IRL: CGR's Scheckter, Dixon top Friday practice

Tomas Scheckter led the speed charts in the opening day of practice for Sunday's Firestone Indy 225 at Nazareth Speedway. His speed of 169.888 mph was almost a full mph faster than teammate Scott Dixon's 168.956 mph. "The day was pretty good,"...

Tomas Scheckter led the speed charts in the opening day of practice for Sunday's Firestone Indy 225 at Nazareth Speedway. His speed of 169.888 mph was almost a full mph faster than teammate Scott Dixon's 168.956 mph.

"The day was pretty good," Scheckter said.  I got out there and made a
couple of changes and it was good.  Sometimes when the car is good, you
drive it quick.  Normally this is not my sort of track; it's my teammate's
track.  I'm pleased to have gone that quick today."

Teammate Dixon was satisfied with second fastest on the first day. "It was very good. I think we cruised around and tried to find little things. I think Tomas went to sticker tires there at the end and actually found some more as well with some setup changes. We just stayed on ours and we didn't really get too far this morning. In the afternoon, I think the track was a little greasier and I think we picked up a bit. I think Team Target has a good car for us this weekend. Tomas is right up there. Hopefully it can be a 1-2 finish for both of us."

Indianapolis 500 winner Gil de Ferran viewed the day as an extension of recent testing. "It was OK," he said. Certainly the conditions are different than when we tested here a couple of weeks ago. Most of the day we spent working on race setup. It's all right. We tried to learn a few lessons. I suppose they will translate to Sunday. Some lessons are valid and some are not."

Gil's teammate, two-time 500 winner Helio Castroneves, was fourth quick on the day, and admitted to more than race setup. "We had the chance to work on both the qualifying and race setups today, and I think the Marlboro Team Penske car is handling fine. We still have some work to do on the car, but we're not too far off. Tomorrow we'll continue working on our qualifying setup in the morning."

Scheckter ran 114 laps today, more than anyone except defending IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr, who ran 115 laps. The extra seat time did not translate into better speed: he was tenth fastest overall, at 163.733 mph. "We did a lot of the race car stuff today, not too much on the qualifying run. We are pretty happy with where we are right now. The car is pretty consistent. We just have to work on it a little bit in traffic."

Hornish created a stir earlier in the week when he announced that he will leave Panther Racing - with who he won two championships - at the end of the season, but has not yet announced his future plans. This weekend he is focusing on his current job. "I have a one track mind when I am in the car," he said. "All I think about is how to make the car better, how to go faster. I don't think about all of that other stuff. I would drive myself nuts if I did. I just told everybody that next year is next yearwe have to focus on winning this race and winning the championship."

Current championship point leader Tony Kanaan was dissatisfied with being fifth in speed today, at 166.709 mph. "We're not real happy with the car," he said, "but we'll get it better for tomorrow. We try different things, and it's not working out right nowYou have to have a consistent car all the way around here."

The least happy driver today was Jaques Lazier. Last year he was Team Menard's driver, but suffered a season-ending injury here at Nazareth. He is back with Team Menard, substituting for injured Vitor Meira. Jaques ran only six laps today, the car spinning into the Turn 4 wall early in the morning session. Jaques was checked at the infield care center and cleared to drive, but remains puzzled as to what happened. "Honestly, " he said, "I'm going to have to go back and ask the engineers if they noticed anything. We were warming up the car; I wasn't pushing it at all and came off the corner easy. I never jumped the throttle, just came off the corner, and the thing swapped ends on me. It's not the way I wanted to start the weekend, and I'm very upset for the guys."

Practice resumes at 9:00 tomorrow morning, with IndyCar Series MNBA Pole Qualifying at 11:30. With the three-way engine war (Chevrolet vs Honda vs Toyota) and cooler weather expected, Gil de Ferran's qualifying record of 172.778 mph set last year will be in jeopardy.

Qualifying wrap-up will be carried on the IMS Radio Network at 5:30 pm EDT Saturday. The race is scheduled to start at 3:00 pm EDT, and will be telecast live on ESPN

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Jaques Lazier , Sam Hornis , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske