IPS: IRL: Homestead/Sebring test notes 2006-03-28

MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE TEAMMATES LEAD OPEN TEST HOMESTEAD, Fla., Tuesday, March 28, 2006 -- Marlboro Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish Jr. paced an IndyCar Series Open Test on the 2.21-mile road course at Homestead Miami ...

MARLBORO TEAM PENSKE TEAMMATES LEAD OPEN TEST

HOMESTEAD, Fla., Tuesday, March 28, 2006 -- Marlboro Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish Jr. paced an IndyCar Series Open Test on the 2.21-mile road course at Homestead Miami Speedway. Castroneves set the fastest time of the day, 1 minute, 10.5399 seconds, 112.787 mph, on his next-to-last lap. Hornish was just behind with a lap of 1:10.7747, 112.413 mph.

Andretti Green Racing's Bryan Herta was third quickest with a lap of 1:109836, 112.082 mph with teammates Tony Kanaan and rookie Marco Andretti rounding out the top five.

A total of 1,226 laps were turned. Castroneves recorded 92 laps, the most of any driver at the test. Veteran road racer Roberto Moreno drove the No. 20 Vision Racing Honda-powered Dallara, replacing the injured Ed Carpenter. Moreno was 15th fastest on the speed charts.

Carpenter, who was involved in an accident prior to the Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead Miami Speedway on March 26, was released from Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami on March 27.

According to Dr. Henry Bock, IRL senior director of medical services, Carpenter will not be cleared to drive in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 2. A replacement driver has not been named.

POST-TEST QUOTES:

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fastest in testing): "It was great to make sure everything was good with the Marlboro Team Penske car and make any final adjustments before we head to St. Petersburg. It's also good to get our rhythm going into a street course. Everything seems be very good. We'll take what we've learned here today and put it on the track in St. Pete, and hopefully, we'll do more than 12 laps this year."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, second fastest): "I'm very excited about this weekend. Going into St. Petersburg last year, we weren't sure how I was going to do because my road course experience was limited. I think as far as just getting a handle on the Marlboro Team Penske car and getting through qualifying, I feel a lot more confident. The race is a different thing. I'm sure once we get through qualifying, we're going to get out there and try to bring it home. The key to winning the championship is to not only finish high but also be consistent. I think we're just going to go out there, try to put a good setup on the car and run as clean and consistent as we can."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 Andretti Green Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, third fastest): "It was a pretty good lap. I actually caught up to a little traffic on it, so I think it could have been a little faster. It's a huge improvement for us with the XM Satellite Radio car from when we tested here a couple of weeks ago. We were really struggling. I'm much, much happier now so I'm going to St. Pete in a much more confident frame of mind."

***

POST TEST NOTES:

Andretti Green Racing's Bryan Herta returns to St. Petersburg this weekend as the defending Marlboro Pole Award winner in the inaugural Firestone Fast Six qualifying format. Herta was the biggest mover in the Firestone Fast Six after improving from fourth position to the pole.

"I was obviously a big fan of the qualifying format at St. Pete when we ended up on the pole," Herta said. "I thought it was a good format throughout the season. It's exciting. I think the single-car qualifying is a good challenge, but it lacks a little bit of excitement at the end, and that's what the fast six does. That's a real shootout. That's what it's all about. It's a unique format and I don't think anybody else qualifies like that, and I think it's a great one."

***

IndyCar Series rookie P.J. Chesson of Hemelgarn Racing goes to St. Petersburg this weekend without a lot of road or street course racing experience. Chesson's road to the IndyCar Series comes from dirt bull rings around the country as a veteran of the World of Outlaws sprint car series. However, Chesson did finish a season-high seventh last year in St. Petersburg in the Indy Pro Series.

"They're going to have to sprinkle a little dirt on that bitch (track) before I'm comfortable around there," Chesson said. "I need to get some more time on a road course because I don't have a clue about the shifting. I don't know much about anything. I don't know how hard I can push the thing, or what the brakes do compared to the Indy Pro Series car."

***

Last year's Indy Pro Series winner at St. Petersburg is IndyCar Series rookie Marco Andretti. Andretti won three of the four road-course events in the Indy Pro Series last year.

"We've been working on it here. I think we made a lot of ground since the last test here on the road course," Andretti said. "I think we'll just work on that. I feel more at home. We're just going to have to see how it goes. I think we're well prepared. The main thing is that I have driven the track in St. Petersburg. It's going to be different with a lot more downforce and power. I'm just looking forward to it. The biggest advantage is that I have driven there."

***

Roberto Moreno was back in an IndyCar Series car for the first time since the Open Test last year at Infineon Raceway in the No. 20 Vision Racing car. He hasn't raced an open-wheel car since the 2003 season.

"It's fantastic to drive an open-wheel car again, especially an IndyCar that feels like an old Formula One car from the early '90s, which was when I drove," Moreno said. "They were the best cars to drive. The grip level was so high. Those cars have fantastic grip and power-to-weight ratio. I'm so fortunate to be able to drive one of them. It's an unfortunate situation. I'm glad that if somebody had to replace somebody, that I was called for the job. Working with the team last year has helped a little bit because they already knew about me. I had a seat ready to go, so it was a quick last-minute decision and I was a logical choice. It's great to work with a group of engineers that are extremely professional."

***

Information about a memorial fund in the name of Paul Dana, who suffered fatal injuries in a practice crash March 26 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway:

In lieu of flowers, the Dana family requests that contributions be made to the Paul Dana Memorial Fund For Renewable Energy. Contributions can be sent to:

Paul Dana Memorial Fund For Renewable Energy
c/o National Bank of Indianapolis
107 N.Pennsylvania St., Suite 100
Indianapolis, IN 46204

***

Twelve Indy Pro Series cars tested at Sebring International Raceway on March 28 to prepare for the Indy Pro Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 1 and 2. It was a chance to familiarize themselves with the benefits of a dual shock system in the front of the car introduced for the 2006 season.

"I've always preferred dual shock to mono shock. I can feel the difference," said Jeff Simmons, driver of the No. 24 Kenn Hardley Racing entry who has won five of the last eight Indy Pro Series events, including the road-course event at Watkins Glen last September and the 2006 season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 26. "You have different sorts of adjustments when you have the dual shock up there. When we did the road course test (at Homestead in early March), we were closer to the IndyCar Series times than we usually are, so I think that the car does seem to have a little better performance this year."

During testing on the road course at Homestead, the quickest Indy Pro Series driver was just 2.6 seconds slower than the slowest IndyCar Series driver on the 2.21-mile course despite 250 less horsepower.

"We want the Indy Pro Series car to be as close in feel as possible to an IndyCar Series car," technical director Butch Meyer said. "As a training ground for future drivers in the IndyCar Series, this system allows the drivers to make adjustments just as their counterparts in the bigger cars do."

Veteran racer Marty Roth appreciates the change.

"The new dual shock system in the front of the car is a lot easier to deal with," said Roth, who has made 31 Indy Pro Series starts and has competed in the last two Indianapolis 500s. "You can dial in quicker. You don't get hung up on the geometry of engineering the monoshock. It's quicker to make changes, which is especially nice on a race weekend when you're so limited on time."

Twenty-year-old Chris Festa agrees.

"It feels the way a race car should feel to me, at least based on the other cars that I've driven in my short career," Festa said. "The front gives a lot better feedback from my arms to my head versus the monoshock. The monoshock was a lot more numb. The front works a lot more efficiently with dual shocks."

Indy Pro Series drivers will have two practice sessions March 31 and two qualifying sessions April 1 before two, 40-lap races on the 1.8-mile circuit on the streets of St. Petersburg.

***

The 2006 IRL IndyCar Series continues with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on April 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN and the IMS Radio Network. The IMS Radio Network broadcast is also carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Indy Pro Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg at 3:15 p.m. (EST) on Saturday, April 1 and 11:30 a.m. (EDT) on April 2. The race coverage will be telecast at 4 p.m. (EDT) on April 7 by ESPN2. ESPN2's coverage of the Miami 100 will be telecast at 1 p.m. (EST) on March 31.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Roberto Moreno , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Marty Roth , Marco Andretti , Jeff Simmons , Paul Dana , Chris Festa , P.J. Chesson , Sam Hornish Jr. , Ed Carpenter
Teams Team Penske