MATOS PACES INDY PRO SERIES OPEN TEST AT INDIANAPOLIS Rahal fifth-quick in debut as youngest driver in series history INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, June 20, 2006 -- Raphael Matos recorded the fastest lap during an Indy Pro Series Open Test on the road...
MATOS PACES INDY PRO SERIES OPEN TEST AT INDIANAPOLIS
Rahal fifth-quick in debut as youngest driver in series history
INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, June 20, 2006 -- Raphael Matos recorded the fastest lap during an Indy Pro Series Open Test on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in preparations for the Liberty Challenge, which will be run in conjunction with Formula One's United States Grand Prix on July 1.
Matos made the most of an unexpected opportunity, arriving in Indianapolis two hours into the test to replace Sean Guthrie in the No. 41 Guthrie Racing car. Guthrie was examined on June 19 by Dr. Henry Bock, IRL senior director of medical services, but was not cleared to drive due to lingering complications from a head injury suffered during an Open Test at The Milwaukee Mile on June 14. Matos paced the field with a quick lap of 1 minute, 26.2657 seconds, 108.502 mph.
"I was actually surprised with the opportunity," said Matos, who won the two Indy Pro Series street races at St. Petersburg, Fla. in April. "They called me yesterday. Unfortunately Sean had a crash last week and had a concussion. I'm happy to be in the car again, and happy to be here.
"The day went pretty good. We missed probably half of the morning session, but we started the day with a pretty good baseline, and we just went from that. In the afternoon, we put a new set of stickers (tires) on it, and we tried a qualifying run, and it worked pretty good. I think we were about a half-second faster than the other guys, and I think we were the only ones to improve our lap time in the afternoon."
Graham Rahal, the son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, made his Indy Pro Series debut as the youngest driver in series history (17 years, 167 days). He finished the day fifth on the time chart in the No. 42 Kenn Hardley Racing entry. His quickest lap was 1:26.8433, 107.780 mph.
"It's a great car," Rahal said. "It's been enjoyable so far. It's got a lot of power. Certainly around this track, on road courses, it feels pretty good. We certainly got a lot of work done, we're not too far off, but we've got a lot of work to do before the race. We're getting up to speed. A lot of those guys that just went quicker (just before the end of the day) like Matos and (Jay) Howard, they weren't anywhere until they put new tires on, so it feels good to be where we are."
Alex Lloyd was second-quick in the No. 26 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc. (1:26.5560, 108.138 mph). Defending Indy Pro Series champion Wade Cunningham was third-quick at 1:26.7195, 107.934 mph and Jay Howard was fourth-quick (107.823 mph).
In all, nineteen drivers completed 1,191 laps on the 2.605-mile circuit.
OPEN TEST NOTES:
Two-time Indy Pro Series race winner Raphael Matos substituted for Sean Guthrie in the No. 41 Guthrie Racing entry and will also take his place in the Liberty Challenge.
JIM GUTHRIE (Owner, Guthrie Racing): "Sean was still not cleared due to his Milwaukee testing incident, and his concussion, which unfortunately we did not find out about until 4:15 p.m. yesterday. It was not very good for planning, so we called Raphael to help us out. Fortunately, he had just got home from Portland, and he was able to get here and only missed a few hours this morning. He got up to speed pretty quick. He was second quick after lunch there which was very good, so he will also be here for the race. It's not fair to put Sean out there with no testing and be a track plug for everyone else. We're just going to wait when he can test and get up to speed with everyone else, and we'll put him in the car for the race."
SEAN GUTHRIE: "I'm disappointed not to be able to run the Liberty Challenge. I think it would have been my second-favorite event. This track has some of the oval and a very tight road course, which I like."
FIRST-TIMERS: Five drivers drove an Indy Pro Series car for the first time. Logan Gomez, Eric Paradis, Hoover Orsi, Mike Potekhen and Graham Rahal all participated for the first time. Gomez and Rahal are the first 17-year-olds to drive an Indy Pro Series car
CHESSONS TAKE IN ROAD-COURSE ACTION: Brothers P.J. and James Chesson were on hand to observe the test. P.J., a three-time race winner in the Indy Pro Series, has made four IndyCar Series starts in 2006. James, also a former race winner in the Indy Pro Series, started the Indy Pro Series Freedom 100 on the oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. Neither of the former World of Outlaws oval, dirt-track racers has much experience driving on road courses.
"I've never turned right in a race car. At least not on purpose," James Chesson said. "I turned right a couple of times in sprint cars to save the car, but never on a road course."
P.J. said he was on hand to "look after" his brother. He remains hopeful of rejoining the IndyCar Series soon.
"Things are just taking a little longer than I hoped," P.J. Chesson said.
Kenn Hardley Racing held a press conference during the lunch break with rookie drivers Graham Rahal and Bobby Wilson, IndyCar Series team owner Bobby Rahal and team owner Kenn Hardley.
KENN HARDLEY (Owner, Kenn Hardley Racing): (About the team) "We're excited about the way we've continued. We had Jeff Simmons for the first three races of the year. He had a first, second, and fourth (place finishes). Bobby (Wilson) has taken over, and after what we all would probably agree was not a great performance at Indy, we went to Watkins Glen and it was a great weekend for the team, finishing first and third. The team is currently first in entrant points and Bobby is currently second in points right now. Bobby has a little room to get into first place, but we're all confident that he'll be there at the end of the year." (About bringing Graham in): "This was something that Bobby (Rahal) and I had talked about over the winter. We tried to do some testing with Jeff Simmons doing some testing for Bobby's IndyCar Series team. There was a tie early on, and we talked about running Graham in this race if it fit his schedule, and it worked out that we were able to do that, so we're excited."
