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Indianapolis Driver Eager For Home Race In GRAND-AM

Ian Baas thinks he might have an advantage on some of his competitors when he races in the inaugural GRAND-AM Road Racing event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday, July 27.
It won’t be his first time racing at triple-digit speed at IMS.

Baas, from nearby Noblesville, Ind., competed in Porsche Supercup support series events during the United States Grand Prix Formula One race in 2006 at IMS, finishing third in one race. He tested the No. 51 APR Motorsport Audi R8 – which competes in the Rolex Sports Car Series GT class – in 100-degree heat at IMS along with nearly 105 other GRAND-AM cars Friday at IMS.

“It’s nice; I always love coming here,” Baas said. “Coming back here, I think I’m going to have a bit of an upper hand on some of the drivers from having the experience of racing here, so I’m really looking forward to this test and making the car better.”

Testing for the Rolex Sports Car Series and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge continues from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 1:30-4:45 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free. Public viewing areas include the Turn 2 Viewing Mounds, the South Terrace grandstands located in front of the IMS Hall of Fame Museum, the IMS Hall of Fame Museum East parking lot and a designated area along Fifth Street behind the Hall of Fame Museum.

The versatile Baas finished third in Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge ST class points in 2011, including consecutive class victories in the early season at Daytona and Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Other career highlights include winning the Rolex Sports Car Series GT class race at the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona in 2006 with teammates Randy Pobst, Spencer Pumpelly and Michael Levitas and competing full time that season in Germany in the Porsche Carrera Cup.

He started his racing career in open-wheel Formula Ford after encouragement from his grandfather, who owned a race shop in Indianapolis.

But when at IMS, his memories drift back to that day in 2006 when he finished third against some of the world’s best GT drivers in the Porsche Supercup race. Even if the course has changed a bit from that layout, with faster, more open turns behind the IMS Hall of Fame Museum.

“The track layout is slightly different,” Baas said. “This one is a bit more free and open, and I think it’s going to make for better passing opportunities. Of course, I’m really glad that we get to enter on to the Speedway and hit Indy (oval) Turn 1 backward, pretty much full-bore fifth and sixth gear. It’s always fun to experience that.

“I think that run into Turn 1 (of the road course) and that really heavy braking zone, that’s an ideal place to pass, and I think we’ll see a lot of action there. Also into that backstretch in the infield, it’s extremely wide. It’s nice and there are no curves out there, so you get to run pretty much as wide as you can so you can carry a ton of speed on there, and I’m sure we’re going to see some three-wide racing coming in off the back straight, as well.”

GRAND-AM will race clockwise – the opposite of the oval and the MotoGP road course – for its races on the 13-turn, 2.534-mile Grand Prix course for Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype and GT cars and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Grand Sport (GS) and Street Tuner (ST) classes.

Racing will return to the 2.5-mile IMS oval for the inaugural Indiana 250 for the NASCAR Nationwide Series on Saturday, July 28 and the Crown Royal Presents the “Your Hero’s Name Here” 400 at the Brickyard for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on Sunday, July 29.
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Indy 500 veteran Salazar back at IMS: Six-time Indianapolis 500 veteran Eliseo Salazar is returning to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27 to compete in the Rolex Sports Car Series GT class during the Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard.

Salazar, from Chile, recorded a best “500” finish of third in 2000 and is a two-time front-row starter.
He was eager to write another chapter of his IMS career after testing Friday in the No. 64 TRG Porsche GT3 with teammate and countryman Eduardo Costabel, despite 100-degree heat and track temperatures approaching 150 degrees.

“After starting on the front row and finishing third, fourth, sixth (in the Indianapolis 500), it’s a challenge, and I’ll be one of the few to have driven on the oval and the road course, so I’m looking forward to that, and it’s great to be here,” Salazar said. “I wish it was a little cooler than it is, but it’s been 10 years since I last was here on the oval, and I never expected when I did GRAND-AM that we were going to end up driving on the road course.”

Coming back to Indianapolis has inspired Salazar to reminiscence about all great times he had racing six times in the “500” between 1995 and 2001.

“There are so many memories,” he said. “My son was born here when we were living here in the month of May in between qualifying and the race. I would also say starting in the front row twice and finishing third and fourth behind (Juan Pablo) Montoya and (Jacques) Villeneuve and people like that. There are just so many memories, and we also have bad memories, but this place is so special that your mind always selects the good ones.”

Testing Friday was Salazar’s first time driving on the IMS road course, and it didn’t take him long to pick a favorite spot.

 “I enjoy the most, by far, Turn 1 (of the oval) backward,” he said. “I had never done Turn 1 backward, and it’s cool. It’s fairly flat out on this GRAND-AM car, and it takes a lot of effort to do it properly. The track is greasy because of the heat, but it will obviously change for race weekend. I’m just learning the track and getting used to the feel.”

Part of the adjustment will be navigating more cars in traffic than in the Indianapolis 500. The Rolex Series grid will exceed the 33 that annually start in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

“I think it’s going to be perfect,” Salazar said. “I don’t think there’s any problem with the DP cars passing the GT cars because there’s plenty of room. Obviously, there will be some people touching each other because that’s the nature of racing, but I think we’ll be OK in traffic, and the track is really good.”

Besides racing in GRAND-AM at IMS, Salazar stays involved with Formula One, in which he raced from 1981-83.

“I’m going to be the Formula One steward for the drivers for Belgium (Sept. 2),” he said. “I was in Montreal learning the ropes, and I’m pretty connected with my old Formula One era, and it will be good to be involved with the Formula One circuit.”

Salazar was one of three Indianapolis 500 veterans testing Friday at IMS. Scott Pruett and Paul Tracy also tested in the premier Daytona Prototype class of the Rolex Sports Car Series. Pruett and Memo Rojas are the two-time reigning Daytona Prototype champions, driving for TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

The list of Indianapolis 500 veterans testing at IMS will grow to four Monday, July 9. 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya and 2010 Brickyard 400 winner Jamie McMurray will turn laps in the No. 2 Chevron Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW/Riley in which they’ll drive Friday, July 27 in the GRAND-AM race at IMS.

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Continental builds GRAND-AM tires in Indiana: All tires used in both GRAND-AM Road Racing series – the Rolex Sports Car Series and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge – are produced in Indiana.

Continental has approximately 30 employees on hand to service the race teams by mounting and dismounting tires during the two-day test at IMS.

“We brought about 3,500 tires this weekend for this test, and surely we’ll not going to go through all of those, but we have to bring more than enough to make sure everybody has what they need,” said Bruce Foss, product manager for Continental Tire motorsports for GRAND-AM. “We’ll probably go through somewhere around 1,600, I’m guessing, by the end of the weekend. We got almost 100 cars here, and that’s really not that many tires when you think about 16 tires per car.”

With air temperatures as high as 103 degrees and track temperatures approaching 150 degrees Friday at IMS, Foss is pleased about the performance of Continental tires after one day of testing.
“Everything is coming together and the track is taking rubber as we anticipated, and the lap times are coming down even in this heat as the lap times are getting faster and faster,” Foss said. “We’re still not quite as fast as when we tested in September last year, but it wasn’t 105 degrees, and we think that might have something to do with it. This is the ultimate test, and if we can survive this weekend, then we’re not worried about anything.”
***
Gurney fastest in DP: Alex Gurney, son of Indianapolis 500 legend Dan Gurney, turned the fastest Daytona Prototype time Friday with his blistering lap of 1 minute, 24.833 seconds, 107.534 mph in the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Bob Stallings Racing Corvette Daytona Prototype that he shares with Jon Fogarty.

The No. 88 Autohaus Chevrolet Camaro of Jordan Taylor and Bill Lester led the GT class at 1:31.690, 99.492.

The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge sessions were led – in the Grand Sport class and overall – by the No. 61 Roush Performance Mustang co-driven by Billy Johnson and Jack Roush Jr. Their best lap was 1:37.399, 93.660. The Street Tuner class’ fast lap was turned by Chad McCumbee and Jason Saini, 1:43.450, 88.182, in the No. 03 CJ Wilson Racing Mazda MX-5.
 

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