IPS: Drivers take to Homestead with gusto

IPS: Drivers take to Homestead with gusto

The Indy Racing League kicked off its first open test of the season today with the Menards Infiniti Pro Series performing in a protracted test session on the reconfigured 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway high banked oval. Thiago ...

The Indy Racing League kicked off its first open test of the season today with the Menards Infiniti Pro Series performing in a protracted test session on the reconfigured 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway high banked oval.

Thiago Medeiros.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Only five drivers were present to take their first 2004 laps, with Thiago Medeiros, last year's polesitter for the opening race here fastest in his #11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone machine. The former South American F3 veteran lapped at 28.9988 seconds (184.352mph).

Medeiros finished fourth in the final season point standings earning one win, one pole position, seven top-5 finishes and ten top-10 results. With two of the three drivers ahead of him graduating to the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series this year, Medeiros is hoping to take the title and join them in 2005.

"I like the new configuration," Medeiros explained. "The track is like Texas and Chicago" with its higher banks. "The racing is going to be a lot better. You have to hold your line. I was very comfortable in the car today until the rain started."

Paul Dana, who has moved his Ethanol-sponsored Infiniti Pro Series affiliation to the #91 Hemelgarn 91 Johnson Motorsports team was second for the afternoon at 29.2510 seconds (182.763mph). Dana is hoping to reverse is difficult 2003 season, in which he earned six top-10 results.

Dana thought the session "was interesting with the wind so severe. It would throw the car around a lot in Turn 4, but I think we are comfortable with where we ended up before the rains came." Overnight showers and humidity had made the track extremely difficult to dry and drivers were unable to begin testing until very late in the morning. Just before the showers arrived to end the session, high winds impacted practice.

Marty Roth.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
After securing all of the rolling stock at Panther Racing late last year, Marty Roth began his own Infiniti Pro Series team and took his #4 Roth Racing Dallara to third on the speed c harts at 29.3446 seconds (182.130mph) before showers returned to the South Florida venue shortly after 2PM. Roth was hampered during the 2003 campaign by an accident at Phoenix that kept him out of half of the 12 scheduled events. "Today, with winds gusting up to 20mph," the Canadian noted, "it was a little crazy out there."

Fourth place went to Bakersfield, CA driver Brad Pollard, named just a few days ago to drive the Kenn Hardley Racing #24 IPS entry after competing in the final two 2003 IPS races for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Pollard ran a lap of 29.7383 seconds at 179.768mph and considered his run "a conservative approach, getting me used to the team, the car and Homestead."

Fifth went to rookie Jesse Mason, campaigning the #3 Brian Stewart Racing Dallara at 29.8380 seconds (179.168mph). "I was comfortable in the car and everybody on the team did a good job of getting us up to speed. It was a little bit intimidating at first. Every change we made," he noted, "we got a little faster" before the rain came.

The Menards Infiniti Pro Series drivers were unable to return to the circuit after their first forays but will have one more test day, February 10th at Phoenix International Raceway to find the sweet spot on their Dallara/Infiniti machines.

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Sam Schmidt , Marty Roth , Paul Dana , Eric Gilbert , Brad Pollard , Jesse Mason , Thiago Medeiros
Teams Panther Racing