Grand Am cars test at the Speedway
Nine Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 teams participated in the test, which included a pair of two-hour sessions. While the bulk of the time was spent on the 2.534-mile, 13-turn Formula One road course, teams also spent a short time on the modified 2.621-mile, 16-turn MotoGP layout.
"Let's go racing," said Scott Pruett after his first run in Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates' No. 01 TELMEX Lexus Riley he shared with Memo Rojas. "I think we'd put on a heck of a show. I have no question in our mind, compatibility is not an issue. The biggest question for me is, 'When are we going to race?'"
Rolex Series officials held debriefing sessions following both the morning and afternoon sessions.
"We had a fantastic welcome from the Speedway, the media and the entire community," said Grand-Am Vice President of Competition David Spitzer. "I had conversations with track leadership, and they were delighted by the buzz the test generated and the unexpected large number of people who came here to be part of the day.
"We're confident we will be able to put on a fantastic show at Indianapolis," Spitzer added. "The Speedway will work very well with our two-class format. We will continue to work with our tire partner, Pirelli, along with the experience of NASCAR and will have no problem designing tires that can race here."
Joining Pruett and Rojas from the Daytona Prototypes at the test were Daytona Prototype point co-leader Jon Fogarty and Bob Stallings Racing owner Bob Stallings in the No. 99 GAINSCO Racing Pontiac Riley; Wayne and Ricky Taylor in the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara; Michael Valiante, John Pew and Michael Shank in the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley; and Buddy Rice in the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Porsche Coyote. Indy Racing League veterans Ed Carpenter, Jonathan Klein, Scott Mayer and Ryan Lewis also turned laps in the Coyote.
Four Rolex Series Acxiom GT cars also tested: championship leaders Leh Keen and Dirk Werner in the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3; Robin Liddell, Andrew Davis and Mike Johnson in the No. 57 BryanMark Financial/Stevenson Automotive Pontiac GXP.R; Sylvain Tremblay and David Haskell in the No. 70 SpeedSource/Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8; and team owner Kevin Buckler and Spencer Pumpelly in the No. 68 TRG Pontiac GXP.R.
"It's a pretty fun road course, and it's great to be here in the Grand-Am Rolex Series," said Fogarty, who leads the Daytona Prototype points with co-driver Alex Gurney with two races remaining in the 2009 season. "We put on spectacular racing, and I think we'd be able to do that here, too. Judging by the number of fans we had here, just for the test, there seemed to be a lot of interest, which is great. As a driver, you want to go where people appreciate what you do, and people in Indianapolis know racing. It's great to be a part of that."
Both sessions ran incident free, other than a couple of harmless spins.
"It's been exciting," said Rice, who won the 2004 Indianapolis 500 from the pole. "It's great to get back to Indy. I think the compatibility test has gone really well. A lot of people are excited about it. I think the course is good. There are a few things that we need to work on to make it better, but I don't think there's any major job that needs to be done. I think it's gone quite well."
The only other appearance of the Daytona Prototypes at Indianapolis was a private test for Vision Racing in January, 2007, preparing for that year's Rolex 24 At Daytona. Carpenter, Stephan Gregoire and car owner Tony George drove the team's Coyote in that session. The Speedway has also hosted several sports car tests on the famed 2.5-mile oval, most recently in 1965 by Jim Hall in a Chaparral Can-Am car.
The opening 15 minutes of the afternoon session were run on the MotoGP course, running in the same direction as the F-1 course.
The next race for the Grand-Am Rolex Series will be Sept. 19 at Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City, Utah, followed by the Oct. 10 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The following are quotes from Thursday's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Scott Pruett, No. 01 TELMEX Lexus Riley - (on running at Indianapolis Motor Speedway): "It's great. This is a dream come true to come back here to Indianapolis in these cars. We're getting things worked out pretty quick. The car feels good, the track feels great. It's rubbering in. It's green. Everybody's working into it, but we're probably running close to 190 mph on the straightaway, and having a lot of fun.
(on running a race at IMS): "Let's go racing! When are we going to have the race? That's the biggest question for me. I have no question in my mind, compatibility is not an issue. It's good to go through the exercise; it's good that we're going to run bits and pieces of the MotoGP track. It's good to be prepared and making clear decisions, but at the same time, I'm ready to go racing at Indy."
Memo Rojas, No. 01 TELMEX Lexus Riley - (on running at IMS): "It's a pleasure to be here. It's any driver's dream come true just to be able to run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Obviously, it's a great facility, a great track to be at, and we're just getting used to the track. It should put on a great show for us. I don't know what the outcome from this test will be, but it's a great initiative from Grand-Am and Indianapolis Motor Speedway to have us here for a test. Hopefully, something could happen in the future."
John Pew, No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley - (on being at IMS): "It's great. It's a great place to be. It's such a historic place, and really good to see all the fans here for testing. They were very enthusiastic. It's different than what I'm used to, with the different surfaces around the track. Some of the corners can really catch you off guard. You have to get used to the corners, as some of them look similar to other places on the track. I think if there is a race here, we definitely need to use the F-1 configuration. But just being here is fantastic; I feel honored being here."
Michael Valiante, No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley - (on running at IMS): "I really enjoyed it. The track is unbelievable and it's a beautiful facility. I hope we come back here and race. As always, the car rolled out really well and was quick right away. Michael Shank and the team did a phenomenal job. It's amazing. When I drove in, I couldn't believe the size of the place. I'm thrilled to be here."
