DAY 1 -- FRIDAY, AUG. 15, 1997 Welcome to the Pennzoil 200, the ninth and next-to-last race of the 1996-97 Indy Racing League season. Mai Lindstrom, IRL public relations director; Lorraine Faford, New Hampshire International ...
DAY 1 -- FRIDAY, AUG. 15, 1997
Welcome to the Pennzoil 200, the ninth and next-to-last race of the 1996-97 Indy Racing League season. Mai Lindstrom, IRL public relations director; Lorraine Faford, New Hampshire International Speedway public relations director; and Mark Mockovak, public relations directorof the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour and their staffs are on hand this weekend to assist you. If you have questions, please ask anyone "behind the counter."
The new Riley & Scott chassis, one of a kind at present, was tested for the third time this morning prior to Indy Racing League practice with Mark Dismore at the wheel for Kelley Racing. Dismore ran the car for 10 laps Monday and 72 laps Tuesday at NHIS. The team is expected to make a decision today on using the car for the Pennzoil 200 this weekend. Dismore ran 26 laps with a best speed of 147.371 miles an hour this morning with a trap speed of 155 miles an hour. "We're getting an idea of what the car likes and dislikes," said Bill Riley, chief designer for Riley & Scott. "On Tuesday's test, the car had some push so we made some changes and I guess we overachieved. Because there's not a lot of data on the car right now, you get sessions like this ever now and then." "We made a lot of changes from Tuesday," said Dismore. "We went past where we need to be. Tuesday, we had a bad push and we went too far. We're loose now." The team hoped to return to the track about Noon.
Indianapolis-based KECO Motorsports is sponsoring "A Day at the Track and Birthday Party for Sam Schmidt" at 4 p.m. for children and families of High Hopes, a non-profit organization that grants wishes to sesriously-ill children of New Hampshire. The families will watch the 2 p.m. IRL practice prior to meeting with the drivers at the trck's hospitality courtyard. KECO is an associate sponsor of Tyce Carlson and John Paul Jr. and is a contingency sponsor of the IRL.
IRL rookie Affonso Giaffone will get a rare thrill Sunday when he'll be a passenger in a car driven on two wheels as part of the Joie Chitwood Thrill Show presentation. Giaffone's IRL car owner is Joie Chitwood. "We were joking around about it at first and now we have the opportunity to do it," Giaffone said. "I haven't really thought about it that much. Joie said it's safe. I want to ride on the high side. It'd be more interesting."
IRL Practice Notes:
10:30 a.m. -- GREEN. 10:37 a.m. -- #91 Lazier turned a lap at 151.251, fastest of session. #91 Lazier turned a lap at 152.823, fastest of session. 10:41 a.m. -- #33 Kite turned a lap at 155.605, fastest of session. 10:42 a.m. -- #33 Kite turned a lap at 157.447, fastest of session. #33 Kite turned a lap at 158.489, fastest of session. 10:43 a.m. -- #33 Kite turned a lap at 159.933, fastest of session, with trap speed of 163, first driver over 160 in the trap. #6 Goodyear turned a lap at 154.302, second fastest of session. 10:44 a.m. -- #91 Lazier turned a lap at 154.597, second fastest of session. 10:45 a.m. -- YELLOW, #17 Giaffone smoking, stopped in the first turn, towed to pits, engine problem. Top five -- #33 Kite 159.933, #91 Lazier 154.597, #6 Goodyear 154.302, #3 Buhl 154.153, #1 Boat 153.841. 10:51 a.m. -- GREEN. 10:53 a.m. -- #51 Cheever Jr., crew reports oil leak, going to backup car. 10:54 a.m. -- #6 Goodyear turned a lap at 158.919, second fastest of session with a trap speed of 161. 11:03 a.m. -- #2 Stewart moved to fourth with a lap at 156.079. 11:04 a.m. -- #2 Stewart moved to third with a lap at 156.702. 11:06 a.m. -- #2 Stewart turned a lap at 157.825, third fastest of session. 11:08 a.m. -- YELLOW, track inspection because of cut tire. #5 Luyendyk crew reports gear problem. 11:18 a.m. -- GREEN. 11:21 a.m. -- YELLOW, #1 Boat spun 350 feet off Turn 2 to the inside through the grass, contact with inside guard rail with right rear, middle of backstretch. Boat's previous lap was 156.258, fifth fastest of session, with a trap speed of 160. Boat was examined and released from the infield care center and cleared to drive. The car sustained light right rear damage. 11:32 a.m. -- GREEN. 11:34 a.m. -- #2 Stewart turned a lap at 158.186, third fastest of session. #2 Stewart turned a lap at 158.674, third fastest of session. 11:38 a.m. -- YELLOW, track inspection. 11:44 a.m. -- GREEN. 11:45 a.m. -- #2 Stewart turned a lap at 158.806, third fastest of session. 11:52 a.m. -- YELLOW, track inspection. 11:58 a.m. -- GREEN. 11:59 a.m. -- YELLOW, #6 Goodyear spun off Turn 2 and grazed wall with right front, continued to pits. Car sustained right front suspension damage. 12:03 p.m. -- GREEN. 12:17 p.m. -- #28T Dismore returned to track in Riley & Scott chassis. 12:18 p.m. -- YELLOW, track inspection. 12:24 p.m. -- GREEN. 12:25 p.m. -- YELLOW, #10 M. Groff did a 180-degree spin (395 feet) in Turn 3, made contact with the outside wall and stayed along the wall an additional 120 feet. The car had left-side and rear damage. Groff was briefly unconscious and was awake and alert when he was transported to Dartmouth Hospital by helicopter for further evaluation. END OF SESSION.
Top 5 -- #33 Kite 159.933, #6 Goodyear 158.919, #2 Stewart 158.806, #
There were 27 cars, including "T" cars from teams 7 (Salazar) and 28 (Dismore), on the track during the session. They completed 1,391 laps at an average of 51.5 laps each with the most recorded by car #33 (Jimmy Kite) who completed 104 followed by the 89 circuits run by Robbie Buhl in the #3.. The fastest 11 cars were within nine-tenths of a second of Kite's fast lap (159.933 mph, 28.815 seconds) with 11th-place Mike Groff turning his best effort at 155.544, 24.714. Groff 's best lap took .899 second more than Kite's fast lap. Some 21 machines had a lap in excess of 150 mph.
SCOTT GOODYEAR: (about his brush with the wall): "I did a 360 and just hit the wall witht he right front. I didn't get away with it, unfortunately, completely." (about times): "Right now 23.8 (seconds is what Jimmy (Kite) did. We ran 23.9. We ran 23.6 in testing, so we're still a little off that. I think we should be able to (improve). It all depends on how we get running here. Right now, it seems like the track is very greasy." (during the race): "We'll be running 24s, probably 25s because traffic will be a key part. It's not high-banked. From what I've seen of these cars so far, I think you're going to see more side-to-side (racing). The grids in qualifying seem to be very close since the guys have gotten a handle on these cars. I don't find it any different from anything else I've ever driven. It's just as competitive on the engine front as any other series. The formula's working very well. You're trying to take the package to the limit."
