Castroneves Leads Opening Day at Milwaukee WEST ALLIS, Wis., Friday, July 23, 2004 -- Marlboro Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves led the opening day of IRL IndyCarÂ® Series practice for the Menards A.J. Foyt Indy 225 at the Milwaukee ...
Castroneves Leads Opening Day at Milwaukee
WEST ALLIS, Wis., Friday, July 23, 2004 -- Marlboro Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves led the opening day of IRL IndyCar® Series practice for the Menards A.J. Foyt Indy 225 at the Milwaukee Mile.
Castroneves turned a lap of 21.9922 seconds, 166.150 mph in his No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone.
"It's a tough track, especially with how flat it is," said Castroneves, whose fast lap came in the afternoon practice session. "Since our cars are very sensitive to the wind, it was very difficult compared to the test we had, when there was hardly any wind. Today (the wind) was making a lot of drivers upset. Fortunately, we are able to find a good setup, but we're still working to find speed."
Defending IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, who posted the fastest lap of the morning session, was second quickest at 22.0388 second, 165.799 mph, in the No. 1 Target Chip Ganassi Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone. Vitor Meira was third at 22.1093 seconds, 165.270 mph in the No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Centrix Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone.
Qualifying for the Menards A.J. Foyt Indy 225 and Milwaukee 100 will take place on July 24. Both races will take place on July 25.
IndyCar Series Post-Practice Quotes:
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "I'm extremely happy. Again, it's a place that I not only won my first pole position, I also got my first podium here. The same as Scott (Dixon) was saying, you have good days and bad days. The good news is I only remember the good days. It's a tough track, especially with how flat it is. Since our cars are very sensitive to the wind, it was very difficult compared to the test we had, when there was hardly any wind. Today (the wind) was making a lot of drivers upset. Fortunately we are able to find a good setup, but we're still working to find speed. We were working on the race setup at the beginning of the session, and we were going to put more new tires on to simulate the race. We went back to qualifying setup to see what would happen." (About racing at Milwaukee): "It's a tradition to come here. There's been so many years that there has been IndyCar racing at Milwaukee. I'm sure the people in Milwaukee are happy to see us back, and I know I am happy to be back." (About performance of Toyota in practice) "It's like Richmond. This track hides a bit of the weak part that we have, but we can't rely on that. The Toyota guys and the TRD people are working their butts off to make improvements, and we're waiting for that. Your performance may not be as good as you expect, so that's why Marlboro Team Penske is working the best they can to fix what they can with the setup. It's tough, but it's part of the game."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 1 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "Milwaukee is one of the few tracks where we don't have to rely on horsepower so much. Tomorrow we'll trim the car out a little from today. We were flat this morning, and I think we'll be flat again tomorrow. There are some bumps, and I think in the race things will go off, the tires and the car, which will create a lot more passing."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Centrix Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): "First, the team had a lot to do with it. It's my first time here, but not the team's. They've won races here, so we just used past experience. I guess that's where it comes from. You can see that me and (teammate) Buddy (Rice), we are together once again. That shows how equal the cars are. The first session, we worked only on qualifying, pure speed. In the second session, we worked a little bit more on that, put stickers on and after that, just worked on race setup. It was really good. We accomplished quite a lot with not much time. The car is almost there. We're going to get better, for sure. We are analyzing it each night. The teamwork with me, Buddy, the engineers, Mr. (David) Letterman, Bobby (Rahal), everyone together, that's what makes it so good." (About the team chemistry): "We knew what we had to do, and we know what we are working for. The relationship with everybody is really good. When everything is going good, it's easy to have good relationships. I hope that we can make it last as long as we can." (About The Milwaukee Mile): "It's a really good track to drive. It's flat. It's almost like the road courses we have. Again, what makes us really good is the Honda power. We are showing that we have more power than the other two brands. When you have a good car, everywhere it's a good car. Here it's a bit more interesting, because you really have to drive it more and harder than at several other places." (About drawing on team owner Bobby Rahal's experience): "It's always good to have him around. He's won so many races. He's really a knowledgeable man: at the track, setup-wise, and also operation-wise. I hear everything he says. We always talk. After every race ends, I ask Mr. (Scott) Roembke, Mr. Rahal, 'Should I have done anything different, should I have done anything better?' Sometimes it's difficult to analyze yourself. We were just talking about setups, and I think it's paying off."
DARREN MANNING (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Honda/ Firestone): "It started off well for us this morning, but we started on stickers and only used that one set of tires all day. We concentrated on the race setup more in the second session and on improving the car. Passing won't be easy here so it's important to have a good car setup because a good car can lap the field relatively quickly. We aim to be that car. "
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "I'm pleased with what we were able to accomplish today, and I think we're right on schedule. We worked on the qualifying setup this morning and were able to run some quick laps. This afternoon, we worked on the race setup, and I'm really happy with how the Marlboro Team Penske car is handling. We have a pretty good idea of what we have to work on tomorrow morning, and I think we'll be in good shape for qualifying."
TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It was a good day for myself and the Pennzoil guys. We had some decent qualifying runs and some decent race runs. Our Chevy is running well, and we have a pretty good idea of where we need to be. We just need to make sure that we qualify well tomorrow. If we do that, we'll be happy. I'm excited to really get things going here at the Milwaukee Mile."
BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): "Fifth wasn't a bad day for our Pioneer/Argent Honda team. It would have been nice to get a few laps in today, but we ran a lot of laps on the first set of tires. Then we moved to the second set, and the car felt good. I think we look pretty good for both qualifying and race trim right now. Every time we run on the short ovals, we are getting better and better. It helps with two cars. We knew we were behind at Phoenix due to some problems in initial testing. But now (teammate) Vitor (Meira) and I are getting more comfortable with our short-oval setup. Having two cars has really helped us make a big jump with these cars on the short ovals. I feel good about our runs here at Milwaukee. I ran here in 1998, 1999 and 2000 in the (Toyota) Atlantic cars, and they are different than the IndyCar Series cars. The IndyCar Series cars have more power and a short wheelbase. Right now we are looking strong as a team with Vitor and myself and the entire crew. Everybody is working well together, and as Bobby (Rahal) says, it is only the halfway point of the series. The championship run starts now, and Bob has experience running for championships."