IRL: Franchitti sets pace on Friday at Mid-Ohio

Dario Franchitti returned to form in the second practice session at Mid-Ohio to take the top spot on the day's speed charts with a lap at 67.3629 seconds. Franchitti started the day with the set up from a recent test, when he was fastest. "I don't...

Dario Franchitti returned to form in the second practice session at Mid-Ohio to take the top spot on the day's speed charts with a lap at 67.3629 seconds. Franchitti started the day with the set up from a recent test, when he was fastest. "I don't think the words undriveable are too strong," he said. "It wasn't very good."

The combination of changing track conditions and work to the car helped boast Franchitti in the afternoon when he shaved more than seven tenths of a second from his morning time. "We had a lot of work to do and the track changed a lot as we put rubber down. We made some changes on the car and now we're pretty happy."

Tony Kanaan's time from the morning session held up for second fastest on the day. "The morning was good," said Kanaan. "In the afternoon we went in a different direction. But we can transfer information between cars and go faster tomorrow."

Kanaan has seven years of experience racing open wheel cars at Mid-Ohio. When he competed with the Tasman team (Indy Lights, CART) he lived in Columbus, Ohio and called Mid-Ohio his home track. "I raced here from 1996 to 2002," said Kanaan, "and I've done a lot of testing here."

Both Andretti Green Racing drivers agreed that Sunday's race will be physically demanding. In addition to being tough to pass, the track is very technical with the cars in corners much of the time.

"The track picked up a lot of grip," said Franchitti, "and I think it will continue to do so all weekend." With increased grip, the cars become more difficult to drive as the steering becomes heavier, g forces increase in the corners, braking zones get shorter and according to Franchitti, it becomes more difficult to breath in the corners. "The grip accumulates lap after lap," he said. "After you've done those 80 laps, you know you've done a hard day's work."

Sunday's race is scheduled for 85 laps.

Helio Castroneves was third fastest on the day followed by his Team Penske teammate Sam Hornish. Scott Dixon rounded out the top five.

IndyCar Series qualifying is set for Saturday from 11:50-1:20 p.m.

In a last minute deal Ryan Hunter-Reay was named as the driver of the No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Ethanol entry. He was 14th fastest in his first day with the team.

In a deal signed Wednesday night, Hunter-Reay will compete with the team for the remainder of the season. Hunter-Reay replaces Jeff Simmons, who was at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course when the deal was announced. "It was a last minute deal and I understand the team in an awkward position with it," said Hunter-Reay, whose last race at Mid-Ohio was less than a month ago in the Rolex Grand American Series.

"I've been talking to (Rahal Letterman team manager) Scott (Roembke) and Bobby (Rahal) since the end of the 2002 season," he said. "We've stayed in contact. At the beginning of this season we talked, but that was about Sebring and the team's Porsche."

Comparing his No. 17 Ethanol IndyCar to his most recent ride in a Daytona Prototype, which he likened to "driving a U-Haul truck," Hunter-Reay said the IndyCar exceeded his expectations by far. "I didn't expect it to corner the way it did."

Asked about his expectations for this weekend's event, Hunter-Reay said he'd be pleased with a top ten finish. "I'd be pleased, but not happy. I'd be happy if I finished 7th," he said before pausing to think, "or sixth," he added, "or better."

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Jeff Simmons , Sam Hornis