MARCO ANDRETTI TURNS SECOND FASTEST LAP AT RICHMOND INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY
Richmond, VA (June 22, 2006)--It has been said that Richmond International Raceway is one of the toughest tracks on the IndyCar® Series schedule. However, rookie sensation Marco Andretti turned the first laps of his 19-year-old life on the ¾-mile oval today and came away with the second fastest lap time among all 19 drivers at the open test session. If his first day at America's Premier Short Track is any indication, it may be safe to call Andretti a "natural" when it comes to taming the shortest track on the schedule. The real test comes Saturday night at the SunTrust Indy Challenge Presented by XM Satellite Radio.
"I really enjoy this place," said Andretti, son of open-wheel great Michael Andretti and grandson of motorsports legend Mario Andretti. "I think it's definitely a driver's track, which I love. It's a driver-engineer track, where you need to work. You really have to drive the car here."
Andretti's lap time of 15.9466 seconds (169.315 mph) was just behind Indianapolis 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr., who turned in a lap time of 15.7520 seconds (171.407 mph). Unfortunately for Hornish, the two-time series champion crashed in Turn 4 at the end of the open test.
"We had a great practice session today, and we were really happy with the Marlboro Team Penske car," said Hornish, who visited Gatorade Victory Lane at Richmond International Raceway in 2002. "Unfortunately, we had an incident at the end of practice. I feel bad for the crew. They gave me a great car all day. We'll regroup for practice tomorrow, and hopefully we'll get the back-up car as dialed in as the primary one was this afternoon."
Andretti Green Racing placed all four of their drivers in the top six. Tony Kanaan posted the third fastest lap speed at 169.212 mph, Dario Franchitti was fifth at 168.569 mph and Bryan Herta was sixth at 168.530. Scott Sharp's lap speed of 168.674 was good for fourth.
"I was doing race stuff today because that's what we need to worry about," said Kanaan. "An extra day at Richmond is really valuable for us as a team because we've struggled in the past here. I'm pleased with how the day of testing went."
"It was a good day," said Franchitti, who finished runner-up at last year's SunTrust Indy Challenge. "It was nice to get those extra four hours to do some development work and also to tune the car for these conditions. Track time is always nice to have and I think we learned some stuff. Hopefully we can use it for tomorrow and Saturday."