Defending Indy Racing League champion Sam Hornish Jr. and series standouts Gil de Ferran and Robbie Buhl completed two days of Firestone tire testing June 21 at Chicagoland Speedway, helping Firestone devise tire compounds and preparing for the Delphi Indy 300 on Sept. 8 at the track.

While Hornish and Buhl both competed in the inaugural Delphi Indy 300 last September, this was the first time on the 1.5-mile tri-oval for de Ferran, winner of the Radisson Indy 225 on June 16 at Pikes Peak International Raceway. ?Chicagoland Speedway is very unique in the sense that the backstretch is not straight, it is slightly curved, and the transitions into both turns on the north and south ends of the track are very smooth,? de Ferran said. ?It also has a lot of grip; I like that.?

Marlboro Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and de Ferran are first and second, respectively, in the IRL point standings in their first full season in the series. But de Ferran admitted that tests on 1.5-mile tri-ovals such as Joliet might be even more important for the team than tests on tracks of other lengths. ?If anything so far this year, our weakest performance has been on this type of racetrack, but we have been able to be in the top six anyway, so we will continue to work hard and try to improve our performance on this type of racetrack,? de Ferran said.

Hornish clinched his first Indy Racing title with a runner-up finish last year at Joliet. This year he is third in the points behind Castroneves and de Ferran and used the two-day test to continue to hone the setup on his No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone in pursuit of the Penske pair. ?Right now we are trying to make sure the car is where we want it to be,? Hornish said. ?We had three good races and three bad races, but hopefully we will continue with the good races. That?s how racing goes; things don?t always go your way. We will work together as a team and try our best to come back on top again.?

Temperatures both days were in the high 80s and low 90s with high humidity ? exactly the kind of weather Firestone wanted for the test because similar conditions could be encountered on race weekend in early September. ?We are trying a variety of compounds and a couple of small construction changes to try to come up with the best tire for the September 8 race here,? said Dale Harrigle, Firestone Racing project engineer. ?The weather is good and is what we wanted for the tire test, so it?s good that it is hot.?

Buhl also took advantage of the conditions to work on chassis modifications for his No. 24 Team Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone. He turned the fastest lap in last year?s IRL race at Chicagoland, 222.137 mph, before a gearbox problem ended his race in 22nd place. ?We?re just trying to get back to the speeds we were doing a year ago here, and we are trying a few different aerodynamic pieces on the car,? Buhl said.

Click here for photos of today's Firestone Tire test.

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