Inotebook:/I Beechler Hurt
March 1, 2002 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Beechler, driving A.J. Foyt’s No. 14 Dallara-Chevy, crashed after hitting 194.967 mph in his fast lap of morning practice.
IRL medical director Dr. Henry Bock said Beechler was complaining of back and neck pain after the accident. Beechler climbed from the car under his own power after the wreck.
He will undergo further evaluation and have X-rays taken at the hospital. Team owner A.J. Foyt may have 2000 IRL Rookie of the Year Airton Dare qualify for Beechler.
Beechler is taking part in his first race at Homestead. He was without a ride during the IRL’s inaugural visit to the track last season.
Rookie Tomas Scheckter, fastest in practice Thursday, also crashed Friday. He spun Red Bull Cheever Racing's No. 52 Dallara-Infiniti in Turn 4 and damaged the rear end of his car.
He was uninjured in the crash and is expected to qualify a backup car.
Unser Getting Comfortable
Al Unser Jr. has three practices under his belt with his new Kelley Racing team, and he’s already happy with the veteran IRL team.
“What can I say? I'm just impressed with the whole Kelley team,” said Unser, driver of the No. 7 Dallara-Chevy. “Tom Knapp (engineer) and John Worth (crew chief) are doing a great job. I'm sorry that we didn't get a chance to test, but with a team like Kelley Racing it's not that important.”
In Thursday’s practice, Unser turned in a top speed of 198.526 mph, and he followed that up with a 196.443 mph lap in Friday-morning practice. Last season, Unser qualified 20th at 193.775 mph in Galles Racing’s No. 3 G Force-Infiniti.
Unser said he prefers the Dallara.
“The Dallara is great to drive and the car overall feels really good,” he said. “The Corteco car was great today, and I just got right in and drove off.”
Cheever Fast Again
For the third straight practice session at Homestead, Eddie Cheever Jr. has placed his No.51 Dallara-Infiniti in the Top 5.
On Friday morning, Cheever turned in a fast lap of 202.836 mph in the final practice before afternoon qualifications.
Cheever credits the work of the Infiniti program for his early success.
“I would have to say that the Nissan-Infiniti engineers are a quarter-step ahead of the competition right now,” Cheever said. “They are going to have to keep up the work though, because I am sure the pressure is going to be strong heading into Indianapolis.”
Helio Castroneves was second fastest Friday morning at 202.470 in Penske Racing’s No. 3 Dallara-Chevy. He was followed by reigning IRL champion Sam Hornish Jr. at 202.362 mph in Panther Racing’s No. 3 Dallara-Chevy, two-time CART champ Gil de Ferran at 202.025 in Penske Racing’s No. 6 Dallara-Chevy and Robbie Buhl at 200.905 in Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s G Force-Infiniti.
The Top 17 drivers were separated by less than a second.
Ward Feeling the Heat
Jeff Ward’s No. 9 G Force-Chevy will sport the colors of the NBA’s Miami Heat this weekend at the Grand Prix of Miami.
Team owner Chip Ganassi announced the deal Friday.
“This is a mutually beneficial relationship for both Chip Ganassi Racing and the Miami Heat,” Ganassi said. “This allows both parties to benefit from the exposure that the Indy Racing League and the National Basketball Association provide. We are honored to carry the colors of the Miami Heat this weekend as we pursue a victory in the season-opening race in Homestead.”
Ward is no stranger to special paint schemes. Last season he carried the colors of rock band Aerosmith at Indianapolis and later had livery featuring Indiana-born singer John Mellencamp.
Ward hopes to bring the team a victory Saturday in the season-opening IRL race.
”I'm excited to have the Miami Heat on the car this weekend,” said Ward, who won the pole at Homestead last season. “They're a winning organization with great athletes. We're hoping to get the Heat in Victory Lane.”