IRL: Homestead-Miami Friday report

David Reininger - motorsport.com Homestead, Fla, (April 6, 2001) -- Greg Ray set the fastest speed of the day in practice for Sunday's Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami at the Homestead-Miami Speedway this afternoon. Ray's lap, set in the afternoon...

David Reininger - motorsport.com

Homestead, Fla, (April 6, 2001) -- Greg Ray set the fastest speed of the day in practice for Sunday's Infiniti Grand Prix of Miami at the Homestead-Miami Speedway this afternoon. Ray's lap, set in the afternoon session at 198.166 mph, was over seven mph faster than his speed set in the morning session.

"This morning we worked on our race setup," said Ray, driver of the Team Menard Oldsmobile-powered Dallara. "This afternoon we worked a bit on the qualifying setup. This is a setup driver's track."

Ray was injured testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway on January 29, cutting short the team's ability to test on a track that changes dramatically with the small changes in temperature. "The track has changed quite a bit every single time. The way we have the car set up right now is different than we've ever run it. The line has changed on the race track and the wind is gustier than it has ever been."

"It's tough out there. There's no cruising around, you have to be on top of it every single lap."

Scott Sharp ended his day second on the speed charts, turning at lap at 197.740 mph in the morning session. Sharp was impressed with the track, finding very little change since the Delphi Automotive team last tested here. "We had two really great tests here. My engineer had a really good setup on the car right out of the box," said Sharp, who set his fasted lap on his 19th tour of the 1.5-mile oval.

"I really enjoy running here. This track is becoming a favorite of mine very quickly. We tested in windy conditions so it really wasn't all that much different for me."

The Homestead-Miami Speedway adds a new dimension to the Indy Racing Northern Light Series this season. The flat 1.5-mile wide oval configuration is unique when compared to other tracks on the 13-race circuit "I'm pretty excited about this year's schedule and the variety it offers," said Sharp. "None of us want to go to the same track all the time. There's a lot of variety this year, the big tracks, Richmond at three-quarters of a mile, the Speedway (Indianapolis Motor Speedway) and here, a flat track that's very smooth."

Setup will be crucial come race day as the unique track layout challenges both the drivers and the team engineers. "When it comes to the race, this is similar to Indianapolis, in that it's very dependent on setup," Sharp said. "When you go to the high banks, you have a wide window there, it can mask a problem with your car. It's going to be hard to keep the hammer down here even if you have a great car."

Sam Hornish was third fastest on the day driving the Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara. In pre-season testing at Honestead, Hornish was the only driver to exceed 200 mph, yet his best for the day was 197.670 mph. "The biggest thing is the wind right now," said Hornish. "I think there's probably twice as much wind as what there was when we were out here testing. It's blowing almost straight down the back straight. You can set up the gearing to go fast down the front straight where you have a tailwind, but when you come off of (turn) two you get that big gust of wind coming straight at you."

Rounding out the top-five were Eliseo Salazar in the A.J. Foyt entry and Sharp's teammate, Mark Dismore.

Eighteenth fastest and the fastest rookie of the day was Jon Herb, driver of Larry Curry's Tri Star Motorsports Dallara. Herb's lap at 28.0142seconds (192.759 mph) was .0087 seconds faster than Felipe Giaffone who leads the rookie standings after his sixth place finish at Phoenix.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Felipe Giaffone , Jon Herb , Eliseo Salazar , Scott Sharp , Mark Dismore , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornis
Teams Panther Racing