IRL: Speed to take center stage at Vegas Indy 300

LAS VEGAS, Monday, April 10, 2000 - The Vegas Indy 300 should be the first indication of which teams hold the power in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series in 2000. The 312-mile race on April 22 takes place on the 1.5-mile ...

LAS VEGAS, Monday, April 10, 2000 - The Vegas Indy 300 should be the first indication of which teams hold the power in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series in 2000. The 312-mile race on April 22 takes place on the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway, one of the fastest tracks in the series. It’s the first Indy Racing event on a superspeedway larger than 1 mile this season, as the first two races of the year were contested on tight 1-mile ovals. The race starts at 12:30 p.m. (PDT) and will be televised live on ABC Sports. Speeds will climb past 200 mph in MBNA Pole qualifying and racing for the first time this season, as the team’s emphasis will shift from the deft-handling chassis needed to succeed on 1-mile tracks to the sheer horsepower necessary on a 1.5-mile oval. A number of teams already showed superb speed during the “Test in the West” segment in late February at Las Vegas, giving them favorite status for the race. 1999 Indy Racing champion Greg Ray was the fastest during testing at 205.558 mph in his Conseco-Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone and must be a considered a favorite to win the MBNA Pole and race. Ray also will have a bit of redemption on his mind at Las Vegas. He has suffered through a slow start so far this season, finishing 17th and 19th, respectively, in the first two races. This also was a rough event for him last year, as he finished 21st due to engine problems, ending a two-race winning streak. The Kelley Racing duo of Mark Dismore and Scott Sharp also figure to be fast at Vegas. Dismore and Sharp were the second- and third-fastest drivers during testing in February. Dismore posted a fast lap of 205.081 mph in the On Star-GM Buy Power Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, and Sharp was just behind at 205.035 in the Delphi Automotive Systems-MCI WorldCom Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Buddy Lazier took the Indy Racing Northern Light Series points lead with his last-to-first victory in March at Phoenix, but he probably won’t face as tough a climb at Las Vegas, if testing is any indication. 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Lazier was fifth fastest during the Vegas portion of the “Test in the West” with a fast lap of 203.551 in the Delta Faucet/Coors Light/Tae-Bo/Hemelgarn Racing Riley & Scott/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Another driver to watch is Robby McGehee. He was eighth fastest during the “Test in the West” at 202.596 in the Mall.com-Energizer Advanced Formula G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone, but his Treadway Racing team has fielded the winning car at this event the last two years. Arie Luyendyk won in 1997 while Sam Schmidt won from the pole last September in a Treadway car. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. wasn’t among the speed leaders during the “Test in the West,” but he figures to be a contender for victory in his debut at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Unser skipped the Indianapolis 500 Open Test April 9-11 to participate in a private test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, giving him valuable feedback leading into this race. Unser also proved last month at Phoenix that he doesn’t need to show plenty of speed during qualifying to have a chance at victory. He started 20th in the Galles ECR Racing Tickets.com Starz Encore Superpak G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone but climbed through the field to lead 22 laps before finishing ninth. Eliseo Salazar also is another solid contender for victory. Salazar won this event in 1997 with Team Scandia, and this season he is driving for legendary four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt. Salazar has finished fifth and fourth, respectively, in the first two races of the season to climb to fifth in the series point standings. First-time winners have been common at Las Vegas, as Richie Hearn (1996), Salazar (1997) and Schmidt (1999) each earned their first Indy Racing victories at this event. That trend could continue this year. Among the veteran contenders who could earn their first victories at Vegas are McGehee, Stephan Gregoire, Donnie Beechler and Las Vegas resident Davey Hamilton. Gregoire was fourth fastest during the “Test in the West” segment at Vegas at 204.856 in the Mexmil-Tokheim-Viking Air Tools-Dick Simon Racing G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Beechler is coming off a career-best third-place finish at Phoenix and is the surprise of the season so far at fourth place in the point standings in the Cahill Racing/Race Car Café-Las Vegas Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Hamilton is the only driver to start in all 36 Indy Racing League events since 1996. He will drive the TeamXtreme-Lycos G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone at this event, hoping to improve on his best Vegas finish of seventh in 1997. Las Vegas Motor Speedway, like Indianapolis Motor Speedway, is a fast track with relatively flat banking in the turns. So there are shared characteristics between the setups at Vegas and Indy, and drivers who are fast at Vegas should be counted on to be fast during May at Indianapolis.

VEGAS INDY 300 NOTEBOOK

Schedule: The Vegas Indy 300 starts at 12:30 p.m. (PDT) April 22. MBNA Pole Qualifying starts at 1 p.m. April 21. Practice sessions start at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. April 20, and 9 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. April 21. On the air: The Vegas Indy 300 will be televised live on ABC at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) April 22. “Indy Racing 2Day” will be televised live at 3 p.m. April 22 on ESPN2. ESPN2 will televise MBNA Pole qualifying at 5:30 p.m. (EDT) April 21. The Indy Racing Radio Network will broadcast a 30-minute prerace show at 3 p.m. (EDT) April 22, followed by the live race broadcast at 3:30 p.m. The IRRN race broadcast also will be available live on the Internet at www.indyracingleague.com as part of a partnership between Indy Racing Online and Yahoo!/broadcast.com, the world’s leading Web broadcast site. Concert: Popular modern rock group Smash Mouth will play a live concert at Las Vegas Motor Speedway shortly after the finish of the Vegas Indy 300. The concert is included as part of admission on Race Day. The band is scheduled to take the stage at approximately 3:30 p.m. (PDT). Tickets: Tickets for the Vegas Indy 300 are available by calling (800) 644-4444 or (702) 644-4443. Tickets also are available online at www.tickets.com .

-IRLNS/IMS-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby McGehee , Greg Ray , Al Unser Jr. , Eliseo Salazar , Buddy Lazier , Stephan Gregoire , Davey Hamilton , Scott Sharp , Mark Dismore , Donnie Beechler , Richie Hearn , Sam Schmidt , Dick Simon , A.J. Foyt