IPS: Drivers test at Gateway

Drivers, Teams prepare for Gateway 100 with test MADISON, Ill., Thursday, June 19, 2003 -- Six IRL Infiniti Pro Series drivers tested June 18 at Gateway International Raceway in preparation for the Gateway 100 on Aug. 9. Rookies Jeff Simmons,...

Drivers, Teams prepare for Gateway 100 with test

MADISON, Ill., Thursday, June 19, 2003 -- Six IRL Infiniti Pro Series drivers tested June 18 at Gateway International Raceway in preparation for the Gateway 100 on Aug. 9.

Rookies Jeff Simmons, Tom Wood and Jonathan Urlin joined short-track veteran Brandon Erwin, Pikes Peak 100 winner Aaron Fike and series points leader Mark Taylor for the one-day test at the 1.25-mile, St. Louis-area oval.

"We had a productive day," said Simmons, who earned his first series pole at the Pikes Peak 100 June 13. "The Western Union Speed Team is happy with the test.

"We actually called it a day early because we think we have a pretty good car, and it wasn't worth just beating around out there. We actually ran most of the day on pretty high-mileage tires, so we're fairly pleased."

Sam Schmidt Motorsports driver Brandon Erwin, who along with Simmons recorded lap times in the high 29-second range, enjoyed a similarly productive day.

"We had a fantastic test," said Erwin, driver of the No. 99 Natural Golf/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone. "We couldn't have asked for anything to go better. The car ran flawlessly all day. I think we're going to have a really good race car.

"It's definitely my kind of racetrack. It's a driver's racetrack, and my road-course experience and my short-track experience helps out a lot there."

Fike, driver of the No. 91 RFMS/Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Infiniti/ Firestone, completed 130 laps before leaving to compete in a USAC Midget event in Attica, Ohio.

The one-day test was interrupted twice due to on-track incidents. Taylor and Urlin both were unhurt in separate accidents.

Taylor hit the outside retaining wall in Turn 4 with the rear of the No. 4 Fulmar Panther Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone at 5:05 p.m. (CDT), shortly before the end of the test. The impact caused extensive damage to the car.

He was awake and alert during ground transport to St. Louis University Hospital in St. Louis for evaluation and was released early in the evening in good condition.

"I was pushing a little bit harder than I should have, and with the bumps in Turns 3 and 4, the back end came around, and it hit square on the rear of the car," Taylor said. "It was a shame we couldn't get the car back in one piece."

Earlier in the afternoon, Urlin spun and made light contact with the outside retaining wall between Turns 3 and 4 in the No. 3 Budget Rent A Car Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.

Tickets for the Gateway 100 Infiniti Pro Series race Aug. 9 and the Emerson Indy 250 IndyCar Series race Aug. 10 are available by calling (866) 35-SPEED or logging on to www.gatewayraceway.com.

Infiniti Pro series Gateway test quotes

BRANDON ERWIN (No. 99 Natural Golf/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone):

"The Sam Schmidt Motorsports team has given me a great car again. We were the fastest car there (unofficially). We ran a time of 29.97 (seconds). We had a great test. We pretty much went with the same setup that we had at Colorado. We would have had a good car at Colorado if we hadn't had all the bad luck."

MARK TAYLOR (No. 4 Fulmar Panther Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone):

"As far as the day was concerned, it was good to get back in the car after a disappointing weekend and get our confidence up a bit. I was pushing a little bit harder than I should have, and with the bumps in Turns 3 and 4, the back end came around, and it hit square on the rear of the car. It was a shame we couldn't get the car back in one piece."

JEFF SIMMONS (No. 20 Western Union Speed Team/Duesenberg Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone):

"I ran at Gateway once in the Indy Lights series in 2000. I knew a little bit about what to expect and what you're generally fighting in terms of what the car will do here and what you need to try to make it do. I guess it's a little advantage, but a lot of the guys in the Pro Series ran this track last year. We started out pretty well. We had to stop early and change gears because we were a little off on that. We weren't sure exactly what we needed. We went back out and were pretty quick straight away with the different gears in and just started to tune in the car from there. Somewhere along the lines, something kind of crept into our (setup) that we didn't really know about, and I ended up with a lot of oversteer for a long time. We were dialing out oversteer for a while, but we finally got the car really pretty good, and we got down into the 29's (second laps). We expect to do well, and we expect to be at or near the top of the charts all the time. Coming (to Gateway), we've been quick in the majority of the tests that we've done all year, so we need to really try to get ourselves a good race car. It's difficult to do that on this testing because we tend to test on tracks that are green, and by the time we race, there are different kinds of rubber on the track, and stuff like that. We're trying to figure out how to get a setup that we can adapt to the changing conditions."

Did your pole and second-place finish at the Pikes Peak 100 buoy the spirits of the Western Union Speed Team?:

"Yeah, the team was happy with it, and the Western Union people were happy with it. Obviously, I still would have liked to win there. We had a good car in qualifying and ended up with a car that wasn't really all that good in the race. Realistically, we probably had a fourth-place car, at best."

JONATHAN URLIN (No. 3 Budget Rent A Car Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone):

"We learned a lot. We started from square one with a basic setup and kind of worked our way up. I love it here. The track is amazing. From the first session out, I've been in love with this place. It's a really cool track to run on, lots of fun. Turns 1 and 2 are almost like road-racing turns. It's so tight, and you're braking and downshifting. It's unbelievable. Then it kind of opens up again like Phoenix (International Raceway) on the other end, but it's a little bit more fun to drive."

About his accident:

"We were getting close on the setup and trying to solve the same problems that we've been trying to solve in our tests all year. We thought if I put a new set of tires on, we could work a little harder. Unfortunately, the new set of tires didn't agree with me, and that's how you end up in the wall."

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Series Indy Lights
Drivers Mark Taylor , Brandon Erwin , Sam Schmidt , Aaron Fike , Tom Wood , Jeff Simmons , Jonathan Urlin