IPS: Gateway test notes, quotes

Drivers get handle on Infiniti Pro Series Cars at test. MADISON, Ill., Saturday, June 22, 2002 -- Eight drivers representing five teams completed a total of 375 laps in their new Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series cars in hot and humid conditions...

Drivers get handle on Infiniti Pro Series Cars at test.

MADISON, Ill., Saturday, June 22, 2002 -- Eight drivers representing five teams completed a total of 375 laps in their new Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series cars in hot and humid conditions during the development series' first Open Test June 22 at Gateway International Raceway.

Arie Luyendyk Jr., Jason Priestley, Tony Renna, Aaron Fike, Cory Witherill, G.J. Mennen, Mike Koss and Matt Halliday shook down their Infiniti-powered Dallara chassis on Firestone tires at the 1.25-mile Gateway oval. Brian Stewart Racing driver Marty Roth also was trackside during the one-day session.

Although Kelley Racing drivers Priestley and Renna made their on-track debut June 20 at Michigan International Speedway, the Open Test was the first opportunity for most drivers to familiarize themselves with the new Infiniti Pro Series machines before the series debut July 7 at Kansas Speedway.

"We had a really good run," said Hemelgarn 91/Johnson Motorsports driver Aaron Fike, who turned laps in the 140-mph range. "These cars feel really stable. We had a pretty conservative setup on the car, but we got up to speed really well."

Arie Luyendyk Jr., son of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk, was equally pleased with his first run in his 450-horsepower Infiniti Pro Series machine.

"That went really well," said Luyendyk, 20. "The car definitely handled very well out of the box. I'm used to the F2000 cars, which have 140 horsepower, so the cars felt powerful. It was really fun."

Series officials were encouraged by the feedback they received from drivers and crew members during the session.

"The main purpose of this test was to get everyone together to iron out any last-minute concerns before we run our inaugural event in Kansas on July 7," said John Lewis, director of operations for the Infiniti Pro Series. "When you get a group of guys together, you can address issues much easier.

"We had several positive experiences at this test. We discovered a starter problem at our initial shakedown in Orlando in April, and we've solved that. We also had a couple of cars run in the draft, and Aaron Fike said that the car was very stable in traffic, which was another positive sign."

The only incident occurred at approximately 3:48 p.m. (CDT) when Cory Witherill made light contact in Turn 4 in his No. 92 Hemelgarn 91/Johnson Motorsport Dallara. The right-side suspension of the car suffered minor damage.

Infiniti Pro Series teams will have one day off before testing resumes June 24 at Chicagoland Speedway.

The inaugural, seven-race season of the new development series will begin July 7 at Kansas Speedway and culminate with the season finale Sept. 14 at Texas Motor Speedway.

The 100-mile Infiniti Pro Series "sprints" will take place at the same track and on the same day as Indy Racing League events except for the Texas race, which will be conducted the day before the IRL's season-ending Chevy 500.

Drivers will compete for a $100,000 purse at each Infiniti Pro Series race, and all events will be broadcast by ESPN2 and distributed worldwide via ESPN International.

INDY RACING INFINITI PRO SERIES OPEN TEST QUOTEBOOK:

AARON FIKE (No. 91 Hemelgarn 91/Johnson Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "We had a really good run. These cars feel really stable. We had a pretty conservative setup on the car, but we got up to speed really well. I'm really excited to go to Kansas for the first race. I think it's all going to depend on your team and how prepared they are, and I'm with a good team. The Infiniti Pro Series is a good stepping-stone to the Indy Racing League, with the same kind of car on the same tracks."

ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 5 Luyendyk Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): (About Gateway International Raceway): "I like how one end of the track is larger than the other, and you have to downshift. I think it will be a really interesting race here in August because it's one of the most demanding ovals on the circuit."(As a second-generation driver, do you feel any added pressure?): "That's something that every 'junior' has to face. If you're a good driver, it can only present better opportunities for you." (Does your father give you advice?): "He pretty much lets me make my own mistakes so I can learn from them. He tells me to be patient."

JASON PRIESTLEY (No. 7 HomeMed Kelley Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "Obviously, with a new series, we're all trying to figure out the chassis and how to make the cars go fast. The car seems really solid and has plenty of power. This is a new discipline for me. I'm getting to know these cars and their reaction to changes. I'm a big fan of learning new things and pushing yourself to do better. Just to have this opportunity to come out here with the Kelley Racing guys is great." (How does driving compare to acting?): "For me, driving race cars is the thing I have to work hardest at. I love driving race cars. I'm very committed to it. To treat something like this as a hobby would be irresponsible. I respect these cars, and I respect the drivers."

TONY RENNA (Test driver, Kelley Racing): "The car is going to be good. I have to give a lot of credit to the Kelley Racing guys. They've been working like crazy. We were able to get a lot of laps in and get Jason (Priestley) comfortable and acclimated to the car." (About working with Jason Priestley): "He's doing a really nice job. He's very smart, and he's going about it the right way. The Infiniti Pro Series car is a big transition from what he has been driving. I think he will surprise people."

G.J. MENNEN (Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "It definitely feels like a good package. With any new program, you've got to work out a few kinks, but it doesn't seem like there's a whole lot of kinks to work out. It's a good package. I'm confident that the guys will be able to sort it out."

CORY WITHERILL (No. 92 WSA/Hemelgarn 91/Johnson Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): (About his accident): "I don't really know what happened. The car seemed to handle quite well. I felt a pretty good push coming out of Turns 2 and 4, but we weren't even up to the speeds we'd reached earlier in the day. It just came around. We're scratching our heads a bit."

ROGER BAILEY (Executive Director, Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series): "It was a very productive day. We had several minor issues, but by working together, we were able to resolve them by day's end. This was the first time that many of the cars had turned a wheel, and the issues that we encountered came as no surprise. I was very encouraged by the camaraderie and cooperation between the teams and the willingness to share information."

-irl/ips-

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Cory Witherill , Matthew Halliday , Sam Schmidt , Tony Renna , Marty Roth , Aaron Fike , Jason Priestley , Mike Koss , G.J. Mennen , John Lewis , Arie Luyendyk Jr.