IRL: Castroneves tops Friday Detroit speed chart

Helio Castroneves recorded the best lap around the 2.07-mile raceway on Belle Isle while practicing for Sunday's Detroit Indy Grand Prix. After setting the second fastest time in the morning session, Castroneves trimmed over half a second (0.5526) in the afternoon to top the speed charts with a lap at 1:13.3130 (101.602 mph).

Helio Castroneves.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.

Dario Franchitti, who was fastest in the morning, was unable to improve upon his time, which held up for second fastest on the day. The Scotsman's best lap (1:13.3447) missed the top spot on chart by 31 one-thousandths of a second (0.0317).

"We tried some things in the second session that didn't exactly work," said Franchitti. Confident with his team, as well as his driving, Franchitti said the team would go back, analyze the data, and make changes for tomorrow.

Setting the third and fourth fastest laps on the day were the other two championship contenders, Scott Dixon, who leads the championship by 4 points over Franchitti and Tony Kanaan, who's still in the hunt.

After reminiscing about the Belle Isle circuit, and the place where contact with the wall caused him problems in the past, Kanaan said, "This is a great place to come with a championship battle. With this track you can really see who can drive. It's still bumpy, but I have good memories."

While 'bumpy' was the word of the day, Franchitti said the bumps "suit the way I like to drive the car. Depending on how you take the corner, the car will do different things over the bumps."

Although he didn't complain about the bumps Dixon tagged the wall exiting Turn 3 while scuffing rain tires in the morning session "It took us out for about an hour of the session," he said. After limping back to the pits with his rear wing slightly askew Dixon said they struggled "trying to get the car back up to speed."

Dixon wasn't the only driver to put a wheel astray during the first day of practice. Buddy Rice spun in Turn 2, damaging the nose of his car. He returned to the pits under his own power, as did Tony Kanaan after spinning in Turn 6. Dan Wheldon continued after brushing the wall in Turn 2 but Sam Hornish wasn't so lucky. Hornish hit the Turn 3 wall at the end of the afternoon session and had to be towed back to the pits. He was cleared to drive after being checked and released from the infield medical center.

"We seemed to be able to run consistently in the top five, which seems to be our usual position for road course this year. Then, right at the end of the second practice session, we went to scuff a set of tires, and the back end of the car got away from me and we made contact with the wall. I feel bad for the crew because they'll have to spend time fixing the car tonight. Hopefully we'll be able to come out tomorrow and concentrate on minimizing our mistakes for the rest of the weekend."