IRL: Ray fastest Saturday; Gregoire stays on top overall

RAY GAINS SPEED; GREGOIRE STAYS ON TOP AT TEST IN THE WEST Teams log 2,865 trouble-free miles in two-day test PHOENIX, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2001 - Greg Ray found speed on the Phoenix International Raceway 1-mile oval late in the afternoon to top...

RAY GAINS SPEED; GREGOIRE STAYS ON TOP AT TEST IN THE WEST
Teams log 2,865 trouble-free miles in two-day test

PHOENIX, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2001 - Greg Ray found speed on the Phoenix International Raceway 1-mile oval late in the afternoon to top the performance chart Saturday, but Stephan Gregoire ended the Indy Racing Northern Light Series Test In The West with the fastest overall lap and speed. Fourteen Indy Racing drivers turned 1,520 laps during Saturday’s practice. Overall, the teams produced 2,865 miles in the two days of on-track activity. There were no accidents. Ray ran 67 laps Saturday but produced the fastest lap of the day on his last run. His lap of 20.582, 174.906 mph bested Sam Hornish Jr.’s lap of 20.596, 174.596. “We have new guys on the team this year,” said Ray. “This is my first time with Darrell Soppe (engineer). We have new cars and a new aero package. We’re really just feeling our way around. “I wasn’t happy at all yesterday. It wasn’t making sense. This morning was better. We just kept massaging it to the point where I was happy with the balance and the feel.” Just as in 2000, Dick Simon Racing was consistently fast in the Test in the West. Stephan Gregoire recorded the fastest lap of the entire weekend early in Friday’s practice session. His lap of 20.361, 176.808 would have earned him the MBNA Pole for the 2000 Northern Light Series race, which Ray captured at 176.566. “This was the first test for Dick Simon Racing with the new car (Dallara), and we did a good job,” said Gregoire. “We went pretty fast. It was better than we expected. I think we could’ve gone faster yesterday, for sure, if we had better gears. We were on the rev limiter too much on the front straightaway.” More than 2,000 fans attended the Test in the West on Saturday with special events planned by the PIR staff. The Phoenix-area Red Cross played host to many fans, and PIR entertained season-ticket holders. More than 1,200 fans lined the front straightaway for an autograph session with all the Indy Racing drivers participating in the test. “This 2001 Test in the West has been extremely successful for many reasons,” said Brian Barnhart, vice president of operations for Indy Racing League. “After almost 3,000 laps of testing, the top six cars today are within a tenth of a second, and the top 10 are only separated by four-tenths of a second. This speed chart demonstrates the competitive formula we’ve been developing in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series. “In addition, the amount of attention this event attracts continues to increase. The crowd for the autograph session was by far the biggest for a Test in the West. (PIR general manager) Robin Braig and his staff continue to make improvements to this historic speedway. From an operational standpoint, the two-day test went extremely smooth. We are all looking forward to coming back for the Pennzoil Copper World Indy 200 in March.” In his first full test with Panther Racing, Hornish was the most consistent driver all weekend. Hornish completed 360 laps over the two days and ended each day second on the speed chart. His best lap was Friday’s 20.390, 176.554, also better than Ray’s 2000 pole speed.

<pre> OVERALL SPEED CHART:

The best overall laps with time and speed for the two-day Test in the West:

Pos.    Driver                  Best Lap  Speed         Laps
1.      Stephan Gregoire        20.3611 176.808 mph     160
2.      Sam Hornish Jr.         20.3904 176.554 mph     360
3.      Greg Ray                20.5825 174.906 mph     149
4.      Helio Castroneves       20.6408 174.412 mph     277
5.      Buddy Lazier            20.6417 174.404 mph     240
6.      Sarah Fisher            20.6878 174.016 mph     282
7.      Felipe Giaffone         20.7224 173.725 mph     150
8.      Airton Dare             20.8962 172.280 mph     248
9.      Eddie Cheever           20.9015 172.236 mph     136
10.     Al Unser Jr.            20.9357 171.955 mph     253
11.     Stan Wattles            20.9718 171.659 mph     190
12.     Robbie Buhl             21.0445 171.066 mph     73
13.     Gil de Ferran           21.1666 170.079 mph     153
14.     Casey Mears             21.7260 165.700 mph     140

</pre> ***

SATURDAY QUOTEBOOK:

BUDDY LAZIER: “It was good. We learned a lot. I’m really happy with the test and the new update kit. The last time we were here, we ran the Riley and Scott, so this is the first time with the new Dallara chassis. It made it a pretty important test for us. There were a bunch of tiny changes (to update kit). It was enough that you needed to make adjustments and a little fine-tuning, but every year you have to make adjustments because the track changes, the motor changes and the chassis changes. If nothing changes, you would still have to do some fine-tuning. It was nice to see where the competitors were. Obviously, Sam was very competitive. It was pretty much the usual suspects. Gregoire looked very good. Penske looked good, but that wasn’t a surprise.”

EDDIE CHEEVER JR.: “These are my first laps I’ve done since the Texas race last year. That’s the longest I’ve been out of the car since I’ve been racing. We have the new update kit and last year’s engine. It’s too early to judge the chassis since I’ve only run 130 laps. We were going through our tires too quickly due to a bad balance.” (About Penske Racing): “I think if you had a rule where only five people could work on the car, they couldn’t have a car. They have so many people working on the car. They look like locusts covering the car. It’s impressive. I don’t know how they can afford their cleaning bill.”

AL UNSER JR.: (Did you accomplish your goals during the Test in the West?): “No, not really. It’s been a frustrating test. Everything we did to the car didn’t help it. We tired different things. Today was the day to make big changes, but all the big changes we made, it made the car worse. I’ve had to go back on all my setups.” (About the G Force chassis update kit): “I really can’t tell a difference in this year’s chassis from last year. Honestly, Dallara has helped their car a lot more than G Force has.”

GREG RAY: “We’re still having computer problems. It’s not really our technicians’ fault. It’s not Pi or Sigma’s fault. We have a new Microsoft program that’s not compatible to our system. We have new guys on the team this year. This is my first time with Darrell Soppe. We have new cars and a new aero package.” (About the Dallara chassis update kit): “It’s paying off for everybody else because it’s making them quicker. We made our Dallara go fast last year. We need to keep the edge as a team and continue to develop better race cars because we don’t have an edge there. We’re really just feeling our way around. I wasn’t happy at all yesterday. It wasn’t making sense. This morning was better. We just kept massaging it and massaging it to the point where I was happy with the balance and the feel. I’m happy with keeping that balance in race trim and qualifying trim. You have to know a good car and a bad car before you know what you want. And I’ve experienced both. I’m really excited. We have a great group of guys. Gary Neal is the new crew chief, and Darrell Soppe is the new engineer.”

SAM HORNISH JR.: “We worked on race trim all afternoon. We were getting good mileage out of our tires. That’s what we were going for. We have to conserve tires and go fast at the same time. We’re still looking for more speed. The car is very consistent where it’s at, but if we pick up more speed, then we’ ll be looking good for the race.” (About the Dallara chassis update kit): “They did a lot of work with it. They started with trying to get less drag with the car, but they got more downforce too.”

SARAH FISHER: “It was good to get back in the car. I’m very enthusiastic to learn differences in the car today. Every lap counts at Phoenix because it’s different than other tracks. It’s flat, and Turns 1 and 2 are different than (Turns) 3 and 4. The line in (Turns) 1 and 2 is important to the exit of the corner. The wall juts out and comes to abrupt end. It makes the corner shorter. But once you get use to it, its fine. I think the race will be better because we have a Dallara this year. I like the new Dallara a lot.”

STEPHAN GREGOIRE: “We were suppose to get back on the track at 4:15, but for some reason the car didn’t start. We think we broke the fuel pump. We didn’t have any fuel pressure. It was very sudden. Otherwise, this was the first test for Dick Simon Racing with the new car (Dallara), and we did a good job. We went pretty fast. It was better than we expected. I think we could’ ve gone faster yesterday, for sure, if we had better gears. We were on the rev limiter too much on the front straightaway. My goal is to win my first race. I try not to get too excited. This was a good sign. But the race is a different story.”

ROBBIE BUHL: “This is the first time we’ve been on the track since Texas. We had a good shakedown with both cars. We spent most of our time in race trim. Nothing was speed-oriented because we didn’t have enough time. I’m just happy to be back in the car. This is the longest I’ve been out of a car in a long time.”

-IRNLS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Greg Ray , Felipe Giaffone , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Casey Mears , Robbie Buhl , Buddy Lazier , Stephan Gregoire , Airton Daré , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Stan Wattles , Dick Simon , Brian Barnhart , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , HART