IRL: Safe and fast at Homestead

IRL: Safe and fast at Homestead

A second day of practice for the 18 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series cars and drivers ensconced in South Florida at Homestead-Miami Speedway resulted in safe and speedy results. Alex Barron. Photo by Eric Gilbert. Alex Barron led the...

A second day of practice for the 18 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series cars and drivers ensconced in South Florida at Homestead-Miami Speedway resulted in safe and speedy results.

Alex Barron.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Alex Barron led the afternoon and overall results in his #51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone machine, touring the reconfigured high banks of this 1.5-mile oval with his 76th (of 129 total) lap at 24.4536 seconds (218.618mph), a good 15 miles ahead of the pole speed set last March by Tony Kanaan of 26.5278 seconds (203.560mph).

"We were fortunate we had a lot of time to run today and try different things," Barron acknowledged. "We came in here very open-minded and it showed with our positive results."

Bryan Herta led much of the afternoon in his Andretti Green Racing #7 Dallara/Honda, as yet unsponsored. Herta's 12th lap early in the afternoon of 24.6057 seconds (217.267mph) prompted him to state, "I'm very pleased with this test. This was the first opportunity for the crew to work together, and everything has gone very smoothly. Plus, the car has been quick and it feels really good."

His teammate Dario Franchitti, back from a forced vacation from racing after a motorcycle accident sidelined the Scot last April turned the third quickest overall lap of the meeting this morning. Driving his #27 Archipelago Dallara/Honda to a tour of 24.6146 seconds (217.188mph), Franchitti led the morning time sheets. "It felt so good to be back, just driving again. We've got a little bit of work to do before the race," Franchitti said, "but we're going in the right direction."

Scott Dixon.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
After languishing at the bottom of the time sheets Wednesday, 2003 IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon recovered to place third in the afternoon and fourth overall in his #1 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota. While admitting he still doesn't care much for the banked ovals like the Homestead circuit, Dixon was pleased with the progress made by the team during the test.

Tora Takagi ended his day early this afternoon, after the crew decided the service life of his #12 Pioneer Dallara/Toyota engine was nearing its end, packing up before three in the afternoon. His morning lap of 24.6665 seconds 216.731mph) was good for fifth today.

Last year's polesitter Tony Kanaan logged the sixth quickest lap of the day in his #11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda at 24.6694 seconds (216.706mph), also in the morning. "Our two days were very productive, especially since we've all been off for the past three months," Kanaan said. "There is still a lot of work to do and a lot of things to improve, but this has been a good, clean couple of days."

Sam Hornish Jr. is settling into his job as driver of the #6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota well, and his afternoon lap of 24.6958 seconds (216.474mph), and was "pretty happy with what we accomplished the last two days. We were able to try a number of things, and I think we're well- prepared for the race."

His teammate Helio Castroneves was eighth for the two-day practice in his #3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota, turning an afternoon lap of 24.6965 seconds (216.468mph). "We were able to work on both qualifying and race setups, and I think we have a good, consistent race car." The Penske team was visited by last year's Indianapolis 500 Mile Race winner, who drove over in the Chevrolet SSR he won for his achievements last May.

Tomas Scheckter.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Tomas Scheckter is settling in well with the #4 Pennzoil Panther team, turning the ninth quickest lap of the meeting this morning at 24.7250 seconds (216.218mph). The South African ace called it "a great test. We were able to try a lot of setup ideas, got in a lot of laps and we have a strong race setup," he divulged.

Dan Wheldon, fastest yesterday in the #26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda took tenth today with his morning lap of 24.7490 seconds (216.009mph), stopping early in the day with a mechanical problem. "The test went really well and I've been fast in every session."

Robbie Buhl was 11th in the #24 Purex/Aventis Dallara/Chevy, followed by newcomer Darren Manning in the #10 Team Target Panoz G Force/Toyota. Manning called his car "really consistent. We have gone through a lot of changes and haven't been going particularly very fast. This is the first time we have really run the '04 car in anger, but we have a lot of good data and can now come back and run the race."

Rookie Mark Taylor's first true test in the #2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/Chevy out of the Panther Racing shops went well. "There have been a lot of changes from last year, and I'm starting to get as comfortable as possible," he allowed.

Ed Carpentier, third yesterday in the #52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet found the "intensity bubble has really gone up a lot this second day of testing," as he ended up in 14th place.

Buddy Rice.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Buddy Rice and the #15 Pioneer/Argent Mortgage Panoz G Force/Honda group improved from Wednesday to place 15th. A.J. Foyt IV was 16th in the #14 Conseco Dallara/Toyota, setting his quick time this afternoon and noting, "Things have gone really smoothly with the Conseco car."

Dixon's spare car was the 17th quickest, while Scott Sharp, now en route to Daytona Beach for the Rolex 24 Hour race was 18th in his #8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota. Rookie Kosuke Matsuura's learning curve is still pretty steep in the #55 Panasonic/ARTA Panoz G Force/Honda and he acknowledged, "We shook down the new car in these last two days of testing," after changing from Dallara chassis in his initial test dates. "I learned so much and we will be able to use that data for the race."

There were no incidents other than track inspections and the occasional tow- in for disabled cars on this comfortable and sunny second day of testing, and most competitors seemed pleased with their progress. In another week and a half, they'll get a second opportunity to test prior to the season start, as they try out the new Phoenix International Raceway 1-mile oval February 10-12.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Mark Taylor , Darren Manning , Robbie Buhl , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , A.J. Foyt IV , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , Bryan Herta , Alex Barron , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Kosuke Matsuura , Eric Gilbert , Jim Beam , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske