about his testing in the #51 Excite@Home Indy Race Team Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone. "This is our first time with the 2000 Firestone/Dallara/Infiniti package on this track, and we' re gathering a lot of useful data." Winds gusted to 35 mph early in the afternoon, but remained consistently in the 20-mph range throughout much of the day. Cold temperatures delayed the start of testing this morning, with track and air temperatures registering only 45 degrees at 9:45 a.m. Two-time Indianapolis 500 participant Jimmy Kite posted the second-fastest speed in veteran testing, with a lap of 217.807, while Stephan Gregoire was third at 217.644, Greg Ray fourth at 216.700 and Scott Sharp fifth at 215.522. Series points leader Buddy Lazier, 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner, was 11th fastest at 212.209. Indy Racing Northern Light Series rookie Sam Hornish Jr. completed all four phases of the Rookie Orientation Program by 1 p.m., driving the Hornish Brothers Trucking G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone prepared by PDM Racing. "It's great," said Hornish, about being the first rookie to complete the test. "I'm excited and glad to get it out of the way. Now I can go at the speed I want and not in the confines of the rookie test. Unexpected was the wind. I could do 211 in the first three turns, and in (Turn) 4 I was lucky to run 205 because of the wind gusts." Cheever's younger brother, Ross Cheever, completed three phases of rookie orientation in a Team Cheever car and clocked the fastest time among rookies at 211.010. Sarah Fisher, Doug Didero, Andy Hillenburg and Shigeaki Hattori completed two of the four phases. Russ Gamester passed the first phase of the rookie test during the afternoon. Rookies were originally scheduled to test Friday and Saturday, with veterans testing Sunday through Tuesday. Rain, snow and cold temperatures on both Friday and Saturday forced cancellation of testing and forced Northern Light Series officials to condense the schedule for both groups.
Rookie orientation and veteran testing continues Monday:
9-11 a.m.: Veteran testing
11 a.m. - 1 p.m.: Rookie Orientation Program
1:30 - 3:30 p.m.: Veteran testing
3:30 - 5:30 p.m.: Rookie Orientation Program
EDDIE CHEEVER JR.: "It's been a pretty challenging day with the dusty and windy conditions, but it's a good opportunity to put more miles on the Infiniti engine. This is our first time with the 2000 Firestone/Dallara/Infiniti package on this track, and we're gathering a lot of useful data." (About his brother Ross driving at Indianapolis Motor Speedway): "Ross wasn't picked to drive for Team Cheever because he is my brother. He was chosen because he has the same racing background and greater success than Kenny Brack. It will be difficult having his brother as his 'instructor,' but if he's patient I think he'll be very successful. Ross has done an excellent job testing for Infiniti, he's in great physical shape, and he's very motivated. I'm sure that he'll do a very good job if we decide to enter him in the Indy 500."
BUDDY LAZIER: "We were just working on our car, trying to understand our car. It's the car we raced at Phoenix. We're trying to get information. We made a lot of changes in the balance and trim. It's like getting input for the driver. It's a good day for me to understand what the car needs. I didn' t go as fast as I want, but we are working on other things."
SCOTT GOODYEAR: "Obviously, this is our first time here with Dallara and on Firestones. Basically, it's a complete turnover from last year. At the end, we made quite a few changes, and I was starting to feel comfortable. We did 214 (mph). It was a very beneficial day. As much as we are off the gas now, I'm very encouraged with this setup and tires. I'm pleased with the response the car gave us today."
GREG RAY: "We're just doing a lot of things right now. We're not comfortable with what we tried, but it's a learning process. And we're learning what not to do. But we're scratching on the surface, just being careful. The track feels bumpy to me, but that may be to our setup. We look forward to practicing tomorrow and learning more about our setup."
SCOTT SHARP: "Today, in these kinds of conditions, it's not worth stretching the car. It can push the car right up into the wall if you're not careful. We just worked on a baseline setup, like we do at most Open Tests. It's a good place for us to start up on tomorrow, if the conditions are good."
JEFF WARD: "It's a brand-new car, and we were shaking it down. We found a couple of things that we'll work on tomorrow. There's no hurry. We haven't been at this track in a long time and wanted to work up to speed slowly. This is our primary car for here, but it's our T car for Vegas. We haven't run on a superspeedway yet. We didn't run at Vegas (during Test in the West). We didn't like a couple of things during the first run, so we came in and made some changes. After that, it was better. We've got a long way to go to be flat out around here." (About effect of wind): "It does affect you. The cross wind isn't so bad because it affects you more in the slower turns, (Turns) 2 and 4. You just try to give yourself a lot of extra room on the exit of each corner."
SAM HORNISH JR.: "It's great. The day couldn't have come any sooner. I'm excited and glad to get it out of the way. Now I can go at the speed I want to go and not within the confines of the rookie test." (About lessons learned today): "There's so much room on this track. I have not used all of the track yet. Travelling at 218 mph, you do not want to overcalculate and brush the wall. Unexpected was the wind. Just the speed around the corners, I could do 211 in the first three turns, and in (Turn) 4 I was lucky to run 205 because of the wind gusts. Actually, you don't feel the sensation of the speed until you slow down to come in the pits." (About plans for rest of the week): "They're working on it (2000 car). We're not going to take it out unless it is decent to run. We're not looking for qualifying speed right now." (About ROP phases): "We had a little problem part of the way through (Phase) 3 with the oil pressure. It took about an hour to fix, and we got done with 10 minutes to go in the session." (Any fear?): "Nope. Not yet. But I'll be a little bit scared before the race is over. I feel if I haven't scared myself, there's more to put in the car."
ROSS CHEEVER: "Being at IMS for the first time is exhilarating, but we are adopting a very conservative approach. I have a huge advantage over most rookies because I'm working with a very experienced team, which has already won the Indy 500. I'm trying to absorb as much information as possible and get through ROP as quickly and effortlessly as I can. I'm very comfortable with the car, and we made it through three of four phases already. I'm very much looking forward to the next stage. We're still working to find sponsorship for the #52 Team Cheever entry. Infiniti has given me the opportunity to help develop the new 35A Indy engine, and the team has been very supportive. I'm very hopeful that we can put something together and have a very positive experience at the Indy 500."
ANDY HILLENBURG: "It feels great. I feel real fortunate that we got a couple phases in with the weather we've had all week. I got a lot of good experience today, and I talked to a couple of the veterans and they answered my questions, which I appreciate very much. My crew's doing a good job, and the car's doing everything it's supposed to do. We're just taking everything a step at a time and so far we're able to keep on going, and it's a great feeling. At least now when I go to sleep I'll have an idea ... you know, the last couple nights it's been like, 'Boy, I wonder about this and I wonder about that.' At least now I've answered about half of my own questions."
SARAH FISHER: "Indianapolis is a pretty tricky place. The groove is very narrow, and you must be very precise about the line that you run on every lap. It kind of reminds me of running Port Royal (Pa.) in a sprint car. The 90 laps I ran here today gave me a good starting point to build my experience here on. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and finishing the rest of the rookie test. The most important thing for me to focus on is that line on the track and turn that into perfection. My first lap out was under yellow, but it was still awesome to finally be able to go around here in a race car."