IPS: Test in the West Phoenix report 2003-02-06

AVONDALE, Ariz., Thursday, Feb. 6, 2003 -- Aaron Fike is one of the most talented young short-track drivers in America, so it's only fitting that he entered the comfort zone Feb. 6 during IRL Infiniti Pro Series testing at the 1-mile Phoenix ...

AVONDALE, Ariz., Thursday, Feb. 6, 2003 -- Aaron Fike is one of the most talented young short-track drivers in America, so it's only fitting that he entered the comfort zone Feb. 6 during IRL Infiniti Pro Series testing at the 1-mile Phoenix International Raceway.

Infiniti Pro Series veteran and USAC short-track standout Fike, 20, posted the fastest lap, 23.5124 seconds, 153.111 mph, in the No. 91 Hemelgarn 91/Johnson Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone during the Test in the West. Infiniti Pro Series teams tested Feb. 3 at the fast, wide, 2-mile California Speedway before heading to Phoenix for testing on the tight desert oval today.

"This is more of a driver's track," Fike said. "This is one of my favorite tracks that we run at, especially for the Midgets and the Silver Crown cars. I'd never run here in the Infiniti Pro Series cars, but these cars are really stable here. The cars worked great, and the Infiniti motors ran really good.

"We learned a lot today. We tried tons of different stuff -- the springs, aerodynamics, we went everywhere from having a full fuel load to having no fuel load. We learned a lot, and we got fast, but you come here on race weekend, and everything is going to change. I think what we learned today is definitely going to help us. We got a good test in, so I'm happy with it."

Rookie Paul Dana was second fastest at 23.5710, 152.730 in the No. 24 Team Ethanol/ISI Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone. Veteran Arie Luyendyk Jr., testing just a few miles from his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., was third at 23.6375, 152.300 in the No. 5 Sinden Racing Service entry.

"It was awesome," Dana said. "Fontana was my first time in these cars ever, and it was pretty easy because it's a superspeedway. Here, you really have to drive the car at both ends of the track. When you first go out, you look into Turn 3 and you can't believe that you're going to go through there flat. You're like, 'There's no way.' But then you just chip away at it, and the car stays underneath you, and the faster you go. Here, you're flat in that end of the track, and you are not bored at all. You're well aware of the wall, the car's moving around underneath you, and you're just trying to be really, really smooth. It's satisfying to be quick here as a rookie, for sure.

"And with this series, you have access to guys like Rick Mears. He came over and talked to me for about 20 minutes at one point and gave me some pointers. It just makes your head spin that you have access to guys like that. It's awesome."

Infiniti Pro Series rookie Mark Taylor, fastest Monday at California, was fourth at 23.6446, 152.255 in the No. 4 Panther Racing entry. Taylor was unhurt in an afternoon crash in Turn 2, the only incident of the day.

"The car was feeling pretty good," Taylor said. "I was just going into Turns 1 and 2 and tried to pick up the power a little too much. I ended up with the back end going around. I did a half-spin and lost it before I could really get it under control.

"Phoenix has been really good. It is a good track to learn how the car feels. I was happy with the way we ran in the morning. We did well this afternoon, as well. Unfortunately, we ended up putting it in the wall, but that happens. It is probably the hardest way to learn, but it is probably the quickest way to learn."

Fike's teammate, veteran Cory Witherill, rounded out the top five at 23.7103, 151.833 in the No. 92 Hemelgarn 91/Johnson Motorsports entry.

Eleven drivers combined to turn 1,610 laps during the two session IRL s. IndyCar Series teams and drivers will test Friday and Saturday at s. Phoenix, starting at 11 a.m. (EST) both day s.

The second race of the season for both the IRL IndyCar Series and Infiniti Pro Series will take place March 23 at Phoenix. The season opener for both series is March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.


Schedule: The daily on-track schedule for the eighth annual Indy Racing League Test in the West (times local):

Friday, Feb. 7, Phoenix (IndyCar Series): 9 a.m.-noon, 1-4:30 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 8, Phoenix (IndyCar Series): 9-11:30 a.m., 1-4 p.m.


Fans welcome: Fans are welcome to attend the Test in the West at Phoenix International Raceway, free of charge. The Jimmy Bryan Grandstand (main stand on front straightaway) will be open for spectators Feb. 8.


Sign here, please: A free autograph session will take place from noon-12:30 p.m. (MST) Feb. 8 at Phoenix International Raceway.


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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Mark Taylor , Cory Witherill , Rick Mears , Aaron Fike , Paul Dana , Arie Luyendyk Jr.
Teams Panther Racing