(NAZARETH, Pa) Apr. 6, 2000 -The real stuff starts tomorrow, but today's test day offered an insight into just what might be in store for Round 3 of the Barber Dodge Pro Series on the 1-mile oval at Nazareth Speedway in Nazareth, Pa. Series...
(NAZARETH, Pa) Apr. 6, 2000 -The real stuff starts tomorrow, but today's test day offered an insight into just what might be in store for Round 3 of the Barber Dodge Pro Series on the 1-mile oval at Nazareth Speedway in Nazareth, Pa. Series point's leaders Jon Fogarty and Nilton Rossoni topped the day's times with Dutchman Sepp Koster holding rock solid with the third quickest time of the day. Surprisingly, a string of series rookies with no prior oval experience turned in some very fast performances. Leading the way for the rookie contingent was Brazil's Andre Nicastro followed by 1999 Barber Dodge "Big Scholarship" winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, Briton Sam Hancock, Swede Thed Bjork and Canuck Jonathan Macri.
Three separate test sessions were conducted on a day that dawned with frigid temperatures and intermittent rain, sleet and hail showers. As the weather system worked its way through the region, it gave way to sunny skies, mild temperatures and a stiff wind. The weather caused some brief delays but the Barber Dodge Reynards finally got underway by late morning.
The fastest times were set during Session 2 when conditions were most ideal for establishing a quick time. Rossoni and Fogarty traded fast times throughout the day, and it was Fogarty's time from Session 2 that stood as the day's standard. His lap of 27.165 sec for an average speed of 125.367 mph just nipped Rossoni's best of 27.197 sec.
Homestead pole-winner Nicastro's time of 27.333 sec was a shade faster than Hunter-Reay who was .025 sec behind. Most of the oval first-timers found that it took only one session to acquainted with the nuances of oval racing.
"During the first session I detested it," commented Hancock, a former Palmer Audi driver in England about racing on an oval for the first time.
"But for the second and third session I loved it," he beamed. "After that first session I said, 'why would anyone want to race on these?' I even questioned whether I wanted to race in America at all. But once you get it into your head, and you figure out what you're doing, it's a lot of fun. I look at it (the Nazareth oval) as a sequence of three really fast road corners, which I really love."
Thed Bjork took a similar, if slightly less dramatic view.
"The first time was really scary and different. 'Why do they build tracks like these?' I thought," said the former Swedish F3 driver. "The second time was good. It took a while to get used to setting up of the car as I have no experience on ovals. The car stagger is a totally new sensation."
A la Jacques Villeneuve, fellow Canadian Jonathan Macri practiced the art of oval racing on a computer video game.
"The computer games helped to become familiar with the track," said Macri the 1999 Canadian Formula Ford Rookie of the Year. "I am hoping I am going to get better as the car felt good, but not as good as the time-sheets showed."
The official practice for the Barber Dodge Pro Series begins tomorrow, Apr. 7 with final qualifying Sat., Apr. 8 and the 60-lap race scheduled for Sun. Apr. 9 at 3:30 p.m. EDT immediately following the CART FedEx Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix.
Fastest 10 times for Test Day:
<pre> 1.Fogarty/0:27.165 sec 2.Rossoni/0:27.197 3.Koster/0:27.227 4.Peter Boss/0:27.246 5.Andy Lally/0:27.313 6 Nicastro/0:27.333 7 Hunter-Reay/0:27.358 8.Michael Valiante/0:27.454 9.Roger Yasukawa/0:27.463 10.Hancock/0:27.465