IRL: Indy 500: Test notes 2003-04-22

Barron, others continue testing at chilly Indy. INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, April 22, 2003 -- Twelve IRL IndyCarÔ Series drivers prepared for the 87th Indianapolis 500 by testing in cold conditions April 22 at the Indianapolis Motor...

Barron, others continue testing at chilly Indy.

INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, April 22, 2003 -- Twelve IRL IndyCarÔ Series drivers prepared for the 87th Indianapolis 500 by testing in cold conditions April 22 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Among the drivers was Alex Barron, who tested the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone. Barron, who won Bank One Indianapolis 500 co-Rookie of the Year honors with Tomas Scheckter last year, has been substituting for Gil de Ferran, who suffered a concussion and a minor back fracture in an accident during the Purex Dial Indy 200 on March 23 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Barron, from Menifee, Calif., completed 102 laps today at the Speedway.

"The track is a bit different from last year because they shaved the track last year, and the track is a bit more seasoned now," Barron said. "The cars are quite a bit different with the change, so to show up here and get in the car, we got a pretty good balance right away. We're just trying to get a good balance on the car, and at that point we'll probably try something else. So far, it's gone pretty good."

Temperatures struggled to reach 50 degrees at the Speedway, and Barron hopes for better weather when the team tests April 23.

"It's pretty cold today, which is a little bit of an issue with the balance of the car," Barron said. "Hopefully tomorrow it will be a little bit better. I know some teams tested on Saturday (April 19), and it was like 70 degrees, so it's quite a bit different."

Despite his testing at the Speedway for Penske, no Indy 500 seat is guaranteed for Barron, who won in 2002 at Nashville. Should de Ferran be ready to drive by Opening Day at the Speedway on May 4, Barron is most likely back to his role as one of the top free agents on the driver market.

"Either way, you get exposure," Barron said of driving for Marlboro Team Penske. "At the same time, it helps you get to know the new cars, and no matter where you end up, that's going to pay off for you. And, it helps Team Penske get a good base for the month of May and the direction as far as package-wise."

Should Barron not continue with Penske when de Ferran returns, his hiring as a substitute for the most successful team in Indy-style racing helps to raise his worthy stock even higher.

"They're one of the elite teams, for sure," Barron said. "They do everything real professional. I think when you're a part of that, you learn a lot. Being here at Indy with a team like this, it's hard to go wrong."

87th INDIANAPOLIS 500 PRIVATE TESTING NOTEBOOK

Luyendyk turns laps: Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk tested his No. 20 Meijer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone on April 22, his first laps in the new IndyCar Series equipment that will be used through 2005.

"It's very nice," Luyendyk said. "I'm really impressed with the Toyota engine. It's smooth as silk. Driving out on the track, the car is very quiet. Everything works the way it should. The engine is very smooth and feels very nice to drive. The gearbox feels good, and the guys that put together the car -- it works perfect, and everything is very tight. They did a good job.

"I'm a little slower today than these guys, but I came to shake the car down. I'm not very comfortable in the car -- we need to modify the seat, and I've got a little bit of helmet lift that I don't want all month. Still, I was able to drive the car quickly, but we need to go quicker."

Luyendyk has not been in a car since he finished 16th in the Michigan Indy 400 in July 2002. He sees that as a slight disadvantage over the other drivers who are regular IndyCar Series competitors.

"They just come in, get in the car and go, and I'm just getting back into the rhythm again," Luyendyk said. "I take my time to get my tires up to temperature and up to pressure, and they do that in a little shorter amount of laps. But this is no checkered flag today, and we're just getting into things slowly, and that's what you have to do.

"It's so easy to get caught out at this place -- it can bite you if you start running into the corners on cold tires, and it's pretty cold today."

***

Foyt makes contact: There was only one incident during private testing when rookie A.J. Foyt IV made contact with the outside retaining wall in Turns 1 and 2 in his No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone. Foyt was unhurt.

"I went out for the afternoon run, and the temperature was a little hotter, and the car picked up more of a push," Foyt said. "I glanced off the wall in Turn 1 which knocked out the front brakes. It wouldn't turn going into (Turn) 2, and it did a slow spin and brushed the wall with the other side in Turn 2. The front and rear suspension was damaged on both sides."

***

Rundown: Twelve drivers turned a total of 815 laps in 15 cars today Besides Barron, Luyendyk and Foyt, other drivers testing included two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, Tomas Scheckter in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, series points leader Scott Sharp in the No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone and Robbie Buhl in the No. 24 Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

Rookie Dan Wheldon tested is No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone while 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner Kenny Brack tested his No. 15 Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara/Honda/Firestone. Shigeaki Hattori, driver of the No. 5 EPSON/A.J. Foyt Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, tested along with rookie Tony Renna, driver of the No. 32 Cure Autism Now/HomeMed Dallara/Toyota/Firestone and Tora Takagi, driver of the No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone.

***

Dixon, Franchitti visit IMS: Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti, two injured IRL IndyCar Series drivers, visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during private testing April 22.

Dixon, who won the season-opening Toyota Indy 300 in his No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, suffered multiple fractures in his right hand and wrist in an accident in the Indy Japan 300 on April 13 at Twin Ring Motegi. He plans to compete in the Indianapolis 500.

"I'm not too bad," Dixon said. "It was a little sore after surgery. I just want to get it over and done with as soon as possible. Right now with the timing it's not so good, but that's the way it goes.

"We're hoping (to be back) by the first week, basically for Pole Day. I think Team Target has a great opportunity to take the pole. I think the package, the Toyota engine and the (Panoz) G Force is going to be very fast. I think Tomas (Scheckter) and myself have a good shot. I just have to rely on Tomas to set up the car."

Franchitti will miss the 87th Indianapolis 500 and possibly the three series races in June after he was injured while riding his motorcycle April 4 in his hometown of Edinburgh, Scotland. Franchitti has an L1 stable burst fracture that does not require surgery but does require bracing for approximately three months.

"I spent a couple of hours in the gym this morning doing some rehab work," Franchitti said. "I just came out to the track to see what's happening and see some cars running."

Franchitti admitted that missing the Indianapolis 500 won't be easy.

"It's pretty hard," Franchitti said. "It's pretty difficult, but we'll deal with it, and we'll be stronger than we left."

Tony Kanaan, who suffered a radial fracture in his left arm in an accident with Dixon in the Indy Japan 300, was at the track April 21.

-ims-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Robbie Buhl , Shigeaki Hattori , Scott Sharp , Arie Luyendyk , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , A.J. Foyt IV , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , Alex Barron , Dan Wheldon , Tony Renna , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Jim Beam , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing