AGE NOT A FACTOR AS ROOKIES IMPRESS DURING INDY PRO SERIES OPEN TEST AT INDIANAPOLIS Cunningham tops speed chart INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, April 27, 2006 -- They are at opposite ends of the age continuum, separated by 35 years of life and auto ...
AGE NOT A FACTOR AS ROOKIES IMPRESS DURING INDY PRO SERIES OPEN TEST AT INDIANAPOLIS
Cunningham tops speed chart
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, April 27, 2006 -- They are at opposite ends of the age continuum, separated by 35 years of life and auto racing experience.
But Sean Guthrie, who still has pieces of his 18th birthday cake on the kitchen counter, and Tom Wieringa, 53, both came to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for an Indy Pro Series^Ù Open Test as rookies. They returned to their respective race shops with knowledge that will bolster their efforts for the Freedom 100 on May 26.
Eighteen drivers totaled 1,604 laps without incident on the historic 2.5-mile oval on a cloudless day in central Indiana. Reigning Indy Pro Series champion Wade Cunningham topped the speed chart at 188.575 mph (47.7263 mph) in the No. 1 Brian Stewart Racing car. Jay Howard, who started from the pole in the season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway, was second (188.239 mph).
Both Guthrie, son of 1997 IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year Jim Guthrie, and Wieringa passed their Indy Pro Series test last week at Chicagoland Speedway. So, in their second time in the 425-horsepower cars, they turned laps on the tight, flat oval with a long history. It didn't faze either of the drivers.
"It was a great day," said Wieringa, an Oak Brook, Ill., resident who owned the Sigma Autosport team in CART for several years. "Michael Crawford Motorsports did a great job setting up the car. Unfortunately, we didn't get a tow all day long. I tried. Basically, I was out there by myself all day. I think we've got the fastest car out there."
Wieringa had a quick lap of 186.824 mph -- fourth on the chart (right behind Cheever Racing's Chris Festa at 186.847).
"We actually had high expectations," Wieringa said. "I'm usually pretty good on ovals, but the car was set up really nicely before I came -- the fit and finish on it, the way they prepared it. I was pleased before I even came, so I thought we'd do well."
Guthrie didn't know what to expect, but his father was impressed with the effort. The 2005 Star Mazda series driver was seventh quick on the chart at 186.715 mph.
"He did better than I ever did; he has good DNA, I think," said Jim Guthrie, who entered the Indy Pro Series this year with the expressed intent to have his son compete. "I don't have to look for another driver. He's OK. He made me really proud today."
Said Sean, who graduates from Sandia Prep High School in Albuquerque next month: "They just kind of said watch out for this place, it might bite you. But we were pretty confident the whole day. They gave me a really good car, so it was easy. This track will be one of my favorites because it is half road course and half oval. It's a pretty cool place."
When the green flag drops for the Freedom 100 on May 26, Guthrie will be the second-youngest driver (18 years, 38 days) in Indy Pro Series history. Marco Andretti (18 years, 22 days) was younger when he debuted at St. Petersburg last year.
Wieringa, on the other hand, will become the oldest race starter in Indy Pro Series history. The Star Mazda competitor will be 12 days shy of his 54th birthday. Currently, the oldest race starter is Gary Peterson (53 years, 64 days at Texas in 2004).
Cunningham returned to the car for the first time in a month after an emergency appendectomy prevented him from competing in the two races on the St. Petersburg (Fla.) temporary street course April 2-3. He was quickly up to speed.
OPEN TEST & INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS & NOTES:
Jaime Camara, who will be the first driver to defend a Freedom 100 victory, was sixth-quick in the No. 11 Andretti Green Racing car.
JAIME CAMARA (No. 11 Andretti Green Racing) "I'm not pleased. We tested a lot of stuff for the race, and we still need to find more speed. We have a good race car, but we don't have a good car for qualifying on the front right now. That's upsetting me a lot. We are going to find some things for qualifying before the race, and try to do our best. I'm not really happy."
(About competitiveness of the race) "It's going to be a tough race. Last year was really competitive, and I think this year is going to be even more competitive. It's going to be a tight race. It's going be really tough, because we don't have any banking here, so it's going to be tough to race in packs all 40 laps. I think it's going to be much closer than last year. Last year, when I won the pole I was 1 mph quicker than second. I don't think that's going to happen this season."
