IRL: Surprises could be sprung at Homestead-Miami Speedway

MIAMI, Friday, March 23, 2001 - There were few mysteries after the season-opening Pennzoil Copper World Indy 200 on March 18 at Phoenix. It was obvious that Sam Hornish Jr. immediately had emerged as a contender for the Northern...

MIAMI, Friday, March 23, 2001 - There were few mysteries after the season-opening Pennzoil Copper World Indy 200 on March 18 at Phoenix. It was obvious that Sam Hornish Jr. immediately had emerged as a contender for the Northern Light Cup after his dominating victory in the Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, leading 140 of 200 laps. It also was pretty clear that defending Northern Light Cup champion Buddy Lazier didn't forget his successful formula from 2000, registering a solid third-place finish in the Tae-Bo/Coors Light/Delta Faucet/Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Miami-area resident Eliseo Salazar, who finished fourth in the standings last year, also showed no signs of weakness with a strong second-place run in the Harrah's A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Other consistent contenders for the championship in past seasons, such as Scott Sharp, Billy Boat and Jeff Ward, also finished in the top 10 at Phoenix. But don't mistake any of the results of the opener as a trend because the series is heading to unknown territory. The Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami presented by 123.com Americatel is one of six new races in the 13-event Indy Racing Northern Light Series in 2001. While a handful of teams have tested at Homestead-Miami Speedway during the offseason, this track is a mystery to many teams and drivers. That could shake up the order of power in the series considerably and possibly produce a surprise winner. Homestead-Miami is a 1.5-mile oval with long straightaways and turns containing only 6 degrees of banking. It's the flattest track in the series. It's also very fast, as both Lazier and Sharp turned a 200-mph lap during preseason testing. The track should require a perfect balance of horsepower for the straightaways and handling to negotiate the nearly flat turns. It sounds a lot like the most fabled track in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series - the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which features long straights and turns banked at 9 degrees, 12 minutes. So don't be surprised if teams that have traditionally turned fast speeds at Indianapolis also fare well in the Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami. 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Lazier, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr., 1992 and 1994 Indianapolis winner Al Unser Jr., 2000 Indy pole winner Greg Ray, Ward, Salazar and Miami resident Airton Dare are drivers who have shown plenty of speed recently at Indy. Watch for them at Miami. But there are a few drivers who also enter this event with a possible advantage. Galles Racing teammates Unser, Casey Mears and Didier Andre each have raced before at Homestead-Miami. Unser drove there while competing in CART, and Mears and Andre both made Indy Lights starts on the oval. There couldn't be a better spot for the Galles team to rebound than Homestead-Miami after its rough start at Phoenix. Mears finished 20th in the Galles Racing Sportsline.com G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone to lead the team. Unser followed in 23rd in the Galles Racing Starz Superpak G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone, with Andre 27th in the Galles Racing G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone. 2000 Indy Racing Rookie of the Year Dare and 2001 rookie Felipe Giaffone also have Indy Lights racing experience at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Giaffone was the top rookie in the season opener at Phoenix, finishing sixth in the Hollywood G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Practice for the 200-lap, 300-mile race starts at 10:45 a.m. (EDT) April 6. MBNA Pole Qualifying takes place at noon April 7, with the race taking the green flag at 2 p.m. April 8, live on ABC.

INFINITI GRAND PRIX OF MIAMI NOTEBOOK
Schedule: The Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami presented by 123.com Americatel starts at 2 p.m. (EDT) April 8. MBNA Pole Qualifying starts at noon April 7. Practice sessions start at 10:45 a.m. and 2 p.m. April 6, and 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. April 7. A free autograph session with all Indy Racing drivers is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. April 7 at the track. On the air: The Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami presented by 123.com Americatel will be televised live on ABC at 2 p.m. (EDT) April 8. "Indy Racing 2Day" will be televised live at 10:30 a.m. April 8 on ESPN2. ESPN2 will televise pole qualifying at 6:30 p.m. (EDT) April 7. The IMS Radio Network will broadcast a 30-minute prerace show at 1:30 p.m. (EDT) April 8, followed by the live race broadcast at 2 p.m. The IMS Radio Network will broadcast a qualifying show at 4:30 p.m. (EDT) April 7. The Miami-area affiliate is WINZ-AM 940. WFFG-AM 1300 in Marathon, Fla., also is a race affiliate. The IMS Radio Network race broadcast also will be available live on the Internet at www.indyracing.com as part of a partnership between Indy Racing Online and Yahoo!/broadcast.com, the world's leading Web broadcast site. Tickets: Tickets for the Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami presented by 123.com Americatel are available by calling (305) 230-RACE, at Ticketmaster Ticket Centers or online at www.homesteadmiamispeedway.com.

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Felipe Giaffone , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Casey Mears , Eliseo Salazar , Jeff Ward , Didier André , Scott Sharp , Billy Boat , Airton Daré , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing