CASTRONEVES LEADS OPENING DAY AT BELLE ISLE DETROIT, Friday, Aug. 31, 2007 -- Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves paced the opening day of preparations for the Detroit Indy Grand Prix Presented by Firestone at the Raceway at Belle ...
CASTRONEVES LEADS OPENING DAY AT BELLE ISLE
DETROIT, Friday, Aug. 31, 2007 -- Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves paced the opening day of preparations for the Detroit Indy Grand Prix Presented by Firestone at the Raceway at Belle Isle.
Castroneves, who has won the pole for three of the four previous road/street course events this season, turned a lap of 1 minute, 13.3130 seconds, 101.646 mph, in the Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone. 2007 Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti was second fastest with a lap of 1:13.3447, 101.602 mph in the No. 27 Canadian Club car.
IndyCar Series points leader Scott Dixon overcame a mechanical failure in the opening practice session to post the third-fastest lap (101.073) followed by Franchitti's Andretti Green Racing teammates Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti, who were fourth and fifth, respectively.
Single-lap qualifying followed by the Firestone Fast Six session are scheduled for Saturday.
DAY 1 NOTEBOOK:
Five Indianapolis 500 champions are expected to participate in the Detroit Indy Grand Prix presented Firestone: Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002), Buddy Rice (2004), Dan Wheldon (2005), Sam Hornish Jr. (2006) and Dario Franchitti (2007).
Five IndyCar Series champions are scheduled to participate in the Detroit Indy Grand Prix presented Firestone: Scott Sharp (1996 co-champion), Sam Hornish Jr. (2001, 2002, 2006), Scott Dixon (2003), Tony Kanaan (2004) and Dan Wheldon (2005).
Drivers entered in the Detroit Indy Grand Prix presented by Firestone have combined for 87 IndyCar Series victories, 83 IndyCar Series pole positions and 1,300 IndyCar Series starts.
The Detroit Indy Grand Prix presented by Firestone is the last of five road/street course races in the 2007 season. Helio Castroneves (St. Petersburg) and Scott Dixon (Watkins Glen International, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Infineon Raceway) won the previous events.
In 14 races thus far in 2007, there have been six winners. Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Dan Wheldon are multiple winners. Franchitti won at Indianapolis, Iowa and Richmond. Wheldon won at Homestead-Miami and Kansas, Dixon won at Watkins Glen, Nashville, Mid-Ohio and Infineon and Kanaan won at Twin Ring Motegi, Milwaukee, Michigan and Kentucky. Other winners in 2007: Helio Castroneves at St. Petersburg, Sam Hornish Jr. at Texas. In those 14 races, 16 drivers have finished in the top five in at least one event.
In 2005, the IndyCar Series introduced a unique road/street course qualifying procedure in which the race for the pole began when the cars hit the track. All cars participate in the initial practice session of race weekend, with the times determining the two groups that will be used in the remaining pre-qualifying practice session. Today's combined practice times will determine Saturday's qualifying order, with the driver posting the fastest time having the option of driving first or last in single-lap qualifying. At the conclusion of single-lap qualifying the fastest six cars will participate in a 10-minute, European-style session to determine the first three rows.
2003 Indianapolis 500 winner Gil de Ferran is at the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix this weekend as a guest of Team Penske. De Ferran is a former pole winner at The Raceway at Belle Isle.
GIL de FERRAN: "It's been great for me to be here in Detroit this weekend. I really used to enjoy coming to Belle Isle to compete, so it's nice to be back. The venue really looks fantastic this year. Roger (Penske) has done a great job promoting the race and taking this facility to a whole new level. It's also been good to see all my friends here in the paddock - both in the IndyCar Series and the ALMS. This will be the first time I will watch an ALMS race in person, and I'm certainly looking forward to that. Plus, it'll be exciting to see some of my good friends do battle here this weekend for the IndyCar Series title as well."
IndyCar Series driver Vitor Meira got a unique view of the Raceway at Belle Isle's layout before practice was set to begin. Meira, who has never raced at Belle Isle, rode in the Indy Racing Experience 2-seater with driver Davey Hamilton on Thursday afternoon.
VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Delphi Panther Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Taking a two-seater ride with Davey Hamilton was interesting to see the track from that perspective. It's really bumpy in some places, and it will be difficult to pass. We'll need to make sure we've got the right shock and spring package."
Adam Andretti, the younger brother of veteran racer John Andretti and nephew of 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner Mario Andretti, passed his Indy Pro Series rookie test at Chicagoland Speedway on Aug. 30.
Andretti, 28, will drive the No. 44 SpeedWorks car at the 1.5-mile track in the season finale on Sept. 9 with backing from Brunton Vineyards, New California Properties, Iron Will Creations, Terra Nova Industries, Collective IQ and Brimstone Dynasty, an Extreme Athlete Marketing Company. Andretti has competed in karting and Formula 3 as well as several other racing series. He last competed in 2004 in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.
ADAM ANDRETTI: "With cool air and good air density, the car was very stable from the start. The SpeedWorks crew did a great job, and I was very comfortable from the start. After the morning session, we spent the rest of the day making setup adjustments to find more speed so we can come back on Sept. 9 and show what SpeedWorks and I can do as a team."
