No Such Thing As A Week Off
June 22, 2001 | 4:00 P.M. EST
This week, drivers visited four facilities new to the IRNLS and got in some precious testing.
Greg Ray, Robbie Buhl and points leader Sam Hornish Jr. turned in laps at Kansas Speedway, where the Ameristar Casino Indy 200 will be run on July 8.
Ray and Buhl tied for the fast lap of 212.598 mph on the 1.5-mile oval. Hornish turned in a 211.3 mph lap.
Ray was impressed with the new track and expects it to produce close racing.
"This is absolutely a wonderful facility,” said Ray, driver of the No. 2 Dallara-Aurora. “I've been racing for 10 years from Canada to Mexico, the West Coast, East Coast. This is just an incredible, beautiful facility.
"I came in this morning and drove out on the racetrack when it was wet. It is super, super smooth. You can tell it will promote three- and four-wide racing."
"Everything was good," he said after climbing out of his No. 24 G Force-Infiniti. "The track - it's fast and it's smooth. The new pavement, the tarmac, there seems to be a lot of grip. There's some dust on the track, but there's a lot of grip in the pavement. It will be a fast, exciting race."
Shigeaki Hattori and Airton Dare put in some time on Richmond International Raceway’s .75-mile oval in preparation for the SunTrust Indy Challenge there on June 30.
Hattori tested Wednesday and Thursday at Richmond with a fast lap of 156.521 mph in his No. 55 Dallara-Aurora.
"We got a lot accomplished today considering this is the first time for the No. 55 EPSON team to pay a visit to RIR," Hattori said. "We're learning a lot about the minor bumps and lift in Turn 1 and then a fall coming out of Turn 2.
"We're also realizing what a wild ride it will be with a full pack out there. It's definitely an interesting track at RIR, and you can bet next Saturday's race will be one of the most, if not the most exciting race, the Indy Racing Northern Light Series has raced in 2001."
Airton Dare was fastest at Richmond, turning in the best lap of the two-day test with a fast lap of 158.824 mph in his No. 88 G Force Aurora.
"Being here at a new track is good for the series. It helps us get more fans,” said Dare, 2000 IRNLS Rookie of the Year. "You have to be aggressive here by getting the car into the turns. It's not like some places where you are waiting for the car to work for you. Here you have to do it yourself. There's always so much action because the corners come up quickly and you are always turning and fighting the car."
At Nashville Superspeedway, Sarah Fisher completed 155 laps on the 1.33-mile concrete oval with a top speed of 201.2 mph in the No. 15 Dallara-Aurora.
"We had a great testing day today at Nashville Superspeedway and will be a lot more prepared for the race than we would have been without it," Fisher said. "We learned a lot of specific information.
"As far as the geometry of the track goes, it's most like Kentucky, but the corners are tighter and the surface itself is somewhat similar to Richmond."
Billy Boat turned 120 laps at Nashville with a best lap of 203.26 mph in the No. 98 Dallara-Aurora.
"We had a great test," Boat said. "The track is very challenging, to say the least. It's not one of those places where you can roll off the truck and immediately put up fast times. The concrete is a very unique surface with its own set of idiosyncrasies that make it tricky for the engineers and mechanics to find the right setup.
"We ran 203-plus (mph) fairly consistently, but knowing we had more than that left, I'd look for race weekend speeds, and especially the pole speed, to be noticeably faster. Considering the racing surface, the configuration of the track and the close racing we have in the Indy Racing series, I expect this to be a very exiting event."
At Chicagoland Speedway, defending series champion Buddy Lazier, 1996 series co-champion Scott Sharp and Mark Dismore participated in a Firestone tire test on the 1.5-mile oval.
"This place is awesome," said Sharp, driver of the No. 8 Dallara-Aurora. "The track is really smooth, which is important for Indy Racing. It's extremely fast, and the car gets in and out of the corners effortlessly.
"The speedway is very unique because it is almost a continuous oval. Because of that, it gives us a better opportunity to pass other cars and race side by side."