Hemelgarn Secures Present, Casts Eyes To Future During Two-Day Kentucky Test
Hemelgarn Racing secured its present and cast its eyes to the future during a two-day test at Kentucky Speedway that saw four drivers pilot the No. 91 Coors Light/Life Fitness/Tae-Bo/Delta Faucet Dallara Chevrolet Indy Racing League race machine.
Two-time Kentucky Speedway "Belterra Casino Indy 300" champion Buddy Lazier and potential 2003 series rookie Tony Ave occupied the first day of testing and were followed on day two by potential 2003 rookie A.J. Fike and veteran Cory Witherill, who placed third in Kentucky Speedway's inaugural Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series event last season.
"Yesterday we tested Tony Ave and I believe it was his first time in an IRL car," Hemelgarn Racing Chief Mechanic Ron LaCava. "He has a lot of experience driving a lot of cars and he performed very well. Today we have A.J. Fike, who has taken a (IRL) rookie test before, in the car for a 'refresher.' This afternoon we're also going to run Corey Witherill for about 80 laps."
Fike and Ave, both accomplished USAC Midget Series drivers, may be in contention for a spot with Hemelgarn in either the IRL or Infiniti Pro Series next season.
"There's been talk about running two (IRL) cars next year. It's something we all agree with, but you have to put all the pieces in place before that comes about. I'm sure that the drivers who are running are being looked at. There are several opportunities for drivers," LaCava said.
Fike said his first IRL experience since 2000 was positive. "I ran (IRL) in Atlanta in 2001 with PDM and am coming this year with Hemelgarn Racing," he said. "We started off a little slow, but got going pretty good. The track is nice and wide and both corners are a little different. I'd love to get out there and race two or three wide and hopefully I get an opportunity to do that with Hemelgarn in the (Indy Racing Infiniti) Pro Series next year and move on from there.
"Actually, I think the (IRL) cars could use a little more power, but after you get the momentum going and you get out of the car after 23 or so laps and you're head is still kind of spinning from going around the track. After you get going over 200 mph the car starts working really good," he concluded.
Witherill, like Fike, also was regaining his familiarity with the Indy car after starting 31st and finishing 19th in the 2001 Indianapolis 500. "This is my first time back in an IRL car since Indy last year so I'm just getting some laps and working with the guys to see what we can do," he said.
Both the IRL and Infiniti Pro Series return to Kentucky Speedway in 2003 on Aug. 16-17 for "The Belterra Casino Indy 300" and "Kentucky 100." Kentucky Speedway season tickets are on sale now and can be reserved by calling 1-888-652-RACE. A mail-in order form and pop-up seating chart also are available on the "Tickets" pages of www.kentuckyspeedway.com.