Testing In The West

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Two former Indianapolis 500 winners and IRL IndyCarTM Series champions were among the drivers testing March 9 at Phoenix International Raceway in preparation for the Purex Dial Indy 200 on March 23.

Kenny Brack, the 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner and 1998 IRL IndyCar Series champion, tested his No. 15 Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara/Honda/Firestone along with 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2000 IndyCar Series champion Buddy Lazier, who tested a Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone for Hemelgarn Racing. Rookie Roger Yasukawa tested his No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone.

"It was good to get back on the track after the Homestead race," Brack said. "I know our team was disappointed with that finish (11th). So we were anxious to get back on track and work on the car.

"The Honda engine has been very good for us. It was strong at Homestead and again (during testing) at Phoenix. The conditions were pretty hot, nearly 80 degrees. We ran all day and learned quite a bit more about the car. I think the conditions today will be closer to race day (March 23) than when we were here a month ago (Test in the West)."

Brack expects the Purex Dial Indy 200 on the famous 1-mile oval to be very competitive.

"I think everyone saw how competitive the IndyCar Series is this year at the Homestead race," Brack said. "And it will be like that at Phoenix, too. Once again, handling will be the key, just like Homestead. Overall, it was a pretty good session for us. Unfortunately, it's tough to get a reading on how we are to the other cars since they ran earlier in the week."

The private session March 9 wrapped up three days of testing at PIR since March 6.

On March 6-7, Felipe Giaffone, driver of the No. 21 Hollywood Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, tested along with teammate Tora Takagi, driver of the No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone.

"We had the ill feeling that Homestead and our cars were not going to agree with each other," said Peter Parrott, team manager for Mo Nunn Racing. "But we don't feel that way at all about Phoenix. We had a good race car here last year. We ran well here during the Test in the West. And we got a lot done here yesterday and today.

"Felipe finally got the car to where he was comfortable and running quick laps. Tora has been going faster and faster each time he steps into the car. We're encouraged."

Said Giaffone: "When we come back here for race weekend, it's going to be warm. My car was behaving very well when it was quite warm, so that's really good. We'll see how we stack up against everybody else when we come back for the race. The thing about Homestead, we struggled in testing before the race, and then we didn't have such a great race weekend. I have a comfortable car for Phoenix, and I can't wait to come back and race."

The Purex Dial Indy 200 will mark the first event at PIR for Takagi.

"After Homestead, Phoenix is a whole different story," Takagi said. "The lap times we turned here in race setup were very competitive. And we tried many different setups and learned a lot about our cars. I am looking forward to race weekend here."

Also on March 6-7, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, tested along with Kelley Racing teammates Al Unser Jr. and Scott Sharp. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Unser tested the No. 31 Corteco Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, while Sharp tested the No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone.

Two-time IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. tested his No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone on March 6 while Jaques Lazier tested the No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone on March 6-7.

Buddy Rice, who drives the No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone and lives in Phoenix, was also on hand to observe the test, working with engineers from Menard Cheever Technologies. But he did not drive.

The Purex Dial Indy 200 will take place at 1:30 p.m. (MST) March 23 and will be broadcast live on ABC and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network.

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