INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2001 - Scott Sharp and Robbie Buhl performed tire testing for Firestone Dec. 17-18 at California Speedway, both reaching speeds in the 223-mph range. The inaugural Indy Racing event at the 2-mile oval, located in Fontana, Calif., will take place March 24.
Sharp and Buhl also tested for Firestone in September 2001 at Michigan Speedway, another new 2-mile oval for Indy Racing in 2002. Both topped 221 mph during that test.
Hemelgarn Racing and driver Buddy Lazier also tested this week at Fontana. ***
Wheldon impresses Cheever: 2001 Indy Lights runner-up Daniel Wheldon was the third driver to test for the available seat at Red Bull Cheever Indy Racing for the 2002 Indy Racing season.
Wheldon drove the #51 Red Bull-Cheever Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone on Dec. 12 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, recording a fast lap of 188 mph on the 1.5-mile oval. He completed 180 miles during the test.
"Danny drove on the first day of the test when the handling of the car was horrific," team owner-driver Eddie Cheever Jr. said. "He did everything we requested of him, including keeping it off the wall. I only did a 191-mph lap that day, so considering everything, he did a great job on his first Indy-car test."
Wheldon, 23, from England, finished second to Townsend Bell this year in Indy Lights. He was runner-up to Buddy Rice in the 2000 Toyota Atlantic championship and won the U.S. F2000 title in 1999.
Rice and 1997 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Jeff Ward also have tested for Cheever Indy Racing. Cheever said he hopes to announce the team's second driver in January. ***
Fisher featured in book: Indy Racing standout Sarah Fisher is featured in a new book titled "Women Who Risk" by Marilyn Olsen.
The book looks at women on the cutting edge of sports, including rock climbing, wakeboarding, skydiving and auto racing.
"Women Who Risk" features profiles of athletes including Fisher, DeeDee Jonrowe, who has competed in the Iditarod Sled Dog Race 18 times, and triathlon competitor Heather Hedrick.
The book is available at amazon.com and at fine bookstores everywhere. A picture of Fisher's No. 15 Walker Racing Special is featured on the back of the book. ***
Memories of Christmas testing: The first time that cars ever ran on the bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was on a bitterly cold Dec. 17-18, 1909.
Kelley Racing conducted a rare November test session at the Speedway last month, which reminded veteran Indianapolis Motor Speedway testing observers Bob Clidinst and Bill Marvel of a test conducted two days before Christmas.
"It was in 1965, and Goodyear was beginning to compete with Firestone," Clidinst said. "They were testing every other week that fall."
Retired USAC official Marvel remembered that Santa Claus came to the track.
"Gordon Johncock (later to become a two-time Indy champion) put on a Santa hat and drove around the track and then sat on Santa's knee for pictures," Marvel said.
Johncock went a step further and put on Santa's beard, too.
Clidinst came with a Christmas tree, and it was set it up in the pits and decorated with spark plugs and other racing pieces.
The toughest part of that test was snow. On the first day of testing, firemen, guards and any track personnel available shoveled snow off the entire track. The snow was carried away in pickup trucks, and then the track was swept before the cars could run. ***
Daly on the mend: Indianapolis 500 veteran Derek Daly will be on crutches for the next four months following surgery on his left ankle.
"I had the ankle fused," said Daly, who now does open-wheel race commentary on television and operates a driving school at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Daly said the need for the surgery goes back to the critical injuries he suffered to his ankles and feet in a crash at Michigan International Speedway in 1984.
Irishman Daly drove in the Indianapolis 500 six times, with a best finish of 12th in 1985. ***
Hot laps: Marlboro Team Penske drivers Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves participated in the first-ever "Sports Illustrated's Night of Champions," a tribute to the sports world's top performers of 2001. The ceremony took place Dec. 10 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. The evening culminated in a special segment saluting the champions of 2001 and honoring many of the heroes of the Sept. 11 tragedies. Sixteen athletes were brought on stage, including de Ferran and Castroneves, as well as representatives from the New York City Fire Department ... Kentucky Speedway is launching a new ticket advertising campaign in January that features Kentucky and Cincinnati-area sports celebrities, including former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Cris Collinsworth, University of Kentucky basketball coach Tubby Smith and University of Louisville football coach John L. Smith. An Indy Racing event will take place Aug. 11 at Kentucky Speedway ... A new weekly racing radio show, "Inside Racing," will start Jan. 16 in Indianapolis. The show will be broadcast weekly on Wednesdays from Union Jack Pub in Speedway, Ind., from 8-9 p.m. (EST) and be heard on WKLU-FM 101.9 in Indianapolis and on the Web at www.LiveOnTheNet.com