Drivers use Kansas to prepare for Indy
When IndyCar Series drivers take the track at Kansas Speedway April 26 for the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300, it will mark the first race on an oval since the 2008 season ended at Chicagoland Speedway last September. The race also comes four weeks before the Indianapolis 500, meaning teams will be trying to use the race at Kansas to build momentum for the month of May.
|The chassis setup for the high banked Kansas track is nothing like the Indy track whatsoever, but at least it is an oval|
Among those looking for positive results at Kansas that they can take to Indianapolis are: Scott Dixon, the 2008 IndyCar Series champion, who led 145 of 200 laps at Kansas last year, before going on to win the Indianapolis 500; Dan Wheldon, winner of the last two races at Kansas, who has moved to a new team in 2009; and Sarah Fisher, the driver and co-owner of Sarah Fisher Racing who will make her 2009 debut at Kansas as a tune-up for Indy.
“Kansas is a great circuit for the IndyCar Series to go to just before Indy,” said Dixon, who won the pole at Kansas last year and finished third. “It’s very different in the fact that the cars are fairly easy to control on that track. Once you get into the draft, it’s very different, but for a lot of the rookies it’s a great place to feel it out. The track allows you to maybe mess up a little bit, and you can still recover it. There’ll be a lot of emphasis on Kansas.”
A year ago, Dixon followed up a strong run at Kansas by winning the pole and the race at Indianapolis. Wheldon, the 2005 Indianapolis 500 champion, hopes to create momentum for the Panther Racing team with a strong showing on the 1.5-mile oval.
“We don’t really test that much on any ovals,” said Wheldon, who has led 226 of the last 400 laps at Kansas. “There will be some people who use the race at Kansas, to some degree, as a test for Indianapolis. From a fan perspective, you’re going to see a lot of guys pushing the limits because that’s the only race that’s before Indianapolis on an oval. That’s always been a good event, because it does lead into the momentum. Certainly if you can create some momentum, that helps. You often during May create another form of momentum, but any time you can go into the month of May with a victory under your belt it certainly makes the early part of the month special.”
For Fisher, Kansas kicks off a season that will include four races on ovals in 2009. The team that debuted at last year’s Indianapolis 500 battling a tight budget has full funding from Dollar General and expects strong results.
“I'm very excited,” said Fisher, who has competed in parts of nine seasons and has made four starts at Kansas. “You stare at a car all winter long and come in here every day and just make things happen. When you're able to run a race before the Indy 500, you're able to get all the pit stop qualms and the on‑track, day‑of mental challenges that you deal with, you're able to sort that out ahead of time and sort of get into a rhythm before you reach that big race. So this is going to give all of our guys, myself, my engineer, a chance to sort of figure things out, get in a roll, be in that rhythm leading into the month of May. I think we're going to have a good result, and I would be pretty upset if we were outside of the top 10. I fully expect us to do that well even as a small team that doesn't compete full‑time.”