IRL: Notebook 2002-07-11

Testing, testing: IRL drivers stay busy at Nashville, Michigan, Chicagoland INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, July 11, 2002 -- Greg Ray won the MBNA Pole for the inaugural Indy Racing League event at Nashville Superspeedway last July at 199.922 mph, but...

Testing, testing: IRL drivers stay busy at Nashville, Michigan, Chicagoland

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, July 11, 2002 -- Greg Ray won the MBNA Pole for the inaugural Indy Racing League event at Nashville Superspeedway last July at 199.922 mph, but Bridgestone/Firestone Motorsports Executive Director Al Speyer predicted July 10 that a 200-mph lap is more than likely during the Firestone Indy 200 on July 20 at Nashville.

Just hours later, rookie Tomas Scheckter made Speyer look like a high-horsepower prophet.

Scheckter turned a top lap of 201.6 mph during evening IRL testing on the 1.33-mile concrete oval. Scheckter completed 125 laps in the No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, working on qualifying and race setups. Scheckter produced consistent laps at 200 mph with full tanks.

"It was good," Scheckter said. "I enjoyed running at Nashville. I am happy we had a chance to test at Nashville because the concrete surface is different. It has less grip and a few bumps.

"During our test, we were able to make several improvements on the Red Bull Infiniti. I am happy with what we have for the race next week. I hope it will be similar to Kansas, with the only difference being everything stays together for the last nine laps."

Scheckter crashed while leading on Lap 191 during the Ameristar Casino Indy 200 on July 7 at Kansas Speedway.

MBNA Pole Qualifying for the Firestone Indy 200 takes place July 19, with the race July 20. The race will be televised live by ESPN2, starting at 8:30 p.m. (EDT).

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Dismore busy, fast at Michigan test: Mark Dismore turned 160 laps July 10 during the first day of a two-day test with Team Menard at Michigan International Speedway, recording top lap of approximately 220 mph in the No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville/Pittsburgh Paints Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

Dismore and Team Menard tested in preparation for the inaugural Michigan Indy 400 on July 28 at the 2-mile oval.

"Everything went great," Team Menard General Manager Butch Meyer said. "We were right at 220 mph. We were in testing mode all day, and I'm not saying that 220 is what we're going to run (during the race). We do have a lot of work to do."

Team Menard will be satisfied with a lap of 223 or 224 mph before the end of the test, Meyer said.

"I think that's what we need to run here to be competitive," Meyer said.

Dismore competed at MIS in True Value International Race of Champions events in 2000 and 2001 and a Super Vee race in 1983.

"The track is nice, the surface is smooth, and there are several lines of racing," Dismore said. "It (the racing) won't be any different with us. It is a tough place, and it's a tough place to get the car right. We still don't have it right, but we'll keep working on it."

Despite his experience at MIS, Dismore thinks little of it will translate to his Indy Racing car. The Super Vee race was too long ago, and IROC stock cars and IRL cars have few similarities.

"They're just so different, like night and day," Dismore said. "Perhaps the only similarity is the lines here that you can run, but the stock cars don't teach you anything about the IRL cars and vice versa."

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IRL drivers take stock at IROC test: Indy Racing League standouts Sam Hornish Jr., Helio Castroneves and Buddy Lazier each prepared for the third round of the 2002 True Value International Race of Champions race July 13 at Chicagoland Speedway by testing this week at the 1.5-mile track.

Castroneves and Lazier tested July 9, while Hornish turned laps July 10 in preparation for the next round of racing's "all-star game" among 12 top drivers from different series in identically prepared stock cars.

It was Castroneves' first trip to Chicagoland, which also plays host to the Delphi Indy 300 IRL race Sept. 8.

"This experience here for me today was amazing," Castroneves said. "I feel like every time I do this (True Value IROC) I make big improvements. This is the first time for me at Chicagoland, and I am really happy with this facility, especially with me coming from Kansas, which is a beautiful track, as well, but I really like the shape of this circuit.

"I ran three different cars, and my lap times were the same in all three, and that's what impressed because in each car I could go high, I could go low, and I could pass people."

Lazier also found the comfort zone quickly.

"In the past, at the beginning of an IROC weekend, I'm usually somewhat uncomfortable with the way the car rolls in the corners, and I need to relearn that feel," Lazier said. "But for whatever reason, I'm not feeling that at all. The car really feels very comfortable.