(About returning to defend his title) "I want to win. I will do my best to win. If you think about it, it's more pressure on you. I don't want to look at it that way. For me, it's a special race, but it's still one race of the season. I'll do my best to win, but if that doesn't happen, I'll do my best until the end of the season and try to win where I didn't win last year."
Jonathan Klein, driver of the No. 27 Klein Tools car for Andretti Green Racing, brushed the wall exiting Turn 1 on his fourth lap of the morning. The car sustained damage to the rear suspension, which the team repaired in the morning. Klein was the first driver on track in the afternoon session. He finished the day ninth quick, completing 86 laps. Klein returns to Dayton, Ohio where he is a freshman at the University of Dayton. Final exams are scheduled for next week.
It's an eventful week for Indy Pro Series driver Alex Lloyd.
Wednesday: He put five laps on the No. 1 Dean Van Lines Special Brawner/Ford -- the 1966 Indianapolis 500 pole sitter driven by Mario Andretti -- on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "A thrill," he said.
Thursday: He climbed in his No. 26 Automatic Fire Sprinklers Inc. car for more laps on the 2.5-mile oval in an Indy Pro Series Open Test in preparation for the Freedom 100 on May 26.
Friday: He will marry Samantha Robinson.
Hopefully, plenty of photos will be on CD for Lloyd to review the week.
The 21-year-old native of Manchester, England, drove the 1966 car (4.2-liter V-8 turbo) as a test in advance of Andretti recording some laps with son Michael and grandson Marco on The Star and Careerbuilder.com Opening Day at the historic oval May 7.
"I loved it; the noise, everything," said Lloyd, who quickly adjusted to the clutch in the middle and only four gauges on the dashboard (oil temperature, RPMs, oil pressure and water temperature). "Obviously, I was going slowly, but there's a tremendous amount of power there. You have to have so much respect for the drivers who used to drive these cars. To go around here at those speeds is just unbelievable."
Andretti put the car -- built by Jim McGee and Clint Brawner -- on the pole with a four-lap average of 165.899 mph in his second '500.' He finished 18th, knocked out with a valve issue, and won $25,121.
"It felt really comfortable," said Lloyd, the 2003 McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year award winner. "Obviously, it would be a different story when you were going flat out. It was really good fun and a great experience to be driving a car that was on the pole 20 years before I was born."
Lloyd and Robinson have been engaged for two years and planned to marry next year. But concerns about Robinson's visa status prompted the couple to move up their plans.
"A week ago it was planned for a year's time and now it's Friday," Lloyd said. "But it's actually worked out well. We've done more in two days than people do in six months. We have a gorgeous location, and if the weather is nice it will be perfect.
"It's been quite a week already. I got to drive this car, test tomorrow and get married on Friday."
IndyCar Series team owner Bobby Rahal and the driver of his No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing car, Jeff Simmons, spent part of the day watching the test in the Kenn Hardley Racing pit. Simmons won five races in the Indy Pro Series with Kenn Hardley Racing.
Robbie Buhl, co-owner of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, watched part of the morning session. Buhl is the color analyst for ESPN2's coverage of the Indy Pro Series.
The Meijer Indy 300 Presented by Coca-Cola and Secret will highlight the Aug. 13 program at Kentucky Speedway, the track announced.
The IndyCar Series race (3:30 p.m. EDT, ABC) will follow the IRL Indy Pro Series Kentucky 100 race and precede a concert by country artists Hot Apple Pie.
Meijer, Coca-Cola and Secret are associate sponsors of the No. 16 Argent Mortgage Rahal Letterman Racing entry driven by Danica Patrick. Last year, the Bombardier Rookie of the Year earned one of her three pole positions at Kentucky Speedway.
"I never need any extra incentive for an event, but, as a driver, when one of your sponsor's names is on the event it makes any success at that race even more special," Patrick said. "Now I have three of my sponsors in Meijer, Coca-Cola and Secret all teaming together for the Kentucky Speedway IndyCar Series event.
"We had a great start at Kentucky last year, winning the pole with the fastest practice lap, but we had a mechanical problem in the race and didn't fare as well as we wanted. I am looking forward to our trip to Kentucky Speedway in August, and you never know what history could be made at the Meijer Indy 300 presented by Coca-Cola and Secret."
In celebration of its newest Kentucky Speedway event, Meijer will offer race fans a chance to win a VIP race package (visit www.kentuckyspeedway.com) that will include:
* A meet and greet with Patrick.
* VIP tickets to the Meijer Indy 300 Presented by Coca-Cola and Secret
* Two-night, three-day stay at the Belterra Resort and Casino, including championship golf and spa relaxation package.
