IRL: Penske drivers fastest at Indy's first practice day

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway welcomed veteran drivers to the track today with Team Penske drivers Sam Hornish Jr. and Helio Castroneves taking four of the top-five positions on the speed chart. Both Penske drivers spent time in their primary...

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway welcomed veteran drivers to the track today with Team Penske drivers Sam Hornish Jr. and Helio Castroneves taking four of the top-five positions on the speed chart. Both Penske drivers spent time in their primary and back up machines with Hornish topping the chart by 0.1259 seconds over his teammate. Hornish's best lap, at 224.811, came while driving his back up car. Castroneves' best lap of 224.106 mph was also set in a back up car.

"We wanted to be sure we got out with both cars today because we knew there was a possibility of rain," said Hornish. "The forecast doesn't look good for the rest of the week. We wanted to make sure we had a good feeling on both cars. To have both cars in the top five and Helio and I one-two, that's a pretty good day."

Practice was shortened by an hour due to rain.

After two days of practice for the freshman class, the day opened with four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears waving the green flag for a ceremonial lap by the six winners entered in this year's race. Once Castroneves, Buddy Lazier, Eddie Cheever, Al Unser Jr., Buddy Rice and Dan Wheldon completed the ceremonial lap, it was strictly business as Castroneves turned in a lap at 223.187 mph minutes into the practice session.

"We feel really comfortable, not only today, but three weeks ago when we tested here," said Castroneves. "Right now, it's just a matter of getting your rhythm back, getting your self comfortable, which we are so far, and continue doing a good job."

Castroneves and Wheldon traded the top spot on the speed chart three times in the first thirty minutes before both Penske drivers reported to the pits.

Wheldon ended the day third fastest, running his best lap of 223.916 mph on his ninth tour of the circuit. Wheldon used only his primary car today, completing a total of 27 laps before rain forced IRL officials to close the track.

"We got everything done today that we wanted to, and as a result we have a really good baseline to work with," reported Wheldon. "Now it's going to be a cat-and-mouse game with the weather leading up to qualifying."

Wheldon's teammate Scott Dixon recorded 33 laps today, narrowly missing Wheldon's time by 0.022 seconds. Despite the fast lap, Dixon said his car had a lot of room for improvement. "The team made some big changes this to the car this afternoon and then it started to feel pretty decent," he said. "But then the rain came so we didn't get to run on it as much as I would have liked. I think what today reinforced was that our main competition will once again be the two Penske cars."

Driving their primary cars, Hornish and Castroneves were listed fifth and sixth on the speed chart with laps at 223.717 mph and 223.388 mph, respectively.

Tomas Scheckter was fast out of the box today, setting his best lap on his tenth lap of the historic oval. Schecker, the fifth fastest driver on the speed chart, was the final driver to crack the 233 mph barrier with a lap at 223.183 mph. "The car went out and was pretty quick, but it got a little bit windy at the end, so I think like everybody, we set our quickest times early on."

Out of the five-car Andretti Green Racing stable only Bryan Herta broke the 222 mph barrier after posting a lap at 222.414 mph. Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti and Dario Franchitti ran similar speeds, with all three drivers turning laps with 0.0283 seconds of each other.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Buddy Lazier , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Rick Mears , Buddy Rice , Marco Andretti , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske