PHOENIX, Thursday, March 1, 2001 - After rain washed out any chance of testing Wednesday at Phoenix International Raceway, five drivers took advantage of better weather Thursday to prepare for the Indy Racing Northern Light Series season opener ...
PHOENIX, Thursday, March 1, 2001 - After rain washed out any chance of testing Wednesday at Phoenix International Raceway, five drivers took advantage of better weather Thursday to prepare for the Indy Racing Northern Light Series season opener March 18 at the 1-mile desert oval. And no driver made better time than Stephan Gregoire of Dick Simon Racing, who turned an unofficial best lap of 20.30 seconds in the team's 2001 Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone car. Gregoire also turned a lap of 20.90 seconds in the team's 2000 G Force chassis that included a 2001 update kit. Gregoire turned 75 laps with the Dallara car and 17 laps with the G Force. Gregoire also was fastest at 20.361 at the Indy Racing Test in the West on Feb. 9-10 at Phoenix.
"I am very happy with the Dallara in qualifying conditions," Gregoire said.
"Now we need to run more with the full (fuel) load because I am not too confident yet, and I need to run more tomorrow to really feel the potential in race conditions. I am convinced that everything will be fine for the race.
"I love Phoenix, and I believe that this test will give us an advantage in two weeks when we come back."
Also testing Thursday at Phoenix in advance of the Pennzoil Copper World Indy 200 were Eliseo Salazar of A.J. Foyt Racing, 1999 Indy Racing champion Greg Ray of Team Menard, Jack Miller of Cahill Racing and Helio Castroneves of Team Penske.
Salazar posted a top time of 20.9 seconds in Foyt's Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone.
"It looks pretty good," Salazar said. "This is the first time we've run the new Dallara on a 1-mile oval since we couldn't make the Test in the West, but so far, so good. We're learning more and more about the car. All we can do is keep practicing, keep working on the car so we can be ready to win here when we come back in two weeks.
"Everything went very well for our first time out at Phoenix with the new Harrah's Dallara." Castroneves turned a fast lap of 20.6 seconds as Team Penske prepares for its Indy Racing Northern Light Series debut at Phoenix. Castroneves and teammate Gil de Ferran will race at Phoenix and the Indianapolis 500.
"Honestly, things are going well," Castroneves said. "We got down to 20.6 today, and the car felt pretty good. Of course, the time needs to get better, but we think we'll be ready to race for the win here." Private testing concludes Friday at Phoenix. At Atlanta Motor Speedway, 1996 Indy Racing co-champion Buzz Calkins turned a fast lap of 25.41 seconds at 212 mph in the Bradley Motorsports entry on the 1.5-mile oval, which plays host to an Indy Racing Northern Light Series event April 28. "We have a real good base setup for Atlanta Motor Speedway and tracks like it," Calkins said. "Today we're looking to perfect that setup so we just have to do some tweaking when we come back in April. "We're working on some speed setups, both for qualifying and over long runs. We're trying to find more consistency and balance over long runs."