MADISON, Ill., Friday, Aug. 17, 2001 - Experienced driver Anthony Lazzaro passed an Indy Racing League rookie test Aug. 17 at Gateway International Raceway driving a Sam Schmidt Motorsports car.
Lazzaro was the 1999 KOOL/Toyota Atlantic champion and has eight career wins in that series. In addition, Lazzaro has experience in the American Le Mans Series, NASCAR Busch Grand National Series and the USAC Formula Ford 2000 series. He is a class winner of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and won the F2000 portion of the prestigious "Night Before the 500" in 1994 at Indianapolis Raceway Park.
Johnny Rutherford, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and Indy Racing League special projects coordinator, conducted the test on the 1.25-mile oval. Lazzaro completed 103 laps with a top lap of 164.7 mph, Rutherford said. "Anthony did a good job," Rutherford said. "With his experience, he has a good feel for a race car. He will be an asset to the series and to a starting field. He was on top of his feedback." Lazzaro, 37, from Acworth, Ga., drove a G-Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone car purchased by Sam Schmidt Motorsports from Dick Simon Racing. Treadway-Hubbard Racing Team Manager Skip Faul, with extensive experience with the G-Force chassis, oversaw the car preparation for the test.
"It's been two years since I've driven an open-wheel car, but it really came back to me quickly," said Lazzaro. "The track is one where I've run and won before, so that helped today. The (IRL) cars give you a lot of feedback.
"Sam put me in good hands. The Treadway guys prepared the car for today. Skip (Faul) did a good job, making for a nice, comfortable day for me." "It was a good day overall. It was more of a speedway car that still had the narrow suspension on it, so we maxed out the car early in the test." Because Gateway International Raceway is a new track on the Indy Racing League schedule, Indy Racing League Vice President of Operations Brian Barnhart waived the traditional four-phase test.
"As a series, we still don't have enough laps around Gateway to develop appropriate speed phases for a rookie," Barnhart said. "Anthony ran more than 100 laps, and Johnny was there working with him, so he'll be in good shape."
Also testing Friday at Gateway were Indy Racing veterans Robbie Buhl and Buzz Calkins. Buhl ran laps in the 168-mph range, while 1996 series co-champion Calkins ran laps in the 166-mph range, according to Rutherford.
The Gateway Indy 250 is Aug. 26 and is the debut of Indy Racing in St. Louis.