BOBBY RAHAL (Co-owner of Rahal Letterman Racing, father of Graham): (About how Graham was chosen to race with Kenn Hardley Racing) "We first got in touch with each other when the rule came out in regards to the testing and getting some test days for Indy Pro Series participation in terms of rookies and testing. We couldn't take advantage of any days until half the season was over, so it really didn't make any sense. We decided to team up with Kenn because obviously he has a very good team and we were impressed with what Jeff (Simmons) was able to do with them. We didn't really have any connection per se when Jeff came in to drive the Ethanol car. Certainly my feelings towards Kenn's team haven't changed, and when Graham had the schedule that would allow him to compete and it wasn't an IRL weekend, it didn't take long before we got together and put this deal together. I'm really pleased that Norwalk Furniture stepped up and our other sponsors as well with Logicalis and Gehl. This is a great opportunity for Graham. He's with a great team, and obviously his teammate is one of the best out here. I think that both of them have a great shot at this thing." (About Graham's morning practice session, third-quick) "I think again, we're fortunate because of this team. I think you have to have a good team with a good setup and he's been given that, so he's doing a great job out there so far. We're thankful that the weather is the way it is today because of his (Graham's) schedule since this is the only chance he'll get to test before the race."
GRAHAM RAHAL (Driver, No. 42 Kenn Hardley Racing): "The last time I drove a (Indy Pro Series) car was about six months ago at Putnam Park. It was very tough for me to actually tell what the car was like. It was good to be back in the car this morning. The transition from Atlantic has been pretty easy. Certainly, it makes me feel a lot better heading into the race." (About being third-quick in the morning) "You always expect to do well, but yeah, it is surprising. I do hope to do better. I think we could have gone quicker than our time, but we were a little short on gas, so we had to come in. The car feels really good. We're going to work on it, and I think we can build. Kenn Hardley (Racing) has a lot of data from last year with Jeff (Simmons). I really think the team is working well and we're making big steps forward." (About wanting to run other events at Indianapolis) "Looking forward to the future, the 500 is something I want to do. I always have since I was a kid. My ultimate dream would be to compete here in Formula One, to be honest. I'm trying to take steps to Formula One in the near future. It's good to be here, to be honest. I drove here in Formula BMW, but there was no testing or anything. You just kind of showed up and went. It's nice to drive the track a little more. It's very enjoyable. In my opinion, it's a lot like a European track, a lot of flowing corners which is nice. It would be good to be back here." (About impressing the F1 garage) "I hope so. I want to drive in this race because it's good to drive other cars. I've driven so many things this year. It's been an awesome experience. To get out here in front of the Formula One crowd, it will be important to do well. With Kenn's team, they've given me a great car. I don't think performing well, or even winning is out of reach."
BOBBY WILSON (Driver, No. 24 Kenn Hardley Racing): "I think I'm just basically working up to speed. It's a test day, just bragging rights. There's no points for being ballistic out there. Just working on the car with the engineer and working up to speed. We've been improving all day and hopefully by the end of the day we'll be in the top five or top of the chart." (About how well he knows Graham): "We have a past together, I know him pretty well from karting. It's a pleasure to have him on the team. We haven't been able to download too much data; we've been pretty busy on our own projects. It's going to be an interesting weekend." (Talk about your goals) "Definitely need to advance my position in the championship, we need a good outing here. My goal right now is to win the championship and prove myself. My goal is to move up, I just need a big break, and I definitely want to be competing in the IndyCar Series in the near future. It all starts here, short-term goals turn into long-term goals in the end. I've got to meet those and then move up." (About preferring road courses or ovals) "I'm definitely more in tune with the road courses, that's my background. There's a lot more stuff going on and I can break it down a little better. I think working with the engineers I can be a little more in-depth. I'm pretty excited to run the race here on the road course, it's a challenging facility. It has compromises on both ends (handling and speed) so it makes tuning the car more difficult."
OPEN TEST QUOTES:
RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 41 Guthrie Racing, fastest): (About looking forward to race day) "You're always looking for a win. Hopefully we'll be good right out of the box on the race weekend. Team Guthrie Racing was amazing today. They did a good job putting the car together and they gave me a great opportunity to drive it and I'm pretty happy with it."
ALEX LLOYD (No. 26 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc., second-quick): "It was alright. We had a good morning. The second half we got a problem somewhere. We think maybe a bad shock or something. We haven't managed to do a time since lunch time, so something went wrong. But generally, the first half of the day was good. It's a shame something went wrong so we sort of lost the chance to get a really good time in. At the beginning of the day, we were comfortably quickest, so I think we'll take positives from that and see how it goes for the race."
JAY HOWARD (No. 7 Lucas Oil/Isilon/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, fourth-quick): "We needed a test day. That's for sure. We learned a little bit more about the car today and trimmed it out a little. I'm happy with the progress we made. We're not three-and-half seconds off the pace like we were at Watkins Glen. We're just a few tenths off. I'm fairly happy. Now the guys can go look at the data and the feedback I've given them and work on getting a good setup. All my family is coming to the race, so hopefully, I can put on a good show for them."
The 2006 IRL IndyCar Series continues with the SunTrust Indy Challenge presented by XM Satellite Radio at 8 p.m. (EDT) on June 24 at Richmond International Raceway. The race will be televised live by ESPN2 and the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Liberty Challenge on July 1 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. ESPN2 will telecast the event at 2 p.m. on July 6.