IRL: Castroneves fast on Friday on Milwaukee Mile

IRL: Castroneves fast on Friday on Milwaukee Mile

The Indy Racing League's premier IndyCar Series begins its second half of the 2004 campaign on one of the most historic racing circuits in the United States, The Milwaukee Mile. The Mile has been in operation since 1903, predating even the ...

The Indy Racing League's premier IndyCar Series begins its second half of the 2004 campaign on one of the most historic racing circuits in the United States, The Milwaukee Mile. The Mile has been in operation since 1903, predating even the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Helio Castroneves.
Photo by Dan Helrigel - IRL.
While the track may be old, its facilities have been extensively refurbished, making The Milwaukee Mile an excellent venue for the IndyCar Series. And fittingly, it was young drivers who captured the top of the time sheets, as Helio Castroneves turned the quickest time in two practice sessions for Sunday afternoon's Menards A.J. Foyt Indy 225.

Castroneves ran his #3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone challenger to a quick tour of the nine-degree-banked oval at 166.150mph (21.9922 seconds) in the later session to beat out 2003 IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, piloting the #1 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota to a morning lap of 165.799mph (22.0388 seconds).

These two Toyota drivers bettered the Honda brigade that dominated time sheets over the first half of the 2004 season. Both claim plenty of experience at The Milwaukee Mile in the Dayton Indy Lights and Champ Car series. "It's awesome to be back here," Castroneves declared. "The IRL is going to be a good part of this track's history." The Brazilian earned his first Champ Car pole and podium at The Mile.

Scott Dixon.
Photo by Steve Snoddy - IRL.
Dixon too has fond recollections of The Milwaukee Mile and finds the place really hasn't changed much since he was last here in 2002. "This is one of the few tracks where we are not fighting to be up front and there really isn't a big change to the circuit since we were here last. The new grandstands are nice," Dixon noted.

Both Castroneves and Dixon worked on qualifying setup in the morning session and tended to race setup in the afternoon. "The cars are fairly similar from what I knew before," Dixon admitted. "This is a very tough track," Castroneves declared. "It's going to be very, very tough to pass and we'll have to get the car as consistent as possible.

Vitor Meira turned the third quickest lap of the day in the later session, bringing his #17 Team Centrix Panoz G Force/Honda to the stripes at 165.270mph (22.1093 seconds). This is his first time at this historic mile oval and the Brazilian enjoys the circuit. "The team had a lot to do with it; this is not the team's first time here and me and Buddy working together shows just how competitive and equal we are."

His teammate Buddy Rice took fourth for the day with his afternoon lap of 165.241mph (22.1132 seconds) in the #15 Argent Mortgage/Pioneer Panoz G Force/Honda. Dario Franchitti's afternoon lap in the #27 Arca/Ex Dallara/Honda of 165.015mph (22.1435 seconds) made him the fast of the four Andretti Green drivers.

Adrian Fernandez' afternoon lap of 164.820mph (22.1697 seconds) gave his #5 Quaker State/Telmex Panoz G Force/Honda bragging honors for sixth place. Next up was Darren Manning, making his second start here (he drove in the Champ Car race last year) and also using a morning time in his #10 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota to earn the seventh best lap speed of 164.004mph (22.2799 seconds).

Point leader Tony Kanaan took eighth in the dual practices with a lap of 163.795mphy (22.3084 seconds) in the #11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda, followed by Sam Hornish Jr.'s lap of 163.757mph (22.3135 seconds) in the #6 Marlboro Team Penske/Toyota, set in the earlier session. Tomas Scheckter rounded out the top ten and was first in class for the Bow-Tie Brigade as he lapped this mile oval for the first time at 163.157mph (22.3956 seconds) in the #4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Honda.

The 22 cars and drivers on-site today for the IRL's first Milwaukee Mile visit turned a total of 1580 laps in dual practice/test sessions. They were not without incident, albeit none with injury, all occurring in the later session. A.J. Foyt IV lost the rear of the #14 Conseco Dallara/Toyota in Turn 4 while on old tires, executed a half-spin on exit and the left side of the car made contact with the outside retaining wall.

Rookie Kosuke Matsuura also hit the turn 4 wall after a quarter-spin nearly a half-hour after Foyt and his team will likely use the spare #55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz G Force/Honda for practice and qualifying tomorrow. Neither Foyt nor Matsuura suffered injury and both were cleared to drive. A gearbox problem forced the Delphi Safety Team to tow in the #20 Patrick Racing Dallara/Chevrolet of Jaques Lazier, but those were the only on- circuit stoppages for anything other than debris and inspection.

The field will be set for race #9, the Menards A.J. Foyt 225 tomorrow afternoon during Husar's House of Fine Diamonds Downtown West Bend Pole Day. Most of the IndyCar Series drivers who have competed here would echo fast man Castroneves who said, "We've spent many years racing here and it's great to be back."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Darren Manning , Helio Castroneves , A.J. Foyt IV , Adrian Fernandez , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Buddy Rice , Kosuke Matsuura , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr. , Jaques Lazier , Vitor Meira
Teams Team Penske