Goodyear Sets Speed Record At Richmond

RICHMOND, Va. -- Scott Goodyear turned faster laps Tuesday than anyone at Richmond International Raceway, and with promises he can go faster still, the track is now on the Indy Racing Northern Light Series schedule to stay for the summer of 2001.

“I had a lot of fun out there,” Goodyear said after turning a lap at 146.75 mph on Richmond's .75-mile, D-shaped oval. Before Tuesday, Randy Tolsma's lap at 131.274 mph in a USAC Silver Crown car in 1996 was the record.

Richmond was tentatively added to the IRNLS's 2001 schedule weeks ago, but the June 30 night race date was contingent on a series driver coming here and testing what will become the shortest track on the open-wheel series' schedule.

"It's going to be a lot of dicing and weaving and popping on the inside of people, and I think traffic is going to play a big part on a circuit like this," Goodyear said. "I think that's what makes it a lot of fun for us because you're reading traffic and weaving and diving and hoping you've made the right decision.

"It puts a good show on for the fans."

Al Unser Jr. joined Goodyear and several IRNLS officials for the test session. Unser didn't get in the car, but saw enough to look forward to racing here.

"Bullrings create racing," he said, using the word for tracks of less than a mile more common to NASCAR. "They create side-by-side racing and also at safe speeds. ... We can get out there and really mix it up and have a good time."

Goodyear's lap came in a car set up for Kentucky Speedway, a 1.5-mile tri-oval that will be host to IRNLS's eighth race of this season Aug. 27. With a car set up specifically for RIR, lap speeds could well exceed 150 mph, Goodyear said.

Virginia is NASCAR country, though, with two Winston Cup weekends at Richmond, two at Martinsville and two on the Virginia-Tennessee border in Bristol every year, along with hundreds of other races at weekly tracks throughout the state.

But Goodyear thinks Richmond is ready to accept the IRNLS, too.

"Everywhere we've gone, we've been well received," he said.

That's what RIR general manager Doug Fritz is betting on. Fritz said he began courting the IRNLS once International Speedway Corp. bought the track from the Sawyer family last December.

"These fans here are racing fans," he said.

The track will require some adjustments to prepare for the series, including raising the fencing surrounding the track from its current 12-foot height, expanding the pit stalls 10 feet and smoothing out a lump from the first turn surface to accommodate the Indy cars, which ride barely an inch off the ground.

Paul Sawyer, who developed RIR into one of NASCAR's jewels and Virginia's largest venue with 100,000 seats, said he tried to woo the IRNLS three years ago, but the price for a race then was too high in an historically stock car market.

Now, he said, he thinks the series has a chance.

"Opening night, first race, they're going to have a lot of people," he said. "It depends on what kind of show they have whether they keep 'em coming back."

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