AVONDALE, AZ, March 21, 2003 -- Kenny Brack celebrated his 37th birthday in style today at Phoenix International Raceway, leading a 22-car field in practice for Sunday's Purex Dial Indy 200 at the tricky one-mile oval.
Turning a morning lap of 20.3160 seconds (177.200mph) in his #15 Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara/Honda, Brack admitted, "The car's okay right now, but this track requires a lot of car." The PIR track, Brack said, "is like a traffic jam. You're always in company with 4 or 5 cars and success depends on who has the momentum."
Second in the morning and for the day, Homestead winner Scott Dixon drove his #9 Team Target Panoz G Force to a tour of 20.4459 seconds (176.074mph) said, "The car rolled off very well and we've worked a bit on balance throughout the day. The car's been very consistent." Driving on full tanks during the afternoon session, Dixon was only 11th quick but "happy where we ended up."
Scotsman Dario Franchitti was quickest in the afternoon session with a tour of 20.4861 seconds (173.383mph) and earned the third best speed of the day in his #27 Alpine/Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda. "There's always different things going on out there [in practice]," he shrugged. "We did a little of everything today, and traffic was pretty good during practice. This is not an easy track," he noted. "We've got a steep learning curve for Sunday afternoon."
With the USAC Silver Crown and Midgets sharing the track and using different rubber from the IndyCar Series and Infiniti Pro Series cars, the track slowed during the afternoon session, but will be similar to Sunday's conditions. Skies have been clear all day and temperatures are moderate, with a slight breeze.
Tony Kanaan, polesitter at the Homestead season opener was fourth quickest for the day in his #11 7/Eleven Dallara/Honda at 20.4980 seconds (175.627mph). "We were working on our race setup all day and we're still working on it. The car's not perfect yet," the Brazilian said.
Defending Phoenix victor and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves placed 5th in the #3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota, lapping at 20.6018 seconds (174.742mph) after spending the morning working on qualifying. "We were happy with how the car ran and, during the afternoon session, our focus switched to full-tank runs in race trim."
Michael Andretti parlayed his third-quickest afternoon lap into 6th overall, driving the #7 7/Eleven Dallara/Honda to a tour of 20.6106 seconds (174.667mph). "I think we had a pretty good day overall. We did a lot of work on our race setups this afternoon and I'm pleased with the results," the veteran said.
Tomas Scheckter was 7th for the day in the #10 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota. The South African shrugged noting, "It was a good day for us. I'm pretty happy with where we're at right now," as the team worked on race-day setups during the afternoon.
Tora Takagi placed Mo Nunn Racing's #12 Pioneer Panoz G Force/Toyota in 8th place and explained, "I think being in the first group, when the track is very dirty hurt us, as the second group had a better track to run on." Squadmate Felipe Giaffone placed 9th in his #21 Hollywood Panoz G Force/Toyota and remarked, "I think we're making steady progress."
Gil de Ferran rounded out the top ten in the #6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota and the Professor was "quite happy with how the car performed. I' think we'll be in good shape for Sunday."
Notably, Jaques Lazier placed 11th and first for the Bow-Tie Brigade in the #2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevrolet. Lazier was 4th in the afternoon session when the track was noticeably slower and was "quite happy with where we are right now. We have finally got a good handle on the car. Rookie Roger Yasukawa was 12th in the #55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda for Super Aguri Fernandez Racing. He was running a new chassis and seat "and that didn't work out" in the first session.
The IndyCar Series troops greeted the first day of spring with quick times and no real distractions, as the sessions produced no damaging incidents. Final practice for Sunday's Purex/Dial 200 will be held Saturday morning between 9am-10: 30am, while single car qualifying takes place between noon and 1:30pm.