IRL: Daytona Open Test, day 1 report

IndyCar Series Begins Testing At Daytona Road Course DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2007 -- Preparations for the 2007 IndyCar Series season began in earnest as 17 cars and drivers tested the road course at Daytona International...

IndyCar Series Begins Testing At Daytona Road Course

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2007 -- Preparations for the 2007 IndyCar Series season began in earnest as 17 cars and drivers tested the road course at Daytona International Speedway. The tricky 10-turn, 2.72-mile layout challenged drivers as Helio Castroneves, Sam Hornish Jr., Buddy Rice and Dario Franchitti all slide off course in Turn 5, though none of the cars sustained major damage.

At the end of the day, Tony Kanaan had turned the fastest lap, 1 minute 12.2393 seconds, 135.549 mph in the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Honda-powered Dallara. Kanaan's best lap, set late in the afternoon session, eclipsed the mark set by Helio Castroneves 1:12.3653, 135.313 mph. "It is a good first day for the Team 7-Eleven crew," Kanaan said. "We were not really too worried about where we were going to finish, but obviously when you finish at the top, like we did today, it makes you feel good. It sure says a lot for all the work the guys did in the off-season.

"It's very early in the season and this really doesn't mean too much. We don't race here and it's just a test. What I am happy about is not the position we finished today, but what we accomplished with the setup and the changes we made to the Team 7-Eleven car. It was a pretty good day for us, for sure. "I have to brag a little bit because I only have a few hours left and by tomorrow everyone will forget who was first today. Honestly, it is good for the boys who worked all winter long trying to catch up. It's a good first day and it will massage everyone's egos right now. I'm happy for my guys and it was a good day for us."

DAY 1 TESTING NOTEBOOK: Super Selections: To no one's surprise, the Indianapolis Colts were a popular Super Bowl pick among IndyCar Series drivers and officials. Among the drivers who are backing the Colts are Sam Hornish Jr., Ed Carpenter, Marco Andretti, Vitor Meira and Sarah Fisher. Darren Manning also said he'd pull for the Colts because of his "cousin," quarterback Peyton Manning. "Since I have always lived equidistant from Indianapolis and Chicago, I grew up following both teams to some extent," Hornish said. "However, since meeting Peyton (Manning) and Tony (Dungy) at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway a couple of years ago, we've kept in touch, so now I consider myself a die-hard Colts fan. Peyton and I help each other out with our respective charity efforts. Despite my busy schedule over the past couple of months, I have been lucky enough to attend a couple of games this season and think that they have what it takes to win in Miami. I ran into Peyton on New Year's Eve in Indianapolis after the Miami game and was able to wish him luck. Hopefully his luck will continue this weekend."

There was one dissenting opinion from Danica Patrick, who is a lifelong fan of the Chicago Bears. "I'm from Illinois, so I've always been kind of a Bears fan," she said. "Even though I'm predicting a Bears win, I don't think I can lose. But my husband (Paul) and I met Peyton Manning at the ESPYs last year and had a chance to talk to him for awhile, so I would love to see him get a win, too."

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First lap: Scott Sharp, driver of the No. 8 Patron Tequila Dallara/Honda/ Firestone, was the first driver to complete a lap during the first day of testing.

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Rest does him well: Rahal Letterman Racing's Jeff Simmons sat out much of the afternoon session after not feeling well in the morning session. The time off paid dividends as he turned the 11th-quickest lap of the day in the final hour of the session, 1:13.9616, 132.393 mph in the No. 17 Team Ethanol Honda-powered Dallara.

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Foyt tests with Vision: A.J. Foyt IV was the only driver participating in the test that has not been confirmed for the 2007 season. Foyt tested the No. 22 Honda-powered Dallara for Vision Racing. "I think having time to test and getting comfortable in the car here at Daytona is important," Foyt said. "It will just take laps for me to get comfortable and more experience with these cars on a road course." Foyt turned 49 laps with a top speed of 127.984 mph.

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Back at Daytona: When asked, Marco Andretti couldn't recall if he had raced go-karts Daytona before, but a little research found out that he did. The third-generation driver from one of racing's most-storied families competed in a World Karting Association event as a 15-year-old in 2002. "It all blends into one," Andretti said about his memories of racing at "The World Center of Racing. "It's all a blur for me. I don't know, I'll drive anything with a motor and tires for sure."

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Always the prankster: Tony Kanaan doesn't just pull pranks on his Andretti Green Racing teammates. While Panther Racing driver Vitor Meira was conducting an interview with Brazil's BAND Sports, when Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar Series champion, snuck up from behind and planted a big kiss on the cheek of his countryman.

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New paint scheme draws attention: Warning: Shield your retinas when the No. 8 Patron Dallara/Honda/Firestone streaks by under the bright sun. The lime and black car, driven by IndyCar Series veteran Scott Sharp, stands out. So does the Rahal Letterman Racing transporter. Sharp says thanks for the compliment. "That's the intention when we first started having the designers draw the car," said Sharp during a break in the Open Test at Daytona International Speedway. "We thought about a high-banked track and a pack of 12 cars and we wanted to get a car that stood out in a crowd. That was always something that stood out in the Delphi car. It was a good-looking car. When they went to the brighter yellow, it certainly stood out from the group. "Now it's nice to play around with a different color and hopefully achieve the same results."

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Walking the paddock: Interested spectators at the test included a trio of Indy Pro Series veterans searching for IndyCar Series drives. 2005 Indy Pro Series champion Wade Cunningham, Indy Pro Series race winner Jaime Camara and Nick Bussell were roaming the pit lane and garage area.

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Delphi to sponsor Panther Racing: Panther Racing announced that its No. 4 entry will be sponsored by Delphi Corporation for the next two seasons. The partnership comes as both Panther and Delphi are entering their 10th season of involvement in the IndyCar Series.

"We've known the great folks at Delphi for a long time now and we're honored that they've become a partner with Panther Racing," team co-owner John Barnes said. "Our team knows that this is the kind of boost we needed to get Vitor Meira to the front of the championship chase. We had a great run together last year, and we've got even bigger plans with Delphi for 2007 and 2008. Both Panther and Delphi have been winning races in this series for 10 years, and now it's time to win some together." Panther made its debut in the IndyCar Series in 1998 with Scott Goodyear, the same year Delphi became the primary sponsor with Kelley Racing and driver Scott Sharp. Since entering the league, Panther has won a total of 15 races with Goodyear, Sam Hornish Jr. and Tomas Scheckter, while Delphi collected eight race wins with Sharp.

"We are very excited to be joining Panther racing this year. The team has been a consistent winner throughout its history and we look forward to a championship run," said Bill Lafontaine, Delphi Corporate Director -- Integrated Marketing Services. "With Delphi's technological leadership and Panther's engineering expertise, we believe that 2007 will be a very successful year for the team."

Meira finished fifth in the championship last year and experienced his most successful season in the league. After joining Panther shortly before the season started, the 29-year-old Brazilian went on a tear, finishing the year with 12 Top-Ten and seven Top-Five finishes, a stretch that included six podiums. It was Panther's best season since 2003, when the team finished fifth in the points and won three races.

"I'm so happy that Delphi has become a part of the Panther family and sponsored the No. 4 Honda for this season," Meira said. "The Delphi car is a successful and important part of IndyCar Series history and I'm honored to be given this opportunity. It gave me goose bumps the first time the car got painted in the shop and I saw the No. 4 on the wing. We know we had a great season last year, but we've brought back all our guys and we continue to get stronger with every lap."

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George working to bring Super Bowl XLV to Indianapolis in 2011: IRL CEO and founder Tony George, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson were announced as co-chairs of Indianapolis 2011, Inc. during a press conference Jan. 31 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis. "I am looking forward to participating in the effort to bring the Super Bowl to Indianapolis in 2011," George said. "We are up against stiff competition, but I will do whatever I can to help get the job done." If Super Bowl XLV was awarded to Indianapolis, the game would be played in Lucas Oil Stadium, the state-of-the-art future home of the Indianapolis Colts currently under construction in downtown Indianapolis and scheduled to open in fall 2008.

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Lucas Oil to sponsor Indy Pro Series rookie honor: Lucas Oil will sponsor a $10,000 award to the highest-finishing rookie in the Indy Pro Series as the series' official oil in 2007. In addition, every Indy Pro Series team will receive 100 gallons of free oil. "We're very excited to have Lucas Oil return to the Indy Pro Series with an increased presence in 2007," Indy Pro Series executive director Roger Bailey said. "They're an excellent partner with an excellent product, and we're very pleased to have their support. Year-end awards that supplement our nearly $4 million in prize money are tremendous incentives for our participants." Lucas Oil's 10W 40 Synthetic Racing Oil is the only oil allowed for competition in the Indy Pro Series. "Lucas Oil is very proud to announce that it will be the official oil of the Indy Pro Series," said Tom Bogner, director of motorsports for Lucas Oil Products. "The Indy Pro Series is an extremely competitive touring series that provides up and coming open-wheel drivers to showcase their talents. The extremely high-performance racing machines of the Indy Pro Series are also a great way to showcase the performance and protection that Lucas Oil Products have to offer the automotive industry. This new deal is a win-win situation for both of our great organizations and we look forward to a great 2007 season."

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DAY 1 TESTING QUOTEBOOK:

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fourth-fastest): "I was pretty satisfied with the day's work that the Canadian Club crew put in today. I didn't like the feel of the car when we started the day and we turned in a car that I thought was not too bad. We learned a lot of things along the way so it was a good day. As a team, Tony (Kanaan) and I were trying some very different things and we're both pretty happy so it's good so far."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fifth-fastest): "Everything went very well for us today. The car was great right from the start, and we just worked on little things throughout the day to make it better. Turn five seemed to cause a lot of problems for people, but we were able to keep it pretty clean through there for the most part. I felt like we were consistently making improvements in our lap times throughout the day, so that was very encouraging."

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The 2007 IndyCar Series season begins under the lights with the XM Satellite Radio Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 24. The race will be telecast live by ESPN2 at 8 p.m. (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The sixth season of Indy Pro Series competition begins with the Homestead-Miami 100 on March 24 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It will be webcast live on www.indycar.com and will be telecast on at 5 p.m. (ET) on March 28 by ESPN2.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Darren Manning , Scott Sharp , Scott Goodyear , Helio Castroneves , A.J. Foyt IV , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Buddy Rice , Marco Andretti , Jeff Simmons , Tony George , Roger Bailey , Nick Bussell , Wade Cunningham , Jaime Camara , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick , Ed Carpenter , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske