Knoxville's "Fast Track to Indy" winner passes Indy Racing League Rookie Test KNOXVILLE, IOWA, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2005 - Geoff Dodge, the 2005 Knoxville Nationals Fast Track to Indy Rookie of the Year, recently took a giant step towards ...
Knoxville's "Fast Track to Indy" winner passes Indy Racing League Rookie Test
KNOXVILLE, IOWA, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2005 - Geoff Dodge, the 2005 Knoxville Nationals Fast Track to Indy Rookie of the Year, recently took a giant step towards racing at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2006. Under the supervision of four-time Indianapolis 500 Champion Rick Mears, Dodge completed and passed his Indy Racing League rookie test at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet on Monday, Sept. 12.
The test started at 9:00 a.m. where league officials watched Dodge get familiar with the car. A basic Indy Racing League rookie test requires the driver to show consistency, by increasing speeds over 10-lap intervals and staying consistent within those speed requirements. Dodge's test stopped in under two hours as Mears passed the Colorado Springs native and granted his competition license for the Menards Infiniti Pro Series.
"Geoff took direction, provided good feedback that enabled the team to adjust the car, and he was smooth," Mears said. "The team liked working with him. He was quick, right way, and he provided a lot of good information when he was on the track. He did an outstanding job.
Making the transition from a winged sprint car going 120-plus miles per hour on dirt, to over 187 miles per hour on the paved 1.5 mile Chicagoland Speedway oval in the Pro Series car, isn't an easy transition. However, officials at the Indy Racing League partnered with the Knoxville Nationals because they saw the talent in young drivers who are able to control and drive the high-horsepower sprint cars on dirt.
"A driver is a driver is a driver," said Menards Infiniti Pro Series Executive Director Roger Bailey. "They'll find a way to adapt if they have it. Geoff clearly has it, and we're excited about getting him in a car next year. This is an avenue we should look to find more talent for the Pro Series moving forward."
The remainder of the test was giving Dodge the opportunity to feel how the car reacted to various changes. The changes included new tires, scuffs, downforce and adapting to the ever-changing surface of the track because of the heat of the day. From there, Dodge practiced the caution lights and resulting re-starts.
Dodge tested a car owned by Brian Stewart Racing, based out of Toronto, Canada. Doug Hoy, team manager at Brian Stewart Racing, felt a key to the successful test was Dodge's total trust in the direction from Mears and himself. "He was an open book," Hoy said. "He gave us immediate feedback through the cars handling and performance. He watched the in-car digital read-outs on the steering wheel display. In some cases he knew before we did."
"I was surprised at how quickly I was able to flatfoot the car all the way around the track," Dodge said. "I was comfortable with adapting to the changes as we went faster. I was really able to start anticipating reactions on the track." When told he had turned laps over 187 MPH, quick enough to have qualified fourth for the Chicagoland 100, which took place just one day earlier, Dodge felt confident in the car.
"I now know I can compete in these cars," he said. "I'm used to running in close quarters, but I'll bring lots of respect for the learning curve ahead."