IRL: Teams prepare for Phoenix with test sessions

AVONDALE, Ariz., Friday, March 7, 2003 -- Preparations for the Purex Dial Indy 200 IRL IndyCarTM Series event at Phoenix International Raceway kicked into high gear as several top teams conducted private tests March 6-7, with more teams expected...

AVONDALE, Ariz., Friday, March 7, 2003 -- Preparations for the Purex Dial Indy 200 IRL IndyCarTM Series event at Phoenix International Raceway kicked into high gear as several top teams conducted private tests March 6-7, with more teams expected to test March 9.

Teams are preparing for the Purex Dial Indy 200 on March 23 at the 1-mile desert oval, the next event on the IndyCar Series schedule.

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. tested his No. 31 Corteco Dallara/Toyota/Firestone on March 6, while his teammate, 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion Scott Sharp, tested his No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone on March 7.

"It was a good test," Unser said. "We did have to cut it short because of a few problems, but it was definitely worthwhile to come out here and test. I learned a lot about the Corteco car, and I think we've really helped our race car. We went just as fast as we did in the Test in the West, and I think we're still making improvements."

Unser, who hails from Albuquerque, N.M., and lives in Henderson, Nev., has finished second three times in Indy-style races at PIR.

"I'm really looking forward to the race in Phoenix," Unser said. "It's like a hometown event for me."

Jaques Lazier, who finished sixth in 2002 at PIR, turned 230 laps in his No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone on March 6.

"Testing at Phoenix went exceptionally well," Lazier said. "We found out what the car likes. We are trying to learn what to do and what not to do. We have a real solid base. It's the first time this year I've had a car that gave me confidence."

There were two accidents in the first two days of testing at Phoenix, both involving former winners at PIR. Two-time IRL IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr., who won in 2001, hit the outside retaining wall between Turns 1 and 2 on March 6 in his No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. Sharp, who won in 1998 at Phoenix, hit the outside retaining wall in Turn 1 on March 7.

Neither driver was hurt.

"We don't know what happened yet," Sharp said. "It was very early in the corner, and the rear of the car just abruptly snapped around. Of course, I'm really disappointed. The Delphi team has been working so hard, and after just coming out of Miami with a decent finish of fifth place, we really had good momentum starting this test.

"But I know this team will rebound, and I'm confident we'll be in good shape when we return to Phoenix at the end of the month for the race."

Also testing March 6-7 were two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and defending Phoenix event winner Helio Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone; Felipe Giaffone, driver of the No. 21 Hollywood Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone; and Tora Takagi, driver of the No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone.

Buddy Rice, who drives the No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone and lives in Phoenix, also was on hand to observe the test, working with engineers from Menard Cheever Technologies. But he did not drive.

Testing will continue March 9 at PIR with 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier testing a Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone for Hemelgarn Racing. Lazier earned a stirring victory at Phoenix in 2000 after starting last.

Also, 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner and 1998 IndyCar Series champion Kenny Brack will test his No. 15 Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara/Honda/Firestone while rookie Roger Yasukawa will test his No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone.

The Purex Dial Indy 200 will take place at 3:30 p.m. (EST) March 23 and Twill be broadcast live on ABC and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio TNetwork. ickets can be purchased by calling 602-252-2227 or by logging Ton to www.phoenixintlraceway.com.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Felipe Giaffone , Al Unser Jr. , Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Jaques Lazier  , Tora Takagi , Kenny Brack , Roger Yasukawa , Buddy Rice , Sam Hornish Jr. , Mo Nunn
Teams Team Penske