BUTCH MEYER (Technical director, Indy Pro Series): "It is easy to see how Adam's ability to give and receive valuable engineering feedback will be beneficial to the team and to his driving performance. This ability certainly helped him come up to speed quickly, and he was very smooth and consistent out there. He did a great job, and I'm looking forward to seeing him in the Indy Pro Series and in the Chicagoland 100."
PETER PARROTT (Co-owner, SpeedWorks):"Adam did an excellent job all day. He hasn't been on this track before, and he played it very smart, starting off nice and easy. He had to find his line and find his feet, and that's what he did. After that, he charged ahead."
Buddy Rice has had a busy week between the IndyCar Series races at Infineon Raceway and Belle Isle. After climbing out of his No. 15 Dreyer & Reinbold Honda-powered Dallara at Sonoma, Rice climbed aboard a helicopter to catch a flight to England where he tested the A1 Team USA entry at the Silverstone.
BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "This week has been pretty busy for me. I've either been in a race car or on an airplane for the past eight days. I did some testing this past week in England for Rick Weidinger's A1 Team USA. I left Infineon by helicopter last Sunday immediately after the race to catch my flight. I tested Tuesday and Wednesday at Silverstone and traveled to Detroit on Thursday. (About A1GP test): "It was a great experience to be able to run the A1GP car this week. I had the opportunity to begin working with Leon Gutfreund, the team engineer. I think that we both got the chance to begin nailing down exactly what I am looking for in a race car. I am excited. The way that the IndyCar schedule is so compacted now, it leaves us with a very long off-season. I am not one to sit around and be lazy. I would love to spend the winter driving for Rick and his Team USA A1GP effort."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fastest of the day): "I had one moment when I did one of those 360s, thank God the camera didn't catch it because I think Roger (Penske) might be upset about that. The car was quick right out of the box. The track seemed to be changing quite a lot throughout the day. At one point, we were improving our time, and then within the next few laps, the times were slower. You're like, 'What is going on?' But of all this is typical with a concrete surface. As we put more rubber down, the track will get faster. This morning we would have had a very good lap but unfortunately the yellow caught us out a little bit. We were able to put in a good lap in the afternoon session. No question, those guys (AGR) are really, really fast again. We're going to have to continue pushing very hard."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone, second fastest of the day): "Practice was good. I wasn't quite as happy this afternoon as I was this morning. We actually went quicker this morning. But we're pretty happy. We had a good consistent car."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, third-fastest of the day): "There was lots of stuff going on, especially in the first session on our wets. We spun out and it took us out for about an hour of the session. It's been a bit of a struggle, just trying to get the car back up to speed and make sure we get into the fast five this afternoon. We've been moving along pretty consistently. I feel we made a few changes towards the end that put us in the right direction."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fourth-fastest of the day): "I have a lot of memories here. On the first lap, I said hi to the walls that I had hit and told them I don't want to see them around. I have a lot of good memories. Helio and I had good battles here in the past, so here we go again. I guess nothing has changed in the ten years that have passed. It's a great track - very slippery, very difficult and bumpy as usual. It's no worse than 10 years ago. It makes us (work) to make a bigger difference. It's going to be a tough race."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fifth-fastest of the day): "I think we had a pretty good day today. I think there's still a little more speed in the NYSE car and we've still got a little bit of time to find it. We'll spend some time debriefing tonight and be ready for qualifying tomorrow."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, sixth-fastest of the day): "The Team Penske car was pretty good today, and we seemed to be able to run consistently in the top five, which seems to be our usual position for road courses this year. Then, right at the end of the second practice session, we went out 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, but hopefully we'll be able to come out tomorrow and concentrate on minimizing our mistakes the rest of the weekend. If we can do that, I'm hopeful that I'll be able to secure another solid finish for the Team."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone, seventh-fastest of the day): "It was another good first day for the Ethanol team. We're sticking to our pattern of being faster every session. This is a fun track. It's a big risk/reward track. You put yourself at risk on a couple of these corners here, but if you don't, you aren't going to be running with the frontrunners."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 2 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, ninth-fastest of the day): "Practice went well. We weren't sure what the car would be like here when we unloaded, but we got off on the right foot and things went well in the morning. This afternoon, we were just feeling things out and getting a good car together for the end. I was putting in my best lap of the day at the end of the afternoon session when Sam (Hornish) hit the wall and brought out the yellow to close the practice. That was unfortunate, but I'm confident in what we have and looking forward to the rest of the weekend."
DARREN MANNING (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Honda/ Firestone, 10th-fastest of the day): "It is an interesting track and I'm learning it as is everyone else. It's hard work with how bumpy it is, but it's like St. Pete so hopefully, we'll be more competitive. In our second session, we kept getting faster even as the tires were getting older so I think all of the changes we were making were good changes."
A.J. FOYT IV (No. 22 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, 17th-fastest of the day): "Practice went OK this morning. It wasn't bad, but the motor was losing some water so unfortunately we had to change the engine and miss the afternoon practice session. The guys are just working hard on the car to get it put back together for tomorrow."
The next IndyCar Series event is the Detroit Indy Grand Prix presented by Firestone at 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 2 at the Raceway at Belle Isle. The race will be televised live by ABC and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The next Indy Pro Series event is the Chicagoland 100 on Sept. 9 at Chicagoland Speedway. ESPN2's coverage of the race will be televised at 5 p.m. on Sept. 13.