Michael Shank, No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley - (on running at IMS): "It was great fun. I have new respect for Michael and John and Mark and Ozz. These cars are tough to drive. It was really, really cool to drive down the front straight at Indianapolis. I looked up the whole way, and just looked around, to be honest. I got out before I crashed. We made big progress in the test. Michael was quickest, from what I've been told - as usual - they did a lot to that car in a four-hour period and got a lot accomplished. Hopefully, we'll get to come back here next year or the year after, and we'll be more prepared. Absolutely there's no reason why we couldn't race here, and the F-1 course is the one to run. I think the MotoGP course is too tight - we'd have a parking lot leading into the hairpin. This is a great opportunity. I hope we can put it together and have a race here as soon as possible, and have a four or five hour race that leads into the twilight so our lights would come on. We'd really individualize our race if we did that."
Wayne Taylor, No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara - (on running at IMS): "Obviously, this is a historic event. Coming here for the first time on the F-1 Grand Prix circuit is pretty special. It's more special to have Ricky driving with me today. It's really something. I'm very impressed with the circuit and the facility, and I'm very impressed with the way everything's set up. I think it's a great place for us to come back and race. The course is really good. It takes some time to learn for me, not having driven in this car since the Rolex 24. It's got a lot of high-speed corners and one or two fairly slow corners. It's a fairly technical track. It's a great race track."
Ricky Taylor, No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara - (on running at IMS): "The track is a lot of fun to drive. The car was not what I expected from what it looks like in other cars. The track had no grip, with a lot of pickup, but we were working on it. The track's a lot of fun to driver. It flows really well. I think it will a good race track, no problems at all."
Buddy Rice, No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Porsche Crawford - (on running at IMS on the road course; Rice has five Indy 500 starts with a win in 2004): "I think it's good. It's been exciting. It's great to get back to Indy. I think the first half of the compatibility test has gone really well. A lot of people are excited about it. I think the course is good. It's acceptable. There are a few things that we need to work on to make it better, but I don't think there's any major job that needs to be done. I think it's gone quite well."
Ed Carpenter, No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Porsche Crawford - (on running Daytona Prototype again): "The car feels a lot like I remember it. It's a pretty big adjustment getting out of what I'm used to into one of these. They drive quite a bit different. The track seems OK. It keeps getting better the more cars run on it. Right now there are a lot of marbles on it and that makes it hard for passing."
(on Daytona Prototype test at IMS with Tony George and Stephan Gregoire in 2007, the only other time a Daytona Prototype was on the Speedway): "We came down here and shook the car down before Daytona a couple years ago. I don't know if I'd call that experience or now. I'm just out here to have fun today; I'll leave the decisions to everyone else."
Jon Fogarty, No. 99 GAINSCO Pontiac Riley - (on being at IMS): "We're happy to be here. It's a pretty fun road course, and it's great to be here in the Grand-Am Rolex Series. It's great to have these people - fans - show up today. We put on spectacular racing, and I think we'd be able to do that here, too."
(on what fans at IMS should expect from Rolex Series race): "The way the rules are structured, our cars are very close, and we run close and have fenders, so we can touch one another. So it lends to good racing. And I think that's what people want to come and see. We're able to provide that. We have to build a tire that will allow us to run two-wide, and then the race will be really great."
(on the course itself): "It's such a juxtaposition between a lot of long straightaways and short technical stuff. I love coming out on the banking and the long straightaway. It's, for sure, a great place to come. It's pretty much the world center of racing for North America. We'd have a huge number of fans, so anything we can do to get eyeballs on what we do in the Grand-Am Rolex Series is great. The series, like I said - the racing is incredible, and if you're a racing fan, there is no way you can't love what we're doing."
(on running the road course at Indy): "I have a road racing background, and obviously am happy to be running on the road course. It's cool to be here at Indy. Judging by the number of fans we had, just here for the test, there seemed to be a lot of interest, which is great. As a driver, you want to go where people appreciate you what you do, and people in Indianapolis know racing. It's great to be a part of that."
Bob Stallings, No. 99 GAINSCO Pontiac Riley - (on running at IMS): "My neck spoke to me very quickly about how old I am today, but I had a lot of fun. I got one record here - the first spinner. I went into the first gear turn and got the power down a little too quickly and it spun around on me. Thank goodness the driver of the (No.) 10 car (Ricky Taylor) paid heed to my warning in the drivers' meeting that there would be a wanker in the (No.) 99 car today. It's just awesome. It's just a thrill to be here. There's so much pure racing history here. I think it would be a terrific opportunity with the Daytona Prototypes and the GTs to run here, especially if we can run with the (NASCAR Sprint) Cup guys, and run on Friday night, I think we can end up with a pretty big crowd. I'm hoping the track can figure out a way to get the curbs in and out on Turn 1. It's a lot of fun. The inside of the track is not an excellent road course, but it's a lot of fun for the drivers. Coming out of the last turn from the infield, you're flat all the way into the braking zone. Cars are doing from 180 to 183 (mph), which is pretty similar to Daytona. It's pretty fast."
Andrew Davis, No. 57 BryanMark Financial/Stevenson Automotive Pontiac GXP.R - (on running at IMS): "It's special, for sure. It's neat to be out here, with the surroundings. This place is so big. There are a lot of visual distractions on the first couple laps. Luckily, I was bedding the brakes, so I could go slow and take it in. Once they were ready, I was ready to go quick. The course is a blast. Right now, it's pretty green because no one's been on it for a long time, so the grip level is low in the infield. The high speed stuff is a kick. It's really fast and really fun. You get a good run down the front straight into turn one. There are some good heavy brake zones, and I think it's going to be good for racing."
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