* Concert passes and meet and greet with race day country music entertainers Hot Apple Pie.
* Visit to Victory Lane following the Meijer Indy 300 Presented by Coca-Cola and Secret.
"Meijer is really special and has become our largest event sponsor and corporate partner. Meijer is a terrific partner and its relationship with our facility has grown since it first sponsored our NASCAR Busch Series event in 2003," Kentucky Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Mark F. Cassis said. "When we heard about Meijer's partnership with Danica Patrick, Coca-Cola and Secret, we proposed an event sponsorship we felt would make the car sponsorship even more relevant to race fans.
"Our facility was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. We credit all involved for making this entitlement a reality in a short time frame."
The race weekend begins Aug. 12 with 97.5 WAMZ-FM IRL Pole Day. Following practice and qualifying for the IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series, there will be a driver autograph session.
Indy Pro Series graduate Arie Luyendyk Jr. had a special passenger for a two-seater ride through the streets of Downtown Milwaukee -- A Klement Racing Sausage.
Polish Sausage, part of the Milwaukee Brewers' popular in-game sausage race, rode with the son of two-time Indy 500 winner and Indianapolis 500 hopeful as part of Jim Beam's Return to Indy Tour. Luyendyk, who lived in Brookfield, Wis. as a child, drove the Jim Beam Drink Smart street-worthy two-seater.
The two-seater is appearing throughout country, promoting the Return To Indy Tour, the IndyCar Series, the Indianapolis 500 and supporting IRL sponsor Jim Beam's Drink Smart program.
WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 1 Brian Stewart Racing, quickest): "We came here last year, so we had a reasonable setup like everyone else. We just worked through our program like we normally do, and we got a lot accomplished. We have more testing to do when we come back for the race. Everything is not definitive. I'm reasonably happy with the day. We just need to take what we learned here and apply it to the race."
(About being fast in a draft and running by himself): "The car is normally pretty good and never far away. We just worked on a few things and were able to run in a draft. The car is pretty quick by itself, and that's the way things have gone this year, so I'm pretty happy."
JAY HOWARD (No. 7 Sam Schmidt Motorsports, 2nd quick): "As always, you've got to keep it off the walls. That's the main thing. We had a few issues in the morning. Took care of them by 11 o'clock, so we got our first run at 11. Got a couple of stints in before lunch. Got in a couple of good rounds. I think on our own we were fastest, but Wade was following (Chris) Festa around. When you're keeping an eye on everyone and seeing what they do on their own, I think we're fastest, so that's good."
(About Indianapolis Motor Speedway) "I love the oval much better than the high banks like Homestead, for example. There you just have to be patient and pick your line and and that's it, whereas here it's flat and it slows around a bit. You definitely get the sensation of speed."
CHRIS FESTA (No. 51 Cheever Racing, 3rd quick): "We're real happy. We did a bunch of things on the car today to see what we could figure out. We were quick right out of the box. We went flat on the third lap of the morning and just right then we had a pretty good package. We just went tuning on that. We think we found a couple of things at the end that maybe picked us up a bit. We're going to go look at it for the rest of the month, and then come back and win the race."
TOM WIERINGA (No. 9 Michael Crawford Motorsports, 4th quick): (About motivation to race) "I'm not exactly a spring chicken anymore, so I think the motivation is just to stay in good shape and keep sharp and to do something worthwhile. I love racing. The whole body-machine interface really interests me a lot. Whether it's skiing, I'm a ski racer in the winter, or racing cars, I just love. And the engineering part of it is interesting as well. It's neat working with these guys. They really are good."
ALEX LLOYD (No. 26 AFS Racing, 5th quick): "We didn't do a lot of running, but we did what we needed to. I got to grips with it pretty quickly. Indianapolis is a fantastic place. It's unbelievable to be here, and I can't wait to see it on the Sunday of the 500. I think that will be incredible. Today went well. We tried a few different things. I just wanted to get used to the ovals because I haven't done much running (on them) at all and get experience. I've done that today, and hopefully that will put us in decent position for the race."
The 2006 IRL IndyCar Series continues with the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500 at 1 p.m. (EDT) on May 28 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. ABC will broadcast the race live beginning at noon (EDT). A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. Live coverage on the IMS Radio Network begins at noon (EDT). 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 Freedom 100 May 26 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast as part of ESPN2's Carb Day coverage on May 26.