'500' veterans help Firestone Racing develop tires at Indy
Indianapolis 500 winners Scott Dixon, Buddy Rice and Dan Wheldon, and fellow "500" veterans Ryan Briscoe, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan turned laps during a two-day Firestone Racing test Sept. 29-30 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
In the first IndyCar Series testing at IMS since the 92nd Indianapolis 500 on May 25, teams and drivers helped Firestone find the right balance between speed and grip in the Firehawk tires in preparation for the 93rd Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 24, 2009.
"The priority is for Firestone and trying to find a new tire for the Indy 500 in 2009," Briscoe said. "We're looking for consistency from the tire and for performance. Also, it's a great chance for us to be running here and just getting a few miles. You can never run too much around this place."
During the session, drivers and teams faced varying conditions similar to those seen in the month of May. The first day took place under sunny skies with temperatures in the mid-70s until rain moved through and delayed the afternoon session. Day two of the test saw cooler weather and cloudy skies. Hunter-Reay and Wheldon tested only Monday, Sept. 29, while Kanaan and Rice only ran Tuesday, Sept. 30. Briscoe and Wheldon tested both days.
As the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion, Dixon plans to build on momentum gained from testing to become only the sixth back-to-back winner of the Indianapolis 500.
"It's cool to be back, especially after what seems it's been so long since the '500,' so it's nice to back here," Dixon said. "It's always critical to be part of a Firestone test and to try and pick out tires that may help you or find a direction where they're heading on that front, but it's good to be back in the car any time you can.
"There's maybe a little less pressure on us somewhat just because we've won the race before. So I'm looking forward to having that feeling and knowing that we can definitely do it again."
The test served as the official on-track introduction between 2005 Indianapolis 500 winner Wheldon and his new team, Panther Racing.
"For me, it was very important to be on track because it's the first test that I was able to do since signing for Panther Racing," Wheldon said. "There's always that want to get that first test out of the way but also to see exactly how the car feels, and I think from the team's standpoint, how I work. I think we accomplished what I would consider some very valuable testing. I think the car performed very well.
"Any time that I can be out at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, you're going to see a smile on my face."