LAS VEGAS/PHOENIX, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2000 - Quotes from selected Northern Light Indy Racing Series drivers and officials about the "Test in the West" test sessions Feb. 21-22 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Feb. 25-26 at Phoenix ...
LAS VEGAS/PHOENIX, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2000 - Quotes from selected Northern Light Indy Racing Series drivers and officials about the "Test in the West" test sessions Feb. 21-22 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Feb. 25-26 at Phoenix International Raceway:
EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (#51 Team Cheever-Firestone-Infiniti Riley & Scott/Infiniti/Firestone, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner, former Phoenix resident): "Every lap you run is a lead-up to Indy, but I think that Vegas will be more indicative of Indy than Phoenix. We are on such a steep learning curve right now on all issues of our package that we have not had an opportunity to optimize any particular area sufficiently. Our focus for the 'Test in the West' will be to continue accumulating information at a faster rate than we can process it." (About the Riley & Scott chassis): "With as little information we had on the Riley & Scott going into Disney, I would have been very happy with a fifth-place finish. Finishing third was a bonus. Riley & Scott is continuing to develop the car, and we should have some new pieces to try out for the test. Our biggest problem so far has been with the front of the car. I am also looking forward to having a lighter car than we had in Orlando. The Northern Light Indy Racing Series is fiercely competitive. We cannot afford to handicap ourselves with 60 pounds of useless weight." (About transition from Goodyear to Firestone tires): "The Firestones are proving to be a totally different tire than what we had been used to running for the past four years. I have seen an enormous amount of potential with the tires that so far we haven't been able to utilize." (About continuing development of Infiniti engine): "Even though we will not be testing the new 35A, we are continuously changing the internal spec of our current engine. All of these changes will then be moved over to the 35A once they have proved their reliability. We will come into our own when we have done about 2,000 trouble free miles with the 35A. Hopefully, we will achieve this goal a week before the Vegas race."
SARAH FISHER (#5 Cummins-Mead Carbonless Papers-Walker Racing Riley & Scott/Oldsmobile/Firestone, 19 years old, Rookie of the Year candidate): "My objectives during both the Las Vegas and Phoenix open tests are to use all the hours of testing to my benefit by learning as much as possible about the new chassis. I had about 200 laps of testing at Vegas last year for the rookie test, so I'm more comfortable there. This test will be my first time on the Phoenix track, but I've been preparing by watching the tape of last year's Phoenix race while I've been working out every night to get a feel for the racetrack and the lines the drivers run there." (About studying rivals): "When we were in Orlando for the (season-opening) race, I was watching the Hemelgarn and the Cheever teams because we were taking a hard look at the Riley & Scott chassis. I like to focus on watching the race strategy and activities of a select few teams when I'm watching a race to see what information I can learn from them."
TYCE CARLSON (#20 Hubbard-Immke Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "Our overall strategy is the same as our approach for the whole season -- total preparation and a very solid game plan. Each team member has to execute to the best of their ability. When that applies to a test session, it means having a meticulously prepared race car with no short cuts and nothing compromised. We have that." (About goals for Las Vegas testing): "At Vegas, we're really looking to learn more about the race car. We haven't yet run with superspeedway wings, and we want to find out what the car likes on a track like Vegas. We'll start with different setups on each car for the first day and see which car responds best. For day two, we'll concentrate on the better setup from day one and try to build and improve on that." (About goals for Phoenix testing): "For Phoenix, we'll work almost exclusively with the race setup since we've already tested there. This time, we want to see how the car responds in traffic and find the best way to keep from losing the front end. The issue is driver confidence -- to be able to drive around people and attack. It's the only way to win races. We want the other drivers to feel they need to get out of the way when they see us in their mirrors." (About overall expectations for the test): "The expectations are really unknown, that's why we test. We'll wait until after the first day to have expectations. We had some positive moments at these tracks last year, so that's promising. But since everyone is now running Firestone (tires), one of the variables is gone, and we know we'll have to work harder for better performance at a quicker rate. If we're in the top five when all is said and done, that means we're in the hunt. If someone rips off a super-quick lap, we won't be too concerned because we know that can't be maintained during race conditions. We're not in this to run around in circles or to be satisfied in the role of back marker. We're here to seriously challenge every other team for race wins. Period."
