By David Reininger - Motorsport.com Richmond, Virginia (June 28, 2001) - When the green flag drops on the Sun Trust Indy Challenge at the .75-mile Richmond International Raceway this Saturday night, the drivers of the Indy Racing Northern Light...
By David Reininger - Motorsport.com
Richmond, Virginia (June 28, 2001) - When the green flag drops on the Sun Trust Indy Challenge at the .75-mile Richmond International Raceway this Saturday night, the drivers of the Indy Racing Northern Light Series are in for a wild rollercoaster ride. For the first time in the six-year history of the IRL, Indy cars will compete on a track less than one mile in distance.
"I just have no idea what to expect from that place," said Buddy Lazier, winner of the 1996 Indianapolis 500. "I don't see any way that it won't be absolutely wild."
The Sun Trust Indy Challenge takes the green flag at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday night. Qualifying is scheduled for Friday afternoon, where the Indy cars will surely shatter the track's five-year-old speed record set by Randy Tolsma. Tolsma, now competing on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck circuit, holds the current track record at 131.374 mph, set in a USAC Silver Bullet car in 1996.
Jeff Gordon holds the Winston Cup speed record, set two years ago, at 126.499 mph.
Several Indy drivers have tested at Richmond, touring the .75-mile track in 16 seconds, averaging nearly 165 mph.
The high speeds and the tight confines of the Richmond bullring will make for an exciting race for the fans, and the drivers. "A lot of the racetracks that we go to, when you toss a car, and actually throw it sideways, you tend to go slower," said Lazier. "Here at this racetrack, a little bit of that sideways, throwing the car, actually pays dividends and you go faster.
"You may see a lot of sideways race cars and just a whole different philosophy as to what it takes to go fast."
Billy Boat is a veteran of the short tracks who has driven in sprint and midget races all across the country. "My years on tight short tracks similar to Richmond International Raceway should quickly come into play in general, but specifically due to the shape of the track and the tight corners," said Boat. "I've run so many laps under these conditions during my career that it's almost instinctive for me as opposed to most other drivers having much more of a learning curve."
The three-day festival of open wheel racing kicks off with the NASCAR Featherlite Modifieds. The modifieds, always a crowd favorite at Richmond, race on Friday night in the Richmond Times Dispatch 150. Saturday's preliminary event features the USAC Silver Bullet Series in the Dominic's of New York 100, which takes the green flag at 5:00 p.m. EDT.
An autograph session featuring all of the Indy Racing Northern Light Series drivers will be held behind the Commonwealth grandstand at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, June 29.
David Lowery and Johnny Hickman of the popular rock band Cracker will perform the national anthem before the start of the Suntrust Indy Challenge on Saturday evening.
Access to the track on Thursday is free to the public. General admission tickets for Friday's modified race are $20.00. Tickets for Saturday's Indy car race are $35.00 for reserved seats and $30.00 for general admission. Children 12 and under are free when accompanied by an adult on Friday and Saturday. Discount coupons are available on the Richmond Times Dispatch website located at www.timesdispatch.com. Special ticket packages for Saturday's race are available at Richmond area Kroger stores.