Firestone Racing concluded their first of two-days of tire testing at Chicagoland Speedway with IRL drivers Sam Hornish Jr., Gil de Ferran and Robbie Buhl in preparation for the September 8 Delphi Indy 300.

Two-time national champion and winner of the June 16 IRL event, Gil de Ferran, was first on the track Thursday morning and he commented about his first-ever laps on the 1.5-mile tri-oval. ?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. It also has a lot of grip; I like that.? De Ferran added, ?(Race Fans) can expect an exciting race, let?s put it that way.?

For this week?s tire test, Firestone Racing Project Engineer, Dale Harrigle, said, ?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.? Thursday?s high humidity and temperatures in the low 90?s were a positive variable for the tire test. ?Today?s weather is good and is what we wanted for the tire test, so it?s good that it is hot,? said Harrigle about testing in weather that may be similar to that of race-day.

Robbie Buhl, Chicagoland Speedway?s race-lap record-holder at 222.137 mph, talked about last year?s inaugural Delphi Indy 300 and how they are using this tire test to prepare for this year?s race. ?Last year we had a great race for the first half and we then had a mechanical bearing broke and it put us out of the race. We?re just trying to get back to the speeds we were doing a year ago here and we are trying a few different aerodynamics pieces on the car,? said Buhl.

Defending IRL champ, Sam Hornish Jr., who clinched his title at Chicagoland Speedway last year with his second place finish, is glad to be back at the track where he made history. ?We have great memories here. We clinched the championship here and hopefully we can defend our championship here again.?

Although 2002 has not produced results like last year for the Panther Racing team, Hornish is third in the IRL point standings and he says they are not out of the running. ?Right now we are trying to make sure the car is where we want it to be. We had three good races and three bad races, but hopefully we will continue with the good races.? Hornish added, ?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.?

All three drivers are scheduled to return Friday to wrap-up the two-day tire test for Firestone Racing in preparation for the September 8 Delphi Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway. The excitement that surrounds the Indy Racing League in the Chicago area is evident with the strong sale of the popular Track Pack ticket plan at Chicagoland Speedway. Compared to this same time last year, Track Packs are selling far above the sell-out pace of the inaugural 2001 season and the announcement of another sold-out season at Chicagoland Speedway is expected well before the timing of the announcement last season. For more information about the Indy Racing League at Chicagoland Speedway or to purchase tickets, call 815-727-RACE (7223) or click here

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

Click here for more information about the September 8 Delphi Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.

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