JIMMY KITE: "It's a lot more slippery (than in testing). In the heat of the day in testing, it was a little slippery off Turn 2. Today, I'm cautious of Turn 4, too. We felt pretty good at the start of praactice. We didn't spend a lot of time thinking about qualifying. The car was close today to what it was in testing. There's still more left in the car. We haven't really concentrated on the qualifying run. We'll worry about that tomorrow morning. We did that lap in traffic. It surprised us to run that good. Whether we can be better than that tomorrow depends on the track. I'm not going to push it. If we get the pole or not, no big deal. Top five, we'd be pleased and I haven't done that yet. The first two races, we've been fast in practice and fast in the race. We don't put a lot of emphasis on qualifying. I had never been on a mile paved before this year (in a Silver Crown car in Phoenix). I'm not used to these long straightaways. I'm used to the whole race track being the length of these straightaways. You come here, you have so much room, so much time down the straightaways. I'm finally starting to relax. Colorado, I was so tense. That last practice session, I felt very comfortable, very relaxed." (about competing with drivers such as Luyendyk, Guerrero, Stewart, etc.) "It makes you feel that much better when you go by 'em. When I went by Stewart at Charlotte for third or fourth place, I could
feel the smile on my face. You see these guys on TV and idolize them for so long...it's really neat."
Buzz Calkins returns this weekend after missing the VisionAire 500 at Charlotte because of injuries suffered here in a testing accident. "We're trying to get back into the swing of things," Calkins said. "The car's a little loose. Physically, I feel fine. I'm trying to drive without my cast. My shoulder is still pretty sore. I guess I feel about 90 percent."
Robbie Buhl also returns after an absence of two races. "It's good to be back since I haven't been around for two races," Buhl said. "Here, it's important to have a good car from start to finish. We'll be okay for qualifying but we're focusing on race setup. Physically, I feel 100 percent."
Goodyear's racing organization announced a restructuring of its race personnel effective Sept. 1 but the changes do not affect the IRL group, with Paul Lauritzen remaining as operations manager and Rick Campbell as chief engineer. "We tested at Loudon July 7-9 at the combined IRL open/tire test with drivers Buzz Calkins, Eliseo Salazar, Davey Hamilton and Billy Boat," said Todd Carpenter, group leader, product development for Goodyear's IRL program. "Handling is emphasized at Loudon rather than the outright speed of some of the other one-mile tracks. We started with our basic short-track setup and made some modifications. The teams were able to find a tire package that provided improved handling characteristics for us to bring for the race this weekend." Goodyear has brought 1,040 tires to Loudon this weekend.
Track temperatures from Goodyear tire engineers: 90 degrees at 10:30 a.m.; 95 degrees at 11 a.m.; 100 degrees at 11:30 a.m.; 103 degrees at Noon; 105 degrees at 12:30 p.m. and 102 degrees at 2:30 p.m.
IRL Afternoon practice Notes:
2:30 p.m. -- GREEN. #51 Cheever Jr., first out. 2:31 p.m. -- #21 Guerrero turned a lap at 151.137, fastest of session. 2:32 p.m. -- #3 Buhl turned a lap at 153.891, fastest of session. 2:33 p.m. -- #3 Buhl turned a lap at 155.830, fastest of session. 2:35 p.m. -- YELLOW, #27 Guthrie tow-in. Crew reports car has a fuel delivery problem. The crew plans to put a new engine into the car. 2:39 p.m. -- GREEN. 2:41 p.m. -- #3 Buhl turned a lap at 156.696, fastest of session. 2:43 p.m. -- YELLOW, #99 Schmidt slid sideways off Turn 2, came to a stop near end of backstretch, no contact, towed to pits. 2:54 p.m. -- GREEN. 2:56 p.m. -- #7 Salazar turned a lap at 154.685, second fastest of session. YELLOW, #17 Giaffone spun off Turn 2, no contact, continued to pits. 3 p.m. -- GREEN. Track temperature was 101 degrees, according to Goodyear tire engineers. 3:03 p.m. -- #70 Greco turned a lap at 155.100, second fastest of session. 3:04 p.m. -- #70 Greco turned a lap at 158.462, fastest of session and fourth fastest of the day. YELLOW, track inspection. 3:12 p.m. -- GREEN. 3:15 p.m. -- #3 Buhl turned a lap at 156.741, second fastest of session. 3:17 p.m. -- #3 Buhl turned a lap at 157.551, second fastest of session. 3:19 p.m. -- #6 Goodyear turned a lap at 160.729, fastest of the day and first driver to surpass 160 miles an hour. 3:21 p.m. -- YELLOW, #7 Salazar smoking, spun, no contact, continued to a stop in Turn 3. 3:25 p.m. -- END OF SESSION.
