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Four IndyCar Teams Shift Month Of May Focus To TMS With Test Session For June's Firestone 550k

by TMS Media Relations | May 07, 2010

  • IndyCar Series Drivers Dixon, Andretti, Briscoe And Hamilton Participate In Scheduled Eight-Hour Test Session In Preparation For June 5 Firestone 550k
  • Test Marks Hamilton’s First Trip To TMS Since Horrific Crash In 2001

FORT WORTH, Texas (May 7, 2010) – For the IndyCar Series, the month of May often has meant a shift in focus to the sport’s biggest race – the Indianapolis 500. But with testing for the race not commencing until May 15, this year drivers took advantage of the break to prepare for the sport’s other marquee event – the Firestone 550k on June 5 – with an extensive test session at Texas Motor Speedway.

IndyCar Series drivers Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe, Marco Andretti and Davey Hamilton participated in the test session that began at 2 p.m. CT and was scheduled to conclude at 10 p.m. The non-traditional timeframe of the test was to help the drivers and teams simulate the evening conditions for the Firestone 550k as well as the race week’s late afternoon qualifying and practice sessions.

“For us it’s our first time testing on an oval,” Briscoe said. “We had some stuff planned out to run at Kentucky this week and when that got rained out we heard the track was open here for running so we took the opportunity to bring one car and just got some stuff on the cars sort of in the lead up to Indy so that we don’t waste too much time on the first couple of days when we get there. And at the same time, we’ll try to learn some things for when we come back and race here.”

The test was highlighted by the return of Hamilton to the 1.5-mile oval that nearly ended his racing career. During the Casino Magic 500k in June of 2001, Hamilton and Jeret Schroeder collided after completing 71 of the 200 laps and it resulted in Hamilton crashing hard into the Turn 2 wall. The contact shattered the chassis to pieces and sent the cockpit spinning down the backstretch. Hamilton sustained severe foot injuries, which led to his retirement and 21 surgeries.

In 2007, Hamilton came out of retirement to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and has since competed in that event each of the previous years. This year Hamilton, 47, has made it his mission to return to the site of his horrific crash and compete in the Firestone 550k behind the wheel of the No. 21 HP Dallara Honda for Luczo Dragon Racing de Ferran Motorsports.

“I’m a little nervous. How can you not be?” he said of his TMS return. “I ran good at this track. I’ve always liked racing here when we were full time before the accident. I always enjoyed coming to Texas. It’s been something I wanted to come back and finish. I just wanted to make sure I had a car and team that would be able to do it properly. Part of the recovery was purely to race again. I didn’t want to end my career here.”

Target Chip Ganassi’s Scott Dixon (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara Honda), currently second in points, has used solid performances at Texas Motor Speedway to help propel him to IndyCar Series championships during his career. Dixon, 29, used a sixth-place finish in the Bombardier Learjet 500k and second-place finish in the Chevy 500k in 2003 to help him earn his first career series championship.

In 2008, Dixon earned his first victory at “The Great American Speedway!” and in the process became just the second driver to win the IndyCar Series’ marquee events (Indy and Texas) in the same season, joining Arie Luyendyk (1997). Helio Castroneves accomplished the “marquee double” last year to join Luyendyk and Dixon in the elite class.

The consecutive victories at Indy and Texas allowed him to ride a wave of momentum his second career IndyCar Series championship.

Winning at Texas for me was something I’d wanted to do for so long,” Dixon said. “We’d been in great opportunities before to come close, but to finally win it in 2008 was fantastic.”

For Dixon, a victory at Texas coupled with a victory in the Indy 500 can help a team build momentum for a championship run. 

“Coming off an Indy win, you almost feel invincible anyway, but to come here – the next biggest event Texas – and the great racing that it provides it just improves on that more,” said Dixon, who earned his first victory of the season last week at Kansas. “If you can win these two at almost midseason, it can be a pivotal point to going on and winning the championship. Not saying that the two winners always win the championship, but it definitely helps a lot with the team morale.”

A win at Texas Motor Speedway has eluded both Briscoe and Andretti. For Briscoe (No. 6 Team Penske Dallara Honda), 28, a win slipped out of his grasp during last year’s race. He dominated the Bombardier Learjet 550k, leading a race-high 160 of 228 laps, but a disappointing final pit stop put him just behind his teammate Castroneves and he could never retake the lead and had to settle for a runner-up finish.

Briscoe, who is winless on the season, feels the test session can help him secure his first TMS victory and prepare him for one of the IndyCar Series most physically demanding races on the schedule.

“It’s good when you have a good car,” Briscoe said. “It gives you a lot of confidence when you can run wherever you want to and pass cars whether it’s the high side or low side. The racing is always so close. It’s at nighttime, which makes it feel a little bit faster. And it’s not very smooth around here either. At the end of a race here if you’ve been working all night, you certainly sleep well.”

For Andretti (No. 26 Team Venom Energy Dallara Honda), the test could be a much-needed boost for his Andretti Autosport team that currently sits 13th in the IndyCar Series point standings. Andretti, 23, has just one top-five finish on the season, which came at Barber Motorsports Park. He posted personal bests for starting (8th) and finishing (4th) positions in last year’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, but the test could provide some valuable data and an edge for his return in June in the ever-competitive IndyCar Series.

“The moment you say you have something figured out, you don’t,” Andretti said. “It’s different every year. This year as far as competition, it’s as tight as it’s been. The teams and drivers are at the top of their games. Every year it’s like starting over. There is always some little rule that kind of makes you adjust a lot of other things. We’ve run well here in the past. In ’08 we almost had a shot to win against Dixon. You have to do everything right now these days to even have a shot at it at the end of the race. That’s what makes it interesting.”

Tickets for the Firestone 550k are available by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com or by calling (817) 215-8500.

Click here for photos of today's testing.

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