IRL: Rookie Rice fastest at Michigan

BROOKLYN, MICH (July 26, 2002) - All three Cheever Racing drivers sat atop the day's speed charts after two practice sessions for Sunday's Michigan Indy 400. Cheever's newest protégé Buddy Rice was the fastest of the trio after touring the...

BROOKLYN, MICH (July 26, 2002) - All three Cheever Racing drivers sat atop the day's speed charts after two practice sessions for Sunday's Michigan Indy 400. Cheever's newest protégé Buddy Rice was the fastest of the trio after touring the 2-mile high-banked Irish Hills track at an average speed of 221.833 mph.

Tomas Scheckter, who has been moved to a temporary Cheever Racing crew for Sunday's race, was second fastest with a lap at 221.292 mph, Both Scheckter and Rice turned their best lap in the second session.

Although Scheckter has voiced some concern over his new crew, current Cheever Racing engineer Paul Burgess and veteran Indy Racing team owner Greg Beck lead the team. Burgess has an extensive engineering background, working with Tyrrell, Lotus and Brabham in Formula One. Burgess worked at Brabham when Nelson Piquet won the World Drivers Championship in '81 and '83.

"I met them today," said Scheckter when asked about his crew. "They did a good job on the car."

Practice went smoothly for Scheckter and his new crew but the race could be another story. "We have to get our pit stops right. I think that is where you're going to see people gain in the race, because it's fairly easy to driver on full tanks and on low tanks, you're going to see people gain in the pits.

"I don't think there are going to be a lot of yellow flags, and the people who are going to win the race are the best through traffic and the best in the pits."

After practice, Scheckter was seen in the garage area presiding over a meeting with the new members of his crew.

Red Bull Cheever Racing owner Eddie Cheever, fastest in the first session at 221.233 mph, ended the day third overall. In the afternoon session, Cheever's best was 220.658 mph.

After a long and historic career, Cheever, 44, could be contemplating handing the reigns of his 650 HP thoroughbred to a younger driver.

"Both Tomas and Buddy did a great job today," said Cheever. "They beat the old man again, so I think the future of our team is in very good hands."

Cheever's team has experienced a dismal season involving several wrecks, two between teammates. "We've had a very difficult year," admitted Cheever, "We will continue to make whatever changes we think necessary to try to right the ship. We have the right equipment, we have the right drivers, we have the right mechanics. We just have to find some way to get everything working properly."

Mo Nunn Racing has everything working properly with Felipe Giaffone setting the fourth fastest lap of the day in his Hollywood car. Giaffone said he was working on race setups and enjoyed a tow during his best lap. "We had a lot of fuel in the car, and I was trying to run in the draft," said Giaffone.

"We're not going to be fast in qualifying, but we should be alright for the race."

Although both Marlboro Team Penske drivers reported working on race day setups, Castroneves, fifth fastest on the day, was nearly two-tenths of a second faster than his teammate Gil de Ferran.

"Unfortunately, we don't always start with a great car," said de Ferran. "Basically, what I look for is to make the car easy to drive, because typically when the car is easy to drive it is easier to get more speed out of it in the race. We're making progress, and hopefully we'll be in good shape for Sunday."

Sarah Fisher was sixth fastest on the day followed by Alex Barron who won the Indy race six days ago in Nashville. Tony Renna, Sam Hornish and Buddy Lazier rounded out the top-ten.

Notes from the Michigan Indy 400 at the Michigan International Speedway:

A.J Foyt IV was fastest during practice for Sunday morning's Infiniti Pro Series race. Current series points leader Cory Witherhill was second followed by Aaron Fike and actor turned racer Jason Priestley. All four drivers turned laps at 180 mph around the two-mile superspeedway. Arie Luyendyk Jr. rounded out the top five at 179.646 mph.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Sarah Fisher , Felipe Giaffone , Eddie Cheever , Buddy Lazier , Gil de Ferran , Alex Barron , Nelson Piquet , Buddy Rice , Tony Renna , Aaron Fike , Jason Priestley , Mo Nunn , Sam Hornis , Arie Luyendyk Jr.
Teams Team Penske