IRL: IRL Weekly Notebook 98-03-03

PEP BOYS INDY RACING LEAGUE WEEKLY NOTEBOOK INDIANAPOLIS, March 3, 1998 - Notes and quotes from the Pep Boys Indy Racing League: Flying in Phoenix: Based on the results of the "Test in the West" on Feb. 25-26, it's almost ...

PEP BOYS INDY RACING LEAGUE WEEKLY NOTEBOOK

INDIANAPOLIS, March 3, 1998 - Notes and quotes from the Pep Boys Indy Racing League:

Flying in Phoenix: Based on the results of the "Test in the West" on Feb. 25-26, it's almost certain that the Phoenix International Raceway speed record for the new IRL cars will fall March 21 during qualifying for the Dura-Lube 200.

Seven drivers unofficially broke the track speed record for the new IRL cars of 170.012 mph set by Tony Stewart on the 1-mile oval during qualifying in March 1997. Scott Sharp led the performance parade during testing with a quick lap of 20.584 seconds, 174.893 mph in the Delphi Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear fielded by Kelley Racing.

"I think we are really working as a team right now," Sharp said. "It isn't just this guy and that guy. It's one team. All of the engineers really put their heads together and try to come up with the best setup. Obviously, it pays off.

"We're just working on an overall good setup. Maybe there are a few things you do for the car for qualifying, and maybe there's a couple things you do for the car for the race."

Also recording speeds faster than the track record were Stewart, Billy Boat, Arie Luyendyk, Jimmy Kite, Eddie Cheever Jr. and Mark Dismore.

Sunshine and temperatures in the mid-60's created ideal conditions for testing, especially on Feb. 26, when a persistent wind dissipated. The thermometer probably will climb during race weekend in late March, and Phoenix resident Boat thinks that heat will keep the pole speed a bit slower than Sharp's best test lap.

"You will need to be in the low 21's or high 20's to be in the hunt for the pole," Boat said.

Close competition was another trend during the "Test in the West." Less than one second separated the top 17 drivers in testing. Twenty-seven drivers tested overall.

The third annual Dura-Lube 200 starts at 2 p.m. (MST) March 22. Oldsmobile Pole Day qualifying starts at noon March 21.

***

Down to a science: While many top-budget teams in the Pep Boys IRL test nearly every month during the season, LP Racing and driver Sam Schmidt welcomed the chance to participate in their first IRL open test session at the "Test in the West."

Schmidt's best lap on the 1-mile oval was 21.665 seconds, 166.167 in the team's Dallara/Aurora/Firestone. It was the first time that Schmidt drove at Phoenix since he finished 10th in his IRL debut in March 1997.

"Last year it was like run three laps and breathe, run three more laps and breathe," said Schmidt, alluding to his rookie jitters. "This year it's more of a science."

UNOFFICIAL TOP TIMES, SPEEDS OF "TEST IN THE WEST," FEB. 25-26, PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY (1-mile oval)

Driver Team Car/Engine/Tire Time Speed Scott Sharp Kelley Racing Dallara/Aurora/G 20.584 174.893 Tony Stewart Team Menard G Force/Aurora/Fireston 20.737 173.603 Billy Boat A.J. Foyt Enterprises Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear 20.962 171.739 Arie Luyendyk Treadway Racing G Force/Aurora/Firestone20.982 171.576 Jimmy Kite Team Scandia Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear 21.018 171.282 Eddie Cheever Jr.Team Cheever Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear 21.031 171.176 Mark Dismore Kelley Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear 21.120 170.455 Buzz Calkins Bradley Motorsports G Force/Aurora/Goodyear 21.188 169.907 Kenny Brack A.J. Foyt Enterprises Dallara*/Aurora/Goodyear21.236 169.523 Robbie Buhl Team Menard G Force/Aurora/Firestone21.282 169.157 Eliseo Salazar R&S Cars Riley & Scott/Aurora/G 21.326 168.808 Raul Boesel McCormack Motorsports G Force/Aurora/Goodyear 21.343 168.674 Davey Hamilton Nienhouse Motorsports G Force/Aurora/Goodyear 21.344 168.666 Buddy Lazier Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear 21.359 168.547 Greg Ray Thomas Knapp Motorsport Dallara/Aurora/Firestone21.363 168.516 J.J. Yeley Sinden Racing Service Dallara/Aurora/Firestone21.432 167.973 Jim Guthrie ISM Racing G Force/Aurora/Goodyear 21.577 166.844 Sam Schmidt LP Racing Dallara/Aurora/Firestone21.665 166.167 Dave Steele rsm Marko Dallara/Aurora/Firestone21.730 165.670 S. Gregoire Chastain Motorsports G Force/Aurora/Goodyear 21.784 165.259 Mike Groff Byrd-Cunningham Racing G Force/Aurora/Firestone21.804 165.107 Brian Tyler Treadway Racing G Force*/Infiniti/F 21.854 164.730 Stan Wattles Metro Racing Systems Riley & Scott/Aurora/G 22.111 162.815 Robbie Groff Blueprint Racing Dallara/Aurora/Firestone22.160 162.455 Dr. Jack Miller Crest/SRS Racing Dallara/Infiniti/F 22.221 162.009 Tyce Carlson Immke Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear 23.248 154.852 Marco Greco Phoenix Racing G Force/Aurora/Goodyear 24.975 144.144 *-- T (backup) car

Top 10 By Chassis Top 10 By Tire Dallara: 6 Goodyear: 7 G Force: 4 Firestone: 3

***

Testing, testing: Many Pep Boys IRL will continue to test this week in preparation for the Dura-Lube 200.

Team Menard, with drivers Tony Stewart and Robbie Buhl, started three days of testing Monday at Phoenix International Raceway. Riley & Scott (driver Eliseo Salazar), Metro Racing Systems (Stan Wattles) and Pagan Racing (Roberto Guerrero) will test Thursday and Friday at Phoenix.

Arizona Motor Sport Racing (drivers Jack Miller and J.J. Yeley), Metro Racing Systems (Wattles) and Riley & Scott (Salazar) started two days of testing Monday at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.

Tire companies will conduct extensive testing next week. Firestone drivers will test March 9-11 at Texas Motor Speedway, while Goodyear teams will test March 10-12 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

***

Compare and contrast: An interesting test will occur this week at Firebird International Raceway near Phoenix where Popular Mechanics magazine will evaluate an IRL and CART car for performance.

Both cars will be tested for acceleration and braking on a dragstrip, and they will be run through the track's slalom course, skidpad and lane-change courses for a story in the magazine's June issue, which should be on newsstands by May 10.

Defending CART champion Alex Zanardi will test his car, fielded by Ganassi Racing, today at Firebird. Defending IRL champion Tony Stewart and teammate Robbie Buhl will test Buhl's Johns Manville G Force/Aurora/Firestone, fielded by Team Menard, on Thursday. ESPN "RPM2Night" is filming the testing for a future segment.

"Every month we run a comparison test of passenger cars," said Scott Oldham, Popular Mechanics West Coast editor. "So for the June issue, in which we always run a feature on what's happening with Indy-style cars, we decided to do a comparison test of these race cars.

"It's not really a head-to-head test, as we know these are completely different cars. We just want to see how much better they perform than street cars."

***

Big thrill: Indianapolis 500 veteran Lyn St. James found a new, fast vehicle to drive Feb. 23 when she was allowed to take the controls of a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet jet fighter during a flight with the U.S. Navy's precision flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, at El Centro, Calif.

St. James, 1992 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, flew with Lt. Scott Ind. She was allowed to take control of the aircraft during the flight.

"The whole experience was awesome," St. James said. "My favorite maneuvers were the 30/30 Pop, which is a combat-style maneuver the pilots use when dropping bombs, and picking our way through the canyons, a defensive maneuver which the pilots perform in combat as a means of hiding their aircraft."

St. James signed autographs and shared race stories with the 120-man flight and ground crew after her flight.

***

Racers for reading:

Pep Boys IRL drivers Dr. Jack Miller and Lyn St. James read to students and their families March 2 as part of "Read Across America Day."

Miller read to students and families at Lawrence Township Centralized Kindergarten and St. James at Harcourt Elementary School on the west side of Indianapolis.

Charity update: Laura George, wife of Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Tony George, has been named honorary chairman of the third annual Women's Invitational Golf Tourney to benefit the USAC Benevolent Foundation, May 19 at Eagle Creek Golf Course in Indianapolis.

The tournament was created to give women involved in racing during May in Indianapolis a chance to interact and play golf. The event has become one of the premier fundraisers for the foundation. For player and sponsorship information, call Wanda Devin at (317) 273-9558 or William Marvel at (317) 873-5684.

Keco Motorsports is planning a concert to benefit the Indiana Children's Wish Fund on May 18 at the Vogue Nightclub in Indianapolis. Times and performers will be announced shortly. The Indiana Children's Wish Fund grants wishes to people ages 3 to 18 diagnosed with terminal or life-threatening illnesses. A driver autograph session will precede the concert. Pep Boys IRL drivers interested in participating should call Cindy Butterworth at (317) 818-0208.

Keco Motorsports, based Indianapolis, is an associate sponsor of Pep Boys IRL driver Tyce Carlson and a league contingency sponsor in 1998.

***

Broadcast schedule: The Dura-Lube 200 will be televised live on ABC at 4 p.m. (EST) March 22. Oldsmobile Pole Day will be televised live on SpeedVision at 2 p.m. (EST) March 21.

The IMS Radio Network will broadcast the race live at 4 p.m. (EST) March 22, with a pre-race show starting at 3:30. The IMS Radio Network will broadcast a 30-minute show from Oldsmobile Pole Day at 5:30 p.m. (EST) March 21.

***

Next event: Dura-Lube 200, March 22, Phoenix International Raceway. Tickets are available at (602) 252-2227.

***

World Wide Web: http://www.indyracingleague.com

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Buzz Calkins , Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Robbie Buhl , Eliseo Salazar , Buddy Lazier , Davey Hamilton , Scott Sharp , Arie Luyendyk , Billy Boat , Mark Dismore , Jim Guthrie , Roberto Guerrero , Jimmy Kite , Raul Boesel , Alex Zanardi , Kenny Brack , Sam Schmidt , Lyn St. James , Tyce Carlson , J.J. Yeley , Dave Steele , Brian Tyler , Stan Wattles , Tony George , A.J. Foyt , Jack Miller
Teams A.J. Foyt Enterprises , Chip Ganassi Racing , Phoenix Racing