Iirl Notebook:/I De Ferran Fastest

One of the budding rivalries of this young 2002 Indy Racing League season continued during the first day of practice for the Bombardier ATV Copper World Indy 200 on March 15, as Gil de Ferran edged Sam Hornish Jr. for the fastest lap at Phoenix International Raceway.

De Ferran posted a top speed of 20.3157 seconds, 177.203 mph on his second-to-last lap of the first practice in the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara-Chevy, and that lap stood up during the entire second practice as the best of the day.

"It's hard to compare with what other people are going through," said de Ferran, in his first full season of IRL competition. "I feel I'm on a much steeper learning curve than I was the last couple of years. I must say Homestead and Phoenix are good for us because most of the winter testing is done at those two tracks."

Hornish led most of the first practice with his best lap of the day, 20.3570, 176.843 in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara-Chevy before being dislodged from the top spot by de Ferran.

"Everything went pretty much as planned," Hornish said.

Defending IRL champion Hornish opened the 2002 season with a dominant victory in the 20th Anniversary Grand Prix of Miami on March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. de Ferran finished second, with Marlboro Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves third.

That intriguing battle should continue during the 200-lap Bombardier ATV Copper World Indy 200 at 4 p.m. (EST) Sunday, live on ABC.

Robbie Buhl was fastest in the second practice at 20.4248, 176.256 in the No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force-Infiniti, the third-best lap of the day overall.

Buddy Lazier and Al Unser Jr. were fourth and fifth on the overall speed charts, respectively. 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Lazier was fourth at 20.5743, 174.976 in the No. 91 Dallara-Chevy. Two-time Indy winner Unser was fifth at 20.5971, 174.782 in the No. 7 Dallara-Chevye.

Twenty-six drivers turned 2,179 combined laps during the two practice sessions today. The only incident was a spin by 1996 IRL co-champion Scott Sharp in Turn 2, and his No. 8 Delphi Dallara-Chevy made no contact.
Practice continues at 11 a.m. (ET) Saturday, with qualifying scheduled for 2 p.m. (ET).

Fike Finds Ride
Hemelgarn-Johnson Motorsports has selected USAC young gun Aaron Fike as its driver in the Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series, the team announced Friday.

Fike, 19, will drive the team’s No. 91 in the Indy Racing League’s development series starting with the series’ inaugural race July 7 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan.

“Aaron is young, extremely talented and loves to win,” co-owner Ron Hemelgarn said. “He reminds me of Buddy Lazier and Paul Tracy, who also drove for me at age 19. I look forward to helping Aaron fulfill his goals.”

Fike became the youngest driver ever to win a USAC Silver Crown race in June 2001 at Richmond International Raceway. He was named the 2001 Silver Crown Rookie of the Year and the 2000 Midget Series Rookie of the Year.

He finished fifth in the 2001 Midget Series points standings and 10th in the Silver Crown points standings.

“(Aaron) has already made a mark in USAC competition,” co-owner Robert Johnson said. “I was impressed with his Silver Crown win at Richmond last year. He should do well under the Hemelgarn 91/Johnson Motorsports banner.”

Fike sees his Pro Series ride as a logical step in his quest to race Indy-style cars and eventually the Indianapolis 500.

“I want to have two successful years in the Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series,” said Fike, a native of Galesburg, Ill. “I want to win races and a championship before stepping up to Indy cars and competing in the Indianapolis 500.”

The inaugural Pro Series season will consist of seven races.

Cahill Gets Intelligent Sponsor
Cahill Racing announced Friday that it has picked up another associate sponsor for Robby McGehee’s No. 10 Dallara-Chevy.

Boulder, Colo.-based The Intelligent Office will be featured on McGehee’s car starting this weekend at the Bombardier ATV Copper World Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway.

“The Intelligent Office is a very unique firm, and we are thrilled to have them as a sponsor beginning with the IRL race in Phoenix,” said Dan Ridenour, a Cahill Racing spokesman. “Cahill Racing is a client of The Intelligent Office in Indianapolis so we know firsthand the value of the services they provide their clients, and we look forward to helping them grow their business.”

“We are very excited to be part of the Cahill team and see the Indy Racing fan as a perfect match with the typical Intelligent Office client,” said Deirdra O-Rourke, of The Intelligent Office in Indianapolis. “We plan to activate our involvement immediately as our first promotion begins March 18.”

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