IRL: Castroneves takes top spot in Test in the West at Phoenix

AVONDALE, Ariz., Friday, Feb. 7, 2003 -- Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves hit his stride Feb. 7 at Phoenix International Raceway, turning the top speed at the IRL IndyCar Series Test in the West session at the 1-mile desert ...

AVONDALE, Ariz., Friday, Feb. 7, 2003 -- Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves hit his stride Feb. 7 at Phoenix International Raceway, turning the top speed at the IRL IndyCar Series Test in the West session at the 1-mile desert oval.

Castroneves, the defending champion of the Purex Dial Indy 200 at Phoenix, turned a top lap of 20.4654 seconds, 175.907 mph in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone.

"This was the first time to run this car at this track," Castroneves said. "We started the day with (teammate) Gil's (de Ferran) setup. His setup does not always work for me, so I had to go through a testing stage to get the car comfortable. From that point, everything worked well.

"This track is not about power; it's about handling. Obviously, as we get closer to the race, all the teams will be even more prepared and the times will be even closer.

"The cars are quicker this year. If you compare times from last season, we are about four-tenths quicker. We were at Homestead, as well. Of course, it depends on the circuit and the setup of the car, but this is a very good start for us."

1998 IndyCar Series champion Kenny Brack was second at 20.4964, 175.641 in the No. 15 Pioneer/Miller Lite Dallara/Honda/Firestone, the best lap of the morning session. 2001 Bombardier Rookie of the Year Felipe Giaffone, fastest Tuesday in the California Speedway portion of the Test in the West, was third at 20.5236, 175.408 in the No. 21 Hollywood Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone.

Toyota-powered drivers have led both testing days so far, but Brack doesn't think any engine manufacturer has an edge.

"We had a very successful day," 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner Brack said. "I don't think you can look at the speeds and say that one engine is dominant. It's way too early for that. We were within four-tenths of a second, and I don't think you can blame the engine for that. This track is so dependent on your chassis setup. Power isn't as important here."

Tomas Scheckter was fourth at 20.6029, 174.733 in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, while Tony Kanaan rounded out the top five at 20.6348, 174.463 in the No. 11 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone.

Two-time defending series champion Sam Hornish Jr. was ninth at 20.7512, 173.484 in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. Hornish was the fastest Chevrolet-powered driver.

"We worked on aerodynamics," said Hornish, who won in 2001 at Phoenix. "We have a lot of stuff to figure out with the new cars. It's the first time we've been on the short ovals with the new cars, and it's kind of back and forth.

"I think we pretty happy with where we're at right now. We're one of the only teams that hasn't been on a short oval. We're just working from behind a little bit. We'll figure it out. It's a long season and a long time until the first race."

It was a good day for the Dallara chassis, which occupied seven of the top 10 spots on the speed chart. Dallara and Panoz G Force split the top 10 spots Tuesday on the high-speed, 2-mile oval at California.

Nineteen drivers combined to turn 2,284 incident-free laps.

The final day of the Test in the West starts at 11 a.m. (EST) Saturday.

The Purex Dial Indy 200, the second race of the IRL IndyCar Series season, is scheduled for March 23 at Phoenix. The season-opening Toyota Indy 300 is March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

TEST IN THE WEST NOTEBOOK

*Schedule: The daily on-track schedule for the eighth annual Indy Racing League Test in the West (times local):

Saturday, Feb. 8, Phoenix (IndyCar Series): 9-11:30 a.m., 1-4 p.m.

***

Fans welcome: Fans are welcome to attend the Test in the West at Phoenix International Raceway, free of charge. The Jimmy Bryan Grandstand (main stand on front straightaway) will be open for spectators Feb. 8.

***

Sign here, please: A free autograph session will take place from noon-12:30 p.m. Feb. 8 at Phoenix International Raceway.

-irl-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Helio Castroneves , Tony Kanaan , Kenny Brack , Chip Ganassi , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing