By BRANT JAMES
Published March 4, 2006
1. The Indy Racing League began "spring training" at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Thursday in preparation for its March 26 opener, followed by the April 2 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Drivers arrived for the four-day oval and road course test expecting some changes with Honda becoming the series' lone engineprovider, but discovered some surprises. The IRL is experimenting with a new traction-control device - which helps keep tires from spinning to the point of losing grip with the racing surface - and a new gear setup that eliminates the "shift with no lift" technique drivers like Helio Castroneves have come to enjoy. IRL director of engineering Jim Horton said a new traction control device will be implemented for both competitive and cost-control reasons, but Honda representatives said there is no guarantee it will be back at all. If it does return, teams would not be able to use their own traction control system or tinker with the new uniform system. The elimination of traction control could be especially important on the streets of St. Petersburg with its varying surfaces.
2. Nextel Cup driver Rusty Wallace , an analyst on ABC/ESPN's IRL broadcasts this year, gained some knowledge Thursday by taking his first spin in an IndyCar belonging to driver Sam Hornish. Wallace posted a lap seven seconds off the day's fastest driver. Hornish said Wallace was a quicker study than expected after initially stalling the car.