IRL: Notebook 2002-07-18

Fisher replaces McGehee in SunTrust contest; de Ferran bracing for the night. INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, July 18, 2002 -- Sarah Fisher will replace Robby McGehee in the SunTrust Indy Challenge contest during the Firestone Indy 200 on July 20 at ...

Fisher replaces McGehee in SunTrust contest; de Ferran bracing for the night.

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, July 18, 2002 -- Sarah Fisher will replace Robby McGehee in the SunTrust Indy Challenge contest during the Firestone Indy 200 on July 20 at Nashville Superspeedway, as McGehee and Beck Motorsports have withdrawn from the event.

Fisher now will join Robbie Buhl, Eddie Cheever Jr. and Airton Daré as Indy Racing drivers participating in the contest, and all four are eligible to win $50,000 for themselves and a lucky fan if they're up to the challenge.

The promotion, conducted by SunTrust Bank, matches four contest winners with an Indy Racing driver during the Firestone Indy 200. Four winners have been selected from entries received at SunTrust Bank branches through July 15, and each winner will be matched with one of the four IRL drivers. Contest winners will be announced July 19.

If one of the four drivers wins at Nashville, both the driver and contestant matched with him will earn $50,000. If none of the four drivers wins, the contestant matched with the best finisher among the four drivers will earn $1,000.

The lucky fans paired with one of the four drivers will receive a VIP Race Experience on race day, including a meeting with their driver, a garage tour, a gift pack and dinner at the track.

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Night vision: Indy Racing League championship contender Gil de Ferran is bracing for the final night race of the season, the Firestone Indy 200 on July 20 at Nashville Superspeedway.

de Ferran never raced at night before this season, the team's first in the IRL. de Ferran is second in the series standings in the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, eight points behind teammate Helio Castroneves.

"For me, the number-one challenge that I face during a night race is adjusting my vision to the dark conditions," de Ferran said. "While the track is illuminated, the look of the circuit is very different from that of a day race. There is nothing that can be done about it, you just have to get used to it and adjust visually to the nighttime conditions."

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Testing, testing: Indy Racing League teams have stayed busy testing in the last week, turning laps at Michigan International Speedway and Kentucky Speedway in anticipation of events at those tracks.

Mark Dismore and Team Menard finished a two-day test July 18 at Michigan, completing 620 miles on the 2-mile oval in the No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville/Pittsburgh Paints Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone in preparation for the Michigan Indy 400 on July 28.

"Everything went smoothly," team manager Butch Meyer said. "We ran some consistent laps for our race setup, so we'll do our homework and be back for the race."

Robbie Buhl and Jeff Ward tested July 17 at Kentucky Speedway to prepare for the Belterra Casino Indy 300 on Aug. 11.

Ward and Buhl each turned top laps of approximately 221.3 mph on the 1.5-mile oval in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone and No. 24 Team Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone, respectively. That's more than 2 mph faster than the track record of 219.191 set by Scott Goodyear in 2000.

"Basically, we're working on qualifying and race stuff," Ward said. "We don't have the engine that we'll be running here; this is pre-Indy stuff which is down quite a bit of horsepower. We'll have a couple miles an hour left when we come back.

"The car is comfortable, so we're just working on getting a good balance and all the numbers they want to read with shock settings and everything. When we come back, we won't waste a session being too low or too high."

Said Buhl: "Since Indy, we've really struggled with being around at the end of the races, so we're trying to get our rhythm back. The Infiniti guys have been giving us good power, but we haven't been around at the end, so we have to eliminate that as a variable. It's a matter of getting out here and doing miles, trying stuff, and getting our momentum back."

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New IRL chaplain: Bob Hills has assumed the role of chaplain for the IRL Ministries, replacing Mark Wingler, who resigned earlier this summer.

Wingler, who was the IRL chaplain since the league's inception in 1996, is now the vice president of operations for Adventure R.V.

Hills, a native of Meadville, Pa., had been the assistant chaplain for IRL Ministries since last year. His first event as chaplain was the Ameristar Casino Indy 200 on July 7 at Kansas Speedway.

"It is a tremendous opportunity," Hills said. "I appreciate having the privilege to serve the IRL in this capacity. I followed open-wheel racing for well over 10 years. When you have the love of racing and the love of Christ, it makes for a great combination.

"This is an opportunity to share the good news of Christ with those within the Indy Racing League as well as an opportunity to share Christ with fans and those outside the league."

An ordained minister, Hills has 20 years experience in counseling in private practices. Prior to that, he served as a minister in various capacities, including a youth minister.

He has a bachelor of arts degree in Christian ministries and a master of arts degree in counseling from Cincinnati Bible Seminary. He also has a master of science degree in clinical psychology from Cal State University.

Hills lives in Indianapolis with his wife, Joy. They have six children.

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Fike stays busy: Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series driver Aaron Fike won the 20-lap Badger Midget Series feature July 13 at Pecatonica Motor Speedway in Pecatonica, Ill.

It was one of nearly 100 races in which short-track standout Fike, 19, is scheduled to compete this season.

Highlighting that schedule are seven planned starts in the Infiniti Pro Series in the No. 91 Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone in the Infiniti Pro Series. Fike also races a full schedule of USAC short-track events.

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Hot laps: Dave Steele won the USAC Stoops Freightliner Sprint Car Series race July 12 at Toledo Speedway, an event sponsored by 2000 IRL championship team Hemelgarn Racing. Steele, who has made three IRL starts in 1998, earned a future private Indy Racing League test with Hemelgarn Racing for the victory --- Baldwin Pianos has signed as an associate sponsor of A.J. Foyt IV's No. 14 Harrah's/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone for the Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series race July 20 at Nashville Superspeedway. The deal marks the first ever venture into motorsports for Baldwin, which sells more pianos in the United States than any other manufacturer --- Indy Racing standout Robbie Buhl will visit young patients July 25 at the Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor, Tenn., as part of his work as national spokesperson for Racing For Kids. Buhl will drive in the Michigan Indy 400 on July 28 at Michigan International Speedway --- Russ Clendenen, the genial official of AAA and USAC Midwestern oval-track racing for more than 50 years, died July 15 at a nursing home in Dayton, Ohio. He was 94.

-IRL-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Eddie Cheever , Robbie Buhl , Jeff Ward , Airton Daré , Mark Dismore , Scott Goodyear , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , A.J. Foyt IV , Dave Steele , Aaron Fike , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing