IROC Saddles Up
April 12, 2005 | 9:23 A.M. EST
Direct from his Champ Car World Series season opening victory in the Grand Prix of Long Beach, the defending champion, Sebastien Bourdais made his first appearance at the 1.5-mile high-banked oval jumping into the Crown Royal IROC stock cars after a weekend of nimble champ car piloting.
"It's quite different than what I've been doing over the last week, for sure," said Bourdais. "The IROC cars are about twice the weight, or more, of my Champ Car, the suspension, the movement and the seating position is so different, but it has four-wheels and a steering wheel, which means I'm have a great time."
Bourdais continued, "This is my first time here at Texas. For me it's a bit like a mini-Daytona (International Speedway), it's quite fun and a pretty smooth race track. It's going to be quite a challenge to work with two grooves. We did that a little, some side-by-side racing with Buddy (Rice) and it was enjoyable."
IndyCar Series' defending Indy 500 champion, Rice said, "This is my first time at Texas in a stock car and for sure It's quite a bit different then the way you drive the Indy cars. You have to arch the IROC cars into the corner, which is the conventional style of starting on the out side, drive it in slow and then apex before coming off the turn. With our cars we run the bottom all the way around, the shortest distance we can run. Also, you can really actually see the track rubber in with the IROC cars where with our cars you don't really see it that much."
Rice continued, "It's great to get to drive in the Crown Royal IROC cars. I really enjoy getting the chance to drive a different style car, especially at an awesome facility like Texas, and I always like running under the lights, so it's definitely going to be one heck of a ride for me."
Max Papis has had open wheel experience at Texas Motor Speedway driving for Marlboro Team Penske as a teammate to fellow IROC competitor, Helio Castroneves. But, this is Papis' first stock car experience at Texas Motor Speedway, and he echoed his fellow open wheel compatriots.
Papis said, "It feels like two completely different race tracks going from an Indy Car to a stock car here in Texas. The biggest learning curve for the open wheel guys is learning to close the distance between cars. When you're running with the open wheel guys they don't get quite as close as the IROC test drivers with their NASCAR experience, they're right on your bumper, which makes the car feel different. So, still a lot to learn and it's going to be a very different track than Daytona. I feel patience is going to pay off, but you also have to be aggressive, so it's also going to be about striking a balance between the two."
Two-time Indy 500 champion, Helio Castroneves was also in attendance and said, "The cars feel like they may have a bit more down force this year. I know the IROC team tried a few different things at the test and it seems to have helped. I think - no, I know this is going to be a great race so nobody should miss this."
Defending Crown Royal IROC Texas winner Danny Lasoski joined the open wheel contingent. Lasoski said, "It feels fantastic to be back here at Texas Motor Speedway after winning last year, it's a pleasure to be here with the IROC guys and I just hope I can repeat last year. We're starting the race a little earlier this year and that may change the characteristic of the cars a bit, but overall it should be a great race."
Lasoski continued, "I'll tell you what, the open wheel guys here today are doing a great job. They're getting up to speed pretty quickly. I'm the one that's a bit rusty with all the dirt driving I do, it takes me three or four days to get used to the IROC cars again. From the way things look today, we (open wheel drivers) may have a little something for the Cup guys."
Driver practice and set up preparations for the Crown Royal IROC race will continue at Texas Motor Speedway throughout the remainder of the week.