IRL: Teams prepare for Dover Open Test

PEP BOYS IRL TEAMS EAGER FOR INFORMATION DURING DOVER OPEN TEST DOVER, Del., June 12, 1998 - The last time an Indy-style car raced at Dover Downs International Speedway, Richard Nixon was president and The Beatles sat firmly above the...

PEP BOYS IRL TEAMS EAGER FOR INFORMATION DURING DOVER OPEN TEST

DOVER, Del., June 12, 1998 - The last time an Indy-style car raced at Dover Downs International Speedway, Richard Nixon was president and The Beatles sat firmly above the pop music world.

So as the Pep Boys Indy Racing League prepares to make its Dover debut next month in the Mid-Atlantic 400K, most teams are scrambling for secrets of speed as they get ready to race on the 1-mile, high-banked concrete oval known as "The Monster Mile." It will be the first Indy-style race on the track since August 1969.

This race represents a trip into the unknown for Pep Boys IRL teams. There are no notebooks or computer disks filled with past setup data. There are no pearls of wisdom to be shared from past races on the track, as the Offy-powered machines that competed in the USAC race at Dover in 1969 have long been replaced by sleeker, more powerful cars.

Teams have many questions. The answers will start to flow June 15-16 during the Pep Boys IRL Open Test at Dover Downs.

At least 10 Pep Boys IRL drivers will turn test laps for two days at Dover, trying to get a feel for the challenging track before the inaugural Mid-Atlantic 400K on July 19. Among the drivers testing will be two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Arie Luyendyk, defending Pep Boys IRL champion Tony Stewart, Robbie Buhl, Scott Goodyear and Jeff Ward.

Possibly the biggest challenge facing drivers could be adapting to the concrete surface of "The Monster Mile." Pep Boys IRL cars have never raced on a concrete track, which has different characteristics than the asphalt used to pave most speedways. So team chief mechanics and tire engineers from Goodyear and Firestone will be busy trying to devise fast qualifying and race setups.

And it's almost certain that testing and race speeds will be fast at Dover.

Rusty Wallace set the track record of 155.898 mph in a NASCAR Winston Cup stock car last month during qualifying for the MBNA Platinum 400. That speed broke the previous record of 155.259 set by three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser in his turbo Offy-powered Eagle in 1969.

Pep Boys IRL cars are nearly a ton lighter, more aerodynamic and just as powerful as a NASCAR Winston Cup car, so unofficial test speeds could be nearly 30 mph faster than Wallace's track record.

The steep, 24-degree banking in the turns at Dover Downs also will push speeds upward. That's the same degree of banking as the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway, where earlier this month Tony Stewart turned the fastest lap ever by a new-formula Pep Boys IRL car.

The lineup: Pep Boys IRL drivers scheduled to participate in the Dover Open Test: Tony Stewart, Robbie Buhl, Arie Luyendyk, Scott Goodyear, Buzz Calkins, Sam Schmidt, Stan Wattles, John Paul Jr., Marco Greco and Jeff Ward. ***

For the fans: An autograph session with Pep Boys IRL drivers is scheduled for 11:45 a.m. June 16 on the track at Dover Downs International Speedway. ***

Mid-Atlantic 400K schedule: The inaugural Mid-Atlantic 400K starts at noon July 19. Pep Boys IRL drivers will race 250 laps on the 1-mile "Monster Mile."

PPG Pole qualifying starts at noon July 18. Practice sessions are scheduled for 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. July 17, and 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. July 18. ***

Mid-Atlantic 400K tickets: Tickets for the Mid-Atlantic 400K are available by calling Dover Downs International Speedway at (800) 441-7223 or (302) 734-7223.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Buzz Calkins , Robbie Buhl , Jeff Ward , Arie Luyendyk , Scott Goodyear , Sam Schmidt , Bobby Unser , Stan Wattles , John Paul