"I ran over 80 laps. Me and the car were faster at the end of those 80 laps than we were at the beginning of the run."

Hornish wasted no time getting up to speed Wednesday.

"Within four laps, he was up to speed and passing us," said Jim Sauter, veteran True Value IROC test driver. "I don't know how you would stop this kid."

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Firestone CEO to serve as grand marshal: John Lampe, Bridgestone/Firestone Americas Holding, Inc. president, chairman and CEO, will serve as grand marshal of the Firestone Indy 200 Indy Racing League event July 20 at Nashville Superspeedway.

Bridgestone/Firestone employs approximately 4,200 people in Tennessee at manufacturing plants in Warren County, LaVergne, Dyersburg and Clarksville, corporate offices in Nashville and dozens of sales outlets in the region.

"To serve as grand marshal of an Indy Racing League event bearing the Firestone name is a tremendous honor I share with all our employees," Lampe said. "We know racing fans are going to see a great competition here in our backyard, and we're proud that every car in both the IRL and the new Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series events will compete on Firestone tires.

"More than 2,000 of our associates and family members will be at the race, cheering on their favorite drivers on Firestone tires."

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Hemelgarn to sponsor USAC race: 2000 Indy Racing League champion Hemelgarn Racing will sponsor the USAC Stoops Freightliner Sprint Car Series race July 12 at Toledo Speedway in Toledo, Ohio, with the winner of the feature earning a test in the team's IRL car.

This is the third consecutive year that Hemelgarn -- owned by Toledo businessman Ron Hemelgarn -- has sponsored the event.

"It's exciting to see open-wheel racing back at Toledo Speedway," Hemelgarn said. "Some of the greatest Indy-car racing stars got their starts at Midwest tracks like Toledo. Drivers like Tom Sneva, Pancho Carter, Gary Bettenhausen -- and the list goes on -- were Toledo feature winners. And once again, many of the drivers competing Friday night have their sights set on being an Indy-car driver in the future."

Among the drivers scheduled to compete on the half-mile, high-banked asphalt oval are Aaron Fike, who drives the No. 91 Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone in the new Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series. Fellow Infiniti Pro Series competitor Ed Carpenter also is entered to race. Other top drivers in the race include J.J. Yeley, Brian Tyler, Dave Steele, Dave Darland, Eric Gordon and Jay Drake.

"The USAC sprint cars' successful return to Toledo is because of Ron Hemelgarn," said Scott Schultz, Toledo Speedway general manager. "Ron has always said it's nice to come home, and it's great to be able to give something back to the grassroots racers, the weekly race teams and drivers."

Hemelgarn also will help to promote the IRL and Infiniti Pro Series debut at Michigan International Speedway on July 28. Hemelgarn, in conjunction with MIS, will offer to all fans in attendance a 25-percent discount on tickets to the Michigan Indy 400. Fans simply need to show their ticket stub to receive the discount.

A Hemelgarn Racing Indy Racing car also will be on display at Toledo, and Fike and Carpenter will stage a demonstration run of Infiniti Pro Series cars.

Gates open at 4:30 p.m. (EDT), with time trials at 6 p.m. and the feature at 7:30 p.m.

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Hot laps: Reigning Formula One World Champion Michael Schumacher won the ESPY award for Best Driver of 2001 during The ESPY Awards on July 10 in Los Angeles. Schumacher was honored among a list of candidates that included defending Indy Racing League champion Sam Hornish Jr., two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and IRL points leader Helio Castroneves, IRL standout Gil de Ferran, NASCAR stars Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick, and NHRA star John Force … Indy Racing standout Robbie Buhl will visit young patients July 18 at the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville, Tenn., as part of his work as national spokesperson for Racing For Kids. Buhl will drive in the Firestone Indy 200 on July 20 at Nashville Superspeedway.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Tomas Scheckter , Michael Schumacher , John Force , Kevin Harvick , Greg Ray , Robbie Buhl , Buddy Lazier , Mark Dismore , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Tom Sneva , Jim Sauter , Dave Darland , J.J. Yeley , Dave Steele , Brian Tyler , Aaron Fike , Jay Drake , Eric Gordon , Pancho Carter , Sam Hornish Jr. , Ed Carpenter