IRL: New Ganassi drivers get comfortable with Speedway in testing

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, March 14, 2001 -- For Bruno Junqueira, Nic Minassian and Target Chip Ganassi Racing, it was a series of firsts March 14 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Junqueira and Minassian took their first laps at the ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, March 14, 2001 -- For Bruno Junqueira, Nic Minassian and Target Chip Ganassi Racing, it was a series of firsts March 14 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Junqueira and Minassian took their first laps at the Speedway, their first laps on an oval bigger than Las Vegas Motor Speedway's 1.5-mile distance and the first laps in the team's new G Force cars. The pair of drivers will shoot for their first starting berths in the 85th Indianapolis 500 on May 27 for the team which fielded the winning car last year with Juan Montoya in the cockpit. Junqueira, 24, of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and Minassian, 28, of Marseilles, France, actually got their first laps March 13 when weather forced the cancellation of their first scheduled test day. They took a ride around the 2 mile Speedway oval in an Oldsmobile Bravada, the pace vehicle for this year's classic. "They came over here and walked around in awe," Ganassi team manager Mike Hull said. "They went to a photo shoot in their firesuits and paid their money while they were over there to go to the (Speedway Hall of Fame) museum." Junqueira, whose father came from Brazil to watch his first test at Indianapolis, is something of a history buff. "When I was young, I watched Emerson Fittipaldi racing here," he said. "At that time, I was go-kart racing. I had a game called Indy 500. I played it a lot. Now, here I am, and it's more difficult than the game. "I thought Turns 1 and 3 might be difficult and Turns 2 and 4 would be easy, but all four corners are challenging." Said Minassian: "It's awesome. It's very different from what I've done before. It's a very special oval, as well as very fast. I'm really proud to be here. Last year, I couldn't think about being here." Minassian was FIA F3000 Championship runner-up last year - to Junqueira. The team didn't announce speeds, but the drivers logged 400 miles each in the daylong private test session. "I'm already feeling comfortable," Junqueira said. "It's my first time on a big oval, and I like it." Both drivers have moved to Indianapolis to be close to the Ganassi team's shops and have become "competitive friends." "We're competitive," Minassian said. "You know, the first to do this, the first to do that. We played tennis the last time, and he beat me. That won't happen again. It (Indy) is my home now, and I'm happy here. I love it. I prefer Indianapolis more than any place I've been since I've been traveling." Said Junqueira: "I look forward to seeing these grandstands packed with people. And I'm going to race at 'home' because I live here. I like football. I've been to a Colts' game. The RCA Dome is a great place ... I watched the Supercross there. It's (Indianapolis) just a little bit cold." The annual Rookie Orientation Program will be the Ganassi drivers' next stop on the Road to Indy, scheduled April 13-14. Indianapolis 500 practice opens Sunday, May 6 with qualifying Saturday, May 12; Sunday, May 13; and Sunday, May 20.

Carburetion Day is set for Thursday, May 24 and the "500" on Sunday, May 27.

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Emerson Fittipaldi , Chip Ganassi
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing