IRL: Milwaukee Friday practice equals parity

Looking for parity in IndyCar Series racing? It's right here at The Milwaukee Mile, where the IRL's premier series held two dual-session practices in preparation for Sunday's ABC Supply Co/AJ Foyt 225, race ...

Looking for parity in IndyCar Series racing? It's right here at The Milwaukee Mile, where the IRL's premier series held two dual-session practices in preparation for Sunday's ABC Supply Co/AJ Foyt 225, race #10 in a 17-event campaign.

When all three hours of timed running were completed on a picture perfect, mild and sunny day it was Helio Castroneves at the top of the heap with his afternoon lap of 166.293mph, point leader Dan Wheldon second at 165.605mph (set in the morning) and Tomas Scheckter third overall, second this afternoon at 165.390mph.

Toyota was quickest (Castroneves), Honda took second with Wheldon and Chevrolet piped in with Scheckter's quick speed. That's parity. All these drivers use the Dallara chassis, which has won every one of the nine races held to date.

Third in the hour-long morning practice, Castroneves admitted his team "struggled this morning and a little bit this afternoon, but suddenly we found some stuff that was wrong with the car. We're very confident although this is a very hard place to pass because of the lack of banking. I think we'll be faster for qualifying," noted racing's original Spiderman.

Wheldon attempted a qualifying simulation in the second practice and thought the "track itself seems ever so slippery as the conditions changed" from the morning session. "A good car on a mile oval makes the biggest difference in being quick. The setup band on these cars is pretty narrow so you've got to be up on your game."

Scheckter, whose regular teammate Tomas Enge is on hand to watch the South African and Buddy Lazier (driving Enge's car in relief of the Czech) admitted that during the first session "we were completely out of it." He was 13th of 22 car/driver combos on hand and said his team "tested things back and forth. I'm not sure the track is a lot greasier than it was in 2004; we're using the same setup we did last year."

Last week's winner in Nashville and the defending victor in this race, Dario Franchitti turned the fourth best speed at 165.372mph, set in the morning session. Franchitti thought the track "feels a lot different than it did last year; we tried a lot of different setups today."

Sam Hornish Jr. was fifth in the twin to Castroneves' car at 164.035mph, setting his best lap in the afternoon practice. As is customary, Hornish "worked on our race setup all day and, overall I'm happy with the car. It handles well in and out of traffic."

Rookie Danica Patrick nabbed the sixth best speed at 163.385mph, making that mark in the morning when she lay fourth on the speed charts. "We were pretty quick this morning so this afternoon we focused on race setup and ran the entire session with full tanks. I really like the balance of the car," Patrick explained. "It's a good sign we are making progress as a team on the short ovals because that has been our weakness this season."

Reigning IndyCar Series champ Tony Kanaan took seventh with his morning speed of 163.223mph, calling it "a difficult day." Darren Manning was quickest of the first group in the second practice session this afternoon and his speed of 163.020mph held for eighth.

Vitor Meira had a wiring problem this afternoon so had to end the day after his 92 laps in ninth place. "I am very pleased with the car today. We concentrated a lot on race day setup and the car was very good. We know it's scheduled to be very hot on Sunday so we wanted to work on the car's handling on full tanks and with used tires."

Bryan Herta rounded out the top ten, the fourth Andretti Green Racing driver logging his lap of 162.427mph in the second session. Herta thought he had "a pretty good day." Patrick Carpentier was 11th and "pretty happy with the work we got in today. The car is decent but it needs some work; we're definitely going in the direction," the French Canadian said, "but we just need to keep going."

Scott Sharp took 12th for the afternoon and rookie Ryan Briscoe, quickest in group 1's first practice ended up 13th for the day (with his morning speed). Birthday boy Alex Barron thought it was "a really good day for us because the track changed a lot, posing some challenges." He was 14th overall.

Lazier took 15th in relief of Enge while 2004 Indy 500 champ Buddy Rice was 16th. Rice understood the difficulty of running in the first group when "you don't have much rubber on the track." This afternoon's track temps were 20 degrees hotter than in the morning. We did learn a bunch today."

Jimmy Kite had one of his better outings - he's also racing in the USAC Silver Crown race Saturday afternoon - and was 17th overall while A.J. Foyt IV took 18th for the day. The younger Foyt is also racing in the Silver Crown contest. Roger Yasukawa was 19th, Scott Dixon took 20th, Ed Carpenter and Kosuke Matsuura were slowest of the bunch.

There were a combined 2087 laps turned on this historic circuit over three hours and the sole interruptions were for a single track inspection and a tow-in, both occurring in the morning session. The Indy cars have an hour- long morning practice before qualifying commences for this race at 12:35PM CDT.

Of the quick drivers, Wheldon is second in the qualifying line, Franchitti holds fifth qualifying slot, Scheckter lies seventh while Castroneves will be the last driver to take two timed laps on The Milwaukee Mile. "The tracks usually get better as qualifying goes on," Castroneves reminded. Perhaps that will play into his hands?

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Tomas Enge , Darren Manning , Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Jimmy Kite , Patrick Carpentier , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Alex Barron , Dan Wheldon , Roger Yasukawa , Buddy Rice , Ryan Briscoe , Kosuke Matsuura , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick , Vitor Meira