In the second session, 22 cars ran practice laps and covered 560 circuits led by Scott Goodyear's fastest clocking of 160.729 mph in his lap of 23.697 seconds.
POST-AFTERNOON IRL PRACTICE QUOTES:
MARCO GRECO: (about adapting to mile tracks): "I like the one-mile oval. It's more difficult to come her and run well without having tested. The car has been very good this weekend. We're adapting with each race. We're more together as a team. That's what we need. This series is very difficult and competitive. We have to be one single gear. We are a team." (about having good equipment): "We qualified well at Phoenix. I only had eight laps on the track Saturday and four Friday, but we qualified good. If you don't have good equipment, you won't run as fast." (about the track): "It's a bit slippery. We were working on the car and getting better every time out."
TONY STEWART: "We got the motor change done two minutes before the last practice. It's hard. You can't afford to give these good guys more practice than you." (strategy to hold on to point lead): "Keep doing what we're doing...not change the way we do things. What we're doing is working. Why change?" (about dominating like last year): "You're not going to see anyone lap the field. They're a lot less temperamental cars and a more even field." (about being back to seventh place in points earlier this year): "We didn't think about points. We were looking for our first win. We went race-by-race." (about earlier problems): "Now we're getting reliability in our engines. Some others are now having problems that we encountered earlier." (about potential for pole): "The 160 mile an hour might be the pole but it'll depend on the weather. It's always a big factor here. The limited practice is no problem for us. I've gone out at tracks with no practice and sat on the pole. I know the car will be ready before the team puts it on the line for practice or qualifying. This track is the toughest track for the new car configurations. You could see 10 cars on the lead lap Sunday. This is an easy track to overdrive. You've got to communicate well with your crew to keep the car in the race. Best thing we've had is Al Unser's advice at the driver's meetings. He says, 'Don't drive defensively. If he gets beside you, he's faster than you are. Let him go. Then go get him back.' That has made our racing better."
ROBBIE BUHL: (about being back): "I had to grow this (a beard) to fool Dr. (Henry) Bock (IRL medical director) into letting me get back in the car.I'm just happy to drive a race car again. It's great to be fast. At this track, it's great to be in the hunt, period. We're going to take it one step at a time." (about the track changing): "Cars tend to go loose at any track. You must have a good feel of the car." (about emotional feelings on coming back): "It felt great. It was great to have those two days (testing) in Vegas." (is he a good spectator?): "It was tough to watch and not drive. I was there supporting Tony and the team. Glad to see them get a win at Colorado. Charlotte hurt to watch but it was better for me to sit out, I guess." (about the track): "The track conditions change a lot here, so being in the hunt is important. The cars change a lot from beginning to the end of races here. You need to avoid getting too low here. Hitting the transition between the banking and the apron really upsets the car.
SCOTT GOODYEAR: (about being surprised about being on top): "No, we were good when we tested here. I like this track. We always run srtong (here). The key is being strong through the day. The car has to be working all the way through the fuel load and all the way through the race. There's not much fluctuation between speeds...not like at Indy, Charlotte and Texas...superspeedways." (about his 23.6-second lap in July testing): "When we tested at 23.6, we thought we'd be in the lower 23s this weekend. With the track getting greasy and tomorrow it'll be hotter and slicker, so we may not even see 23.6. We must strive for a car that works for the entire 200 miles. This track gets very greasy, but so does Indy. They all do. A greasy track just gives you less adhesion (grip). You must tiptoe through the turns. You must work with the team on the radio. You have to have good communication. You have to make adjustments in the pits with air pressure, stagger, wing angles or whatever. We're pleased to be fast, but I say again, we can't lose sight on focusing on 200 miles."