IRL: Nashville Open Test report

LEBANON, Tenn., Thursday, July 10, 2003 - IRL IndyCar Series points leader Tony Kanaan recorded the fastest lap July 9 during the Open Test at Nashville Superspeedway, leading a pack of four drivers faster than 205 mph. Kanaan's top lap was ...

LEBANON, Tenn., Thursday, July 10, 2003 - IRL IndyCar Series points leader Tony Kanaan recorded the fastest lap July 9 during the Open Test at Nashville Superspeedway, leading a pack of four drivers faster than 205 mph.

Kanaan's top lap was 22.7789 seconds, 205.452 mph in the No. 11 Team 7- Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone.

Drivers tested under the lights on the 1.33-mile concrete oval in preparation for the Firestone Indy 200 on July 19 at Nashville. Fifteen drivers turned a total of 2,000 laps during the incident-free test. The event was interrupted for nearly 90 minutes due to rain.

"We had a pretty good car right out of the box," Kanaan said. "We're pleased with what we have. The track is fun. Concrete is different to drive than asphalt, but I'm pretty pleased."

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves was second fastest at 22.8042, 205.225 in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone.

"We started with a qualifying setup", Castroneves said. "We were working very hard to find a setup for a concrete surface, which is always very difficult. It seems to be good, obviously."

Bryan Herta, winner of the Kansas Indy 300 on July 6, was third at 22.8146, 205.132 in the No. 27 Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone.

"We made good progress," Herta said. "I would say that we're not 100 percent happy yet, but we've got a lot better idea what we need for the race car when we come back. It gives us a little bit of a head start for next weekend."

Scott Dixon was the fourth driver past the 205-mph mark, turning a top lap of 22.8605, 205.010 in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone.

Rookie Dan Wheldon rounded out the top five at 22.8564, 204.757 in the No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone, as Andretti Green Racing put its three drivers in the top five on the speed chart.

The Firestone Indy 200 is the last of three night races on the 2003 IndyCar Series schedule. The race will be broadcast live at 8 p.m. (EDT) on ESPN2 and the IMS Radio Network. Tickets are available by calling (866) 722-3849 or logging on to www.nashvillesuperspeedway.com

KENNY BRACK (No. 15 Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara/Honda/Firestone, 1998 IndyCar Series champion, 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner):
"Nashville is a nice track. We are in the music city, but we're not tuning on guitars, we're tuning on cars. We're finding out what we want to have here when we come back for the race in one-and-a-half week's time. It's a nice track. It's concrete. It's always nice to run on concrete because the car doesn't change a lot with the weather, if it's hot or cold, it doesn't really matter that much. The track is nice; it's very fast for a smaller type of track. I think it will be a very interesting race. We obviously have struggled a little bit with some of the tracks we've been to this year, so we're just trying to learn about this car. We took some pretty radical steps here today to learn about it in areas, where we haven't really been visiting before. So it's been a productive test for us."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, 2001 and 2002 Indianapolis 500 winner):
"The test was very good. We started with a qualifying setup. We were working very hard to find a setup for a concrete surface, which is always very difficult. It seems to be good, obviously. It's always tough when you come out there in the heat and then turn around at night. The good news is that we were actually able to test a race setup at night, which is very important. We were able to manage to find a good baseline. It looks like we're in a good pace. We still have to improve, as always. A driver is never happy before he wins a race. Hopefully, we'll get out of here with a trophy in the bag and singing Elvis music after the race."

GIL de FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner):
"I think this type of day is absolutely crucial to an eventual success on a race weekend. We always draw a lot of benefit from this sort of test. We've just been working mostly on race setup and doing our homework here. This year there are different rules, the car is different, the engines are different, everything is different, so I think it's really expected that every year we seem to go a lot faster. I think it's natural and normal."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone):
"Today went pretty well, I think. It was nice to run on a concrete track. It's my first time on a surface like this. It isn't as temperature-sensitive as asphalt is. We learned a lot about the car and about the track today. Once again, Team Target brought a fast racecar for us here in Nashville, and it should be a fun track to race on. I enjoyed racing under the lights in Texas last month, and I'm excited to get another chance at it here next week."

A.J. FOYT IV (No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone):
"We need to come here and try to be competitive. The main thing we've got to do is to start finishing races, running all day and collecting a little more points than we have been. I just want to stay out there all day and get as much experience as I can. Night races underneath the lights are fun. You don't get to do it that much in the year, so having one or two, you really look forward to them."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 27 Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"I think it was a big help for us to come and test here because it's another new track for me. Most of the new tracks I've done so far I haven't had a chance to test at, so it's nice to get a feel for this track. It's a lot different than any of the ones I've been to. It's concrete. It's a little bit bumpy. It's not quite a 1.5-mile, so it's not a short oval, but it's not a medium one, either. It's kind of it's own unique oval, so I think it was very valuable for us to come here and get a little experience on it before the race. We made good progress. I would say that we're not 100 percent happy yet, but we've got a lot better idea what we need for the race car when we come back. It gives us a little bit of a head start for next weekend. The engineers and everybody will work all week on grinding out how to make the car better, so when we come back it's even faster. I think it's fast, and we just need to make it that fast consistently. I've only run three IRL races, two in the night and one in the day. I haven't won the night ones, but I won the one day one, so I guess I've got to try to win a night one now. It's fun. I do enjoy racing at night. As long as you don't have any shadow spots on the track, it's just about the same as daytime for us."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, IndyCar Series points leader):
"We had a pretty good car right out of the box. We're pleased with what we have. The track is fun. Concrete is different to drive than asphalt, but I'm pretty pleased. I have good engineers. I haven't done anything. We had a pretty good idea. My engineer, Eric, was in this series last year with Felipe Giaffone. So they had a pretty good base setup to start with, and with some work that we've done in the past at other tracks, we guessed what we need, and it was good right out of the box."

VITOR MEIRA (No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone):
"We started really good. We went not as quick as we wanted but pretty quick. I'm learning the track. It's the first time that I've been here, the first time that I've been at a concrete track, so it's been pretty interesting. We had a lot of fuel pickup and fuel pump problems that kind of delayed our day quite a lot, but everything finished OK. We were satisfied with our test here. For sure, we all need more speed, we need to improve, but I'm pretty sure the race weekend is going to be pretty good with all the improvements and knowledge that we got here. Eighty percent of the time was in qualifying setup just because during the race weekend everything is going to change. The track is going to be more 'rubbered,' so we're going to have time to work on the race setup then."

GREG RAY (No. 13 TrimSpa Racing Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone):
"We had a little bit of an issue when we first went out, so we only got about half the amount of time that we wanted to run. We're working on race setups and really just kind of getting the car settled down. We made some big improvements right there toward the end. It looks like a lot of the guys were out there running some new tires and light fuel at least once, and their cars went fairly quick. We just never got to that point. I think we found a good direction to go to for our race setup. We were hoping to get some running in tonight to do a long run and then maybe do some qualifying stuff there at the end. This is a very tough track. It's concrete. It's very rough. The grip kind of comes and goes like a light switch, you can be in the lane and have good grip and you get out of the lane and it's like it just gets turned off. So it's very difficult to get a good race setup. The test was important for us to come to."

BUDDY RICE (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone):
"Our test has gone really well. We haven't had a whole lot of testing this year. So, for us to come here and have no major issues and to keep working on our car right now, is really good. By chance, we got to run behind some faster cars to check our in-traffic balance, which was really good. So, I think when we come back here for the night race, we should be pretty well set, and hopefully we can have a strong top-10 finish here. We need to keep working on points and keep making sure we're one of the top Chevy teams."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone):
"Once we hit the track, we were pretty quick right out of the box. We didn't have to make too many adjustments to the car. I raced here last year, and I really like this place. A big key here is to have a car that gets through the turns. That is what we worked on today, trying to get the car to turn. All in all, it was a successful day for us and it was good to see how we compare against the other teams. It's important to see how you stack up against the competition. Hopefully, we'll get the Target cars up front here next Saturday night."

TORA TAKAGI (No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone):
"It's my first time here. This track is very good. It has good grip. My car has a very good feeling, very quick here. Worked on qualifying, my qualifying setup is very quick. My last race was a little bit slow, my race car is a little bit slow. Today, we were working more on race setups."

AL UNSER JR. (No. 31 Corteco Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, 1992 and 1994 Indianapolis 500 winner):
"It was a good day of testing until it rained and put a delay in the program. We had some engine problems, so I only got about five laps at the beginning. Then, I was out only for the final half hour before the rain. It was a really good test in the evening, once we got going after the rain delay. We learned a lot about the car. I haven't been here for a couple of years. The track feels real good. It's the same from what I remember a couple of years ago. I'm excited about coming here and racing. I'm pretty comfortable where we're at. The car came off the trailer pretty good. For the minimal amount of laps I've had, the Corteco/Bryant Special is running good."

DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone):
"It's good just to be here because, obviously, I haven't been around this place before. It's definitely different. It's white, not like your typical track. We're working on both qualifying simulations and race simulations, but predominately race simulations because, obviously, that's most important on a race weekend. You've got to establish a good baseline here because it's only a two-day event, and that's what we're trying to do. I wouldn't call this three separate teams; we're one unit. The good thing about having three cars is that you can have three different setups on each car, and if one seems to be working better than another you can go down that route. You can try stuff, and if Tony's quick, we can always revert back to his baseline. At the Kentucky Open Test, we established a good baseline, so everybody came our way. It works all three ways, really. It's good because you can build up a bunch of data that can be used during the race weekend."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Felipe Giaffone , Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Jim Beam , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing