IRL: Kentucky Speedway test notes 2002-07-17

Indy Racing League drivers Ward, Buhl test for "The Belterra Casino Indy 300" at Kentucky Speedway. Drivers post fastest speedway test times to date. SPARTA, KY.-- Indy Racing League drivers Robbie Buhl and Jeff Ward visited Kentucky Speedway on ...

IRL: Kentucky Speedway test notes 2002-07-17

Indy Racing League drivers Ward, Buhl test for "The Belterra Casino Indy 300" at Kentucky Speedway.
Drivers post fastest speedway test times to date.

SPARTA, KY.-- Indy Racing League drivers Robbie Buhl and Jeff Ward visited Kentucky Speedway on July 17 for a one-day test in preparation for the August 11"Belterra Casino Indy 300" and upcoming circuit races in Nashville and Chicago.

Ganassi reported its best lap at 221.300 mph and Buhl was unofficially timed near the same speed. Both drivers bettered Indy 500 Rookie-of-the-Year Alex Barron's previous fastest test lap of 220.408 turned at Kentucky in May. The fastest IRL pole speed on record at the track is 219.191 mph, engineered by Scott Goodyear in 2000.

Ward, who is enjoying one of his most successful seasons to date, enters this week seventh in the series points standings after winning in Texas and posting a total of two-top five and five top-10 finishes so far this season. He said his move to Chip Ganassi Racing is making a difference in his on-track performance.

"I'm with a No. 1 team. The resources here are pretty incredible. Even some of the guys from the CART team are here helping engineering wise," Ward said. "I've had good cars every race. If we have any problems during the weekend we get rid of them quickly and move on.

"Basically, we're working on qualifying and race stuff. We don't have the engine that we'll be running here, this is pre-Indy stuff which is down quite a bit of horsepower. We'll have a couple miles an hour left when we come back. The car is comfortable, so we're just working on getting a good balance and all the numbers they want to read with shock settings and everything. When we come back we won't waste a (practice) session being too low or too high," the pilot of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi G-Force Chevrolet added.

Buhl, who missed the two races prior to the Indy 500 this season as a result of an injury, said his Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team is looking to gaining the rhythm that generated three top-five finishes in 2001 and ways to improve on its current season's best 12th place finish. Buhl drove his No. 24 Purex/Aventis G-Force/Infiniti to a ninth-place finish in the"Belterra Casino Indy 300" last August after the car ran out of fuel during the final laps as it held the race lead.

"Since Indy, we've really struggled with being around at the end of the races, so we're trying to get our rhythm back," Buhl said."The Infiniti guys have been giving us good power, but we haven't been around at the end, so we have to eliminate that as a variable. It's a matter of getting out here and doing miles, trying stuff, and getting our momentum back. That's just what we're doing."

He also was taking notes on the new surface at Kentucky Speedway, which he predicted will make for interesting racing during the"Belterra Casino Indy 300" in August.

"To be honest with you, I didn't have a big issue with the surface last year. I think it's good improvement," Buhl said."The one thing that's hard to judge right now is there's a lot of grip out there. Surface temperatures will be hotter when we race here because it's a little overcast today. Once we get rubber down, it'll be interesting to see what it does to the surface and whether we'll be able to run high or low.

The IRL returns to Kentucky Speedway this season for the facility's fourth and final race weekend on Saturday, August 10, and Sunday, August 11. Saturday's action features Indy Racing League MBNA Pole Qualifying and the NASCAR Hills Bros. All Pro Series"84 WHAS 150" race on 84 WHAS 150 & Pole Day.

Sunday's docket will feature the Indy Racing League"Belterra Casino Indy 300" at 1:30 p.m. and the Kentucky Speedway debut of the Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series at 11:00 a.m. The first 15,000 fans to enter will receive a Sam Hornish, Jr., Al Unser, Jr., or Buddy Lazier bobblehead. Fans also can register to win the Official Kentucky Speedway Belterra Casino Indy 300 Pace Car, a 2002 Ford Mustang GT, courtesy of event title sponsor Belterra Casino Resort. Speedway gates will open at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday.

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