Wrecks Delay Qualifying In Texas

FORT WORTH, Texas -- When Indy Racing League drivers returned to Texas Motor Speedway to qualify for the Casino Magic 500, the bump in Turn 4 was still there.

Qualifying was postponed Thursday night to give IRL officials time to evaluate the situation after two similar accidents off the final turn during earlier practice sessions.

Because the 1.5-mile TMS oval hasn't changed since the IRL last raced there in October, and the league has since introduced new chassis that is suspected to be part of the problem.

"There's no difference in the track. There's an issue with the geometry of the cars," said Eddie Gossage, the track's general manager. "We just came to a mutual decision to be safe."

Gossage said no changes will be made to the track, where IRL runs two races a year.

Davey Hamilton and Jimmy Kite both crashed into the wall after going through Turn 4 during practice Thursday afternoon. Both cars were heavily damaged, including a fire in Kite's car, but neither driver was injured.

Brian Barnhart, the IRL's director of racing operations, said the postponement was precautionary in nature after the crashes.

Jones and Hamilton both use new G Force chassis on their cars, but Barnhart said there is no indication the problems are isolated to those chassis.

"We are examining the data to find the cause of the accidents. We believe it has something to do with the suspension in the right rear," Barnhart said. "There is not data that has isolated to the G Force only."

Hamilton said his car was running great when he hit the bump in Turn 4 and the accident happened quickly.

"Something on the car broke, and the car turned right," Hamilton said. "Usually when the car bottoms out, you spin and hit the wall. This time the car just went right up into the wall."

Buddy Lazier, the IRL points leader, said the bump has deteriorated some since last year, but didn't affect his car too much during his practice run Thursday.

"It's the same for everybody," Lazier said. "The IRL always errs on the side of safety, and that's the way it should be. If there is a problem with suspensions collapsing, I think we need to do the prudent thing, whatever that is."

Eddie Cheever also recognized the changes in the track.

"The character of the track has changed since last year, and it has a whole bunch of new nuances to it," he said. "The track is a lot bumpier than it was before, but it's nothing to worry or panic about."

"Still, if there's something wrong with the G Force, then they should stop and fix it. It's just a real pity for the public."

Other drivers indicated to IRL officials there are no significant changes to the track since last October's race.

A.J. Foyt said his two drivers in the race, Eliseo Salazar and Jeff Ward, were disappointed in not running on schedule.

"My drivers are fine with the track, they don't see any difference," Foyt said. "But for safety factor, I can see just to make sure, nobody wants to get anybody hurt."

Foyt said the crashes could be an indication of cars that were not properly adjusted for the track.

"When you bottom out, something's going to give. The race track ain't going to do that. The track is fine," Foyt said.

During the practice session, Scott Sharp posted the fasted lap with a 210.921 mph. Greg Ray was second at 210.776, followed by Mark Dismore, Scott Goodyear and Eliseo Salazar.

After the IRL postponement, NASCAR trucks returned to the track without problems for a final practice session prior to the Pronto Auto Parts 400 tonight.

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