IRL: Panther Racing Richmond preview

RICHMOND, Va., Monday, June 26, 2000 -- John Barnes will put an Indy Racing car on Richmond (Va.) International Raceway on Tuesday for the first time, a test that he considers a prelude to "a lot of two-by-two racing" when the high-speed,...

RICHMOND, Va., Monday, June 26, 2000 -- John Barnes will put an Indy Racing car on Richmond (Va.) International Raceway on Tuesday for the first time, a test that he considers a prelude to "a lot of two-by-two racing" when the high-speed, open-wheel cars race for the first time at the facility on June 30, 2001. Barnes is co-owner and team manager of Pennzoil Panther Racing. The team will conduct the initial Indy Racing Northern Light Series test on June 27 at RIR, two weeks after Indy Racing League founder Tony George announced that the .75-mile track will be one of six new venues included in the 2001 schedule. Scott Goodyear, fourth in the Northern Light Cup point standings, will be at the wheel of the Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone car that will be used to check out the track. Goodyear, 40, is a native of Toronto who twice has finished second in the Indianapolis 500. Barnes said the ¾-mile, D-shaped oval should be accommodating for the sleek Indy Racing cars that race faster than 220 mph at Indianapolis. "The corners are a lot like Colorado Springs (1-mile Pikes Peak International Raceway), three and four," said Barnes, who shares ownership of the team with NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh and Indianapolis car dealer Gary Pedigo. "The track is smooth. It's wide. It's a big three-quarters. "We'll be the first, but I can't see it to be all that big of a deal. They ran the (USAC) Silver Crown cars there, and they put on a tremendous show." The object of the test is to learn how the cars adapt to the track and what aerodynamic loads they will encounter. The information will then be turned over to Brian Barnhart, Indy Racing League director of racing operations, and it will be distributed to other teams for a baseline when a future full testing session is conducted for all teams before the inaugural race. Barnes said racing on the longtime NASCAR track close to Washington, D.C., is an important step forward for the Indy Racing Northern Light Series. "A lot of people support racing there," he said. Richmond will be the shortest track that Indy Racing cars have raced on in modern history. The previous shortest oval to play host to a race was the .826-mile Sanair Super Speedway oval in St. Pie, Quebec, site of CART events in 1984-86.

Sanair is 4,361.28 feet long, Richmond 3,960. RIR's backstretch is 860 feet long. The corners are banked 14 degrees, with the front straight banked 6 degrees and back straight nearly flat at 2 degrees. The track is 60 feet wide, with a 10-foot apron. Richmond's first race - a stock-car event -- was held in 1953. Buck Baker won the pole, and Lee Petty came from 42nd starting position to win the race.

On May 13, 1999, Jeff Gordon set the stock car one-lap qualifying record at RIR of 21.344 seconds and 126.499 mph. Randy Tolsma, now driving in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, set the USAC Coors Light Silver Bullet Series one-lap record of 20.552, 131.374 on June 15, 1996 - the all-time track record.

The Pennzoil Panther test Tuesday at RIR will give a good idea of the speeds that Indy Racing cars will reach at RIR. For comparison, Greg Ray's MBNA Pole speed of 176.566 in March at the 1-mile Phoenix International Raceway was 45 mph faster than the stock-car record of 131.579 set by Bobby Hamilton in 1996. At the 1-mile Pikes Peak oval, Ray turned a track-record pole lap of 179.874 earlier this month. The stock-car track record is 134.139 set by Matt Kenseth in a NASCAR Busch Series car in June 1998.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Bobby Hamilton , Matt Kenseth , Greg Ray , Scott Goodyear , Randy Tolsma , Tony George , John Barnes , Brian Barnhart , Lee Petty
Teams Panther Racing