STEPHAN GREGOIRE (#7 Dick Simon Racing-Mexmil-Tokheim-Viking Air Tools G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone): "It's a good opportunity to get ready for the rest of the season. It will be good to know what the car is doing. Since we have new cars, we don't know how they're going to react. We know the car is good on a 1-mile oval like Phoenix because we were fast at Orlando, but we don't know how it will be on a high-speed oval like Vegas. Vegas helps you as far as setup for Indy." (Areas of concentration during testing): "Other than the fact we had a problem with the electrical system (at Orlando), we weren't satisfied with the car in traffic. We have a good car in practice, but it's not as good in traffic. Hopefully we'll get enough traffic during the tests to simulate this." (About rigors of four test days in one week at two locations): "As far as the driver is concerned, I'm ready to go. I'm still warm after Vegas and ready to go to Phoenix. It's better than a big break between tests." (About temptation to top speed charts during testing and sacrificing test goals): "In our situation, we're not one of the biggest teams. We don't want to waste a lot of time trying to be the fastest in testing. At Orlando, we weren't trying to be the fastest in practice. We were just trying to be fast."
SAM HORNISH JR. (#18 Hornish Bros. Trucking-Advantage Powder Coating G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone, Rookie of the Year candidate): "My plans for the two tests are to, first of all, show well and get a good setup heading into the race weekends. This will be a little more important for Phoenix because we will be racing the '99 car there, but it is good to go to Las Vegas just to get some track time on a 1½-mile track." (About new tracks): "I have been to Phoenix enough times that I am really not worried about it so much, and the my biggest concern for Las Vegas is the increase in speed. Other than that, I can't wait."
JERET SCHROEDER (#6 Armour Swift Ekrich-Tristarmall.com Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, Rookie of the Year candidate): "At Disney we found that the 2000 Dallara was faster out of the box than the 1999 chassis. We ran it in the race, and we were pleased with it overall. The car feels more solid in terms of vibrations and how it rides over the bumps. Track time is always important. Testing gives us time to experiment with some things, and learn what works and what doesn't work. We'll make changes to the car throughout the day each day of the tests, and I'll get comfortable with the tracks and the traffic. Tests prepare you both physically and mentally for the race. Often there isn't much practice time on a race weekend, so anytime you can test it's a great opportunity to learn." (About previous experience at Las Vegas and Phoenix): "I've driven at Phoenix many times, but I've never driven at Vegas. I coached someone there in a 2-liter car once, but that's not the same as driving a Northern Light Indy Racing car there by any means. What do I know about Phoenix? Well, I know that the Turn 1 wall hurts! I drove in an IRL race there in 1997, and Scott Goodyear had an engine let go when he was right in front of me. There was no way to avoid the oil, and I ended up in the wall and in the hospital overnight." (About tracks at Las Vegas and Phoenix): "Phoenix is a lot like Disney in that you have to get through Turn 1 well. The sooner you can pick up the throttle in Turn 1 the better; it will determine how your whole lap will go. It's crucial. I have no clue what Vegas will be like, so that's one of the reasons why the upcoming test there is so important. I can get acclimated to the track without the pressures of a race weekend, and it gives the whole team more time to work on the setup."
AL SPEYER (Bridgestone-Firestone motorsports director): "The test in Las Vegas will be very helpful for us at Firestone because it will give an indication of what we will see at Indianapolis, car-wise. Vegas, however, has higher banking than Indy, so the tires are related, yet different. Basically, we have a higher grip compound for Vegas. Keeping with our tradition of utilizing our global technology expertise, the tires for both Las Vegas and Indianapolis this year are being produced at our Japan facility. When we get to Phoenix, Firestone will bring the same tire specifications as those successfully employed last month at Disney World. The tracks are similar enough -- both 1-mile ovals with similar banking in the turns -- that we are very confident the Firehawk tires will perform just as well in Phoenix as they did in Orlando. Our primary goal at this and every Indy Racing League test is to assist all drivers and teams in using the Firestone tires successfully. We'll continue to bring newcomers to Firestone up to speed while helping our returning teams fine-tune their packages. We couldn't do any of this successfully without the outstanding effort put in by our top-notch mounting crew from Performance Tire Service Company. They put in endless hours making sure all the tire needs are met for every team. The PTSC crew has adapted well to the increased workload this year and received high praise for their efforts from teams at Disney World."