IRL: No problems with Kentucky Speedway; Cheever fastest in practice

By David Reininger - motorsport.com Sparta, Ky. (August 10, 2001) – Eddie Cheever topped the speed charts in both the morning and afternoon practice sessions at Kentucky Speedway today. Cheever’s best lap, set near the end of this...

By David Reininger - motorsport.com

Sparta, Ky. (August 10, 2001) – Eddie Cheever topped the speed charts in both the morning and afternoon practice sessions at Kentucky Speedway today. Cheever’s best lap, set near the end of this morning’s session, stopped the clocks at 25.182 seconds to average 214.439 mph around the 1.5-mile speedway.

Despite increasing the rear wing angle to 12 degrees to compensate for bumpy track conditions, speeds approached last year’s pole speed of 219, quickly dispelling any issues regarding the track surface.

Concerns about track conditions arose last Friday after two separate testing incidents caused drivers Sam Hornish and Buzz Calkins to spin. “You always prepare for the worst,” said Cheever. “I tested here about three weeks ago and it was bumpy, but you could run.”

During the winter, the speedway was exposed to several freeze and thaw cycles introducing bumps to the racing surface. Officials from the Indy Racing Northern Light Series met with representatives from the track to access the situation well in advance of this weekend’s race.

The grinding and patching that took place introduced new concerns when it was found that the Indy cars lacked grip as they passed over the different remedies for the track. More grinding and patching took place but there were still concerns over the lack of grip for the Indy cars, ten of which averaged over 210 mph today.

After last Friday’s test session, a sealant was applied to the racing surface to increase the level of grip. “They’ve done a great job,” said Cheever. “We’re all very glad this track is back where it was last year, and perhaps, even better. It’s no longer an issue.”

“I was very concerned,” said Greg Ray. “We didn’t test here. Not having a chance to see the race track, I had big concerns but, five laps into the run this morning’s I was very pleased. They’ve done a great job with the race track.

Greg Ray was third fastest today, one one-hundredth of a second slower than Scott Sharp. Ray, who has earned 13 pole positions in his Indy racing career, said he was working on a race setup today. “We’re really putting all of our eggs in a basket for having a good race,” said Ray, who has only finished one race since the Indianapolis 500 in May.

Cheever looked on in disbelief as Ray told members of the media that he wasn’t out for the pole position.

“Good presentation, but I don’t buy it,” said Cheever. “It’s his nature to go for the pole.”

Cheever will be looking for Infiniti’s first pole position when qualifying gets underway at noon tomorrow.

Notes from the Belterra Casino 300 at Kentucky Speedway:

Indy racing events are held on six different 1.5-mile speedways this season, several of which are similar in design. Kentucky Speedway is unique. The turns are banked at 14 degrees, while the other 1.5-mile speedways range in banking from 15 to 24 degrees.

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Heritage Motorsports will test former Formula One pilot Johnny Herbert at the Kentucky Speedway on August 13. “I have one major challenge left to accomplish in motorsports; winning the Indianapolis 500,” Herbert said. “Racing at Indy has been a goal of mine since I was ten years old.” The information the team gathers from Herbert’s test will be used in preparation for 2002.

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Buddy Lazier is looking to win for the fourth time in five races. If Lazier takes the victory, he’ll break a tie with Kenny Brack and Greg Ray for the most wins in a single season. Brack scored three wins in 1998 and Ray won three in 1999. Both drivers went on to win the championship in their respective record setting years.

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Darrell Soppe, regarded as one of the best engineers in Indy racing, has parted ways with Team Menard. Maurizio Nardon, a Dallara engineer, will replace Soppe at Team Menard this weekend.

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Tri Star Motorsports has withdrawn from this event, leaving Jeret Schroeder without a ride.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Johnny Herbert , Buzz Calkins , Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Kenny Brack , Sam Hornis