IRL: IRL Completes Richmond open test

- Motorsport.com - Richmond, VA (April 20, 2001) - Five teams from the Indy Racing Northern Light Series took to the .75-mile Richmond International Raceway today to test in preparation for the Indy race on Saturday night, June 30. June's ...

- Motorsport.com -

Richmond, VA (April 20, 2001) - Five teams from the Indy Racing Northern Light Series took to the .75-mile Richmond International Raceway today to test in preparation for the Indy race on Saturday night, June 30. June's race will mark the first time Indy racing cars have raced on the D-shaped oval just outside the Virginia capital making today's test an important step towards determining optimum setups for the race cars.

"I have never been on a track like this in the 30 years that I have been racing," said 1998 Indianapolis 500 champion Eddie Cheever.

"Three times this morning I came out of a corner in a four wheel drift. That's not supposed to happen."

Richmond's D-shape layout places the frontstretch grandstands along a long curve while turn two is a decreasing radius turn that launches the car unto the back straight, the only straight part of the track.

"It's so much different than any other place else we run that it's challenging," said Buzz Calkins, driver of the Bradley Food Marts Dallara. "We've made a lot of changes that we haven't done at other tracks. And we've done some things that are unconventional as far as setups are concerned."

Before teams come to a new track, they gather data, including length of the straightaways, degree of banking in the turns and the overall track length in order to complete computer simulations. These simulations are used to determine a base setup and the correct gear selection. In addition to simulations, hard data from other tracks is used as well as driver input.

"The one that we looked at was Dover, maybe a little bit at Phoenix," said Calkins. "But there's really no place that you can say 'okay this is exactly like this. We'll put this setup on and dial it in or out a little bit.' It's completely different. Where we are right now is so completely different than any place else that we've gone before that it's going to be its own little place."

Davey Hamilton, driver of the Sam Schmidt Motorsports No. 99 said, "We guessed a little bit. We looked at Orlando and we looked at Phoenix, and we're way off on our setup. But our setup is very conservative."

Hamilton, who ran 147.573 mph in the morning, improved in the afternoon, turning in a lap at 156.876 mph.

"There's no comparison to the Silver Crown cars," said Hamilton, who raced here several years ago with USAC. "Hopefully, during the race, the type of racing will be the same, places to pass, traffic, and that will help."

Although conditions will be slightly different on the evening of the race, the 753 laps turned in testing today will provide a good base setup. "Historically, the shorter tracks will not be affected by weather as much as the longer tracks," said Cheever. "The shorter tracks rely more on mechanical grip and that's not affected by weather as much aero grip."

<pre> Best Times of the Day

Pos. Car No. Driver Time Speed # of Laps

1. 91 Buddy Lazier 16.796 160.753 172 2. 51 Eddie Cheever 16.944 159.348 247 3. 15 Sarah Fisher 17.113 157.775 136 4. 99 Davey Hamilton 17.211 156.876 104 5. 12 Buzz Calkins 17.874 151.057 89

</pre> Notes:

The race distance for the first-ever Northern Light Series race at RIR has yet to be set. Indy racing officials will seek input from the drivers testing today before the race distance is set.

Richmond International Raceway opened the gates to spectators for today's test. About 200 people lined the turn four fence at 9:00 a.m. this morning anticipating the day's activities.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Buzz Calkins , Sarah Fisher , Eddie Cheever , Buddy Lazier , Davey Hamilton , Sam Schmidt