IRL: Sears Point: Chip Ganassi Racing Friday report

Road Trip--Target Chip Ganassi Racing hits the road in the Sonoma Valley of California at hill side 2.26 mile, 12 turn Infineon Raceway for 80 laps (184 miles) at this weekend's inaugural Argent Mortgage Indy Grand Prix. After the street challenge...

Road Trip--Target Chip Ganassi Racing hits the road in the Sonoma Valley of California at hill side 2.26 mile, 12 turn Infineon Raceway for 80 laps (184 miles) at this weekend's inaugural Argent Mortgage Indy Grand Prix. After the street challenge in St. Petersburg, Florida early in the year, this race is the second of three road courses on the IndyCar Series circuit in 2005, but will mark the first Indy Racing League race on a permanent road circuit. It is the 14th of 17 races this season.

Fast & First on Friday--Driver of the no.10 Target Toyota, Giorgio Pantano, topped the chart in Friday morning practice at Infineon Raceway with a quick lap of 1 minute, 16.9374 seconds (107.620 mph), while teammate Scott Dixon was second (1:16.9936; 107.541) and Ryan Briscoe, had the fourth-quick time (1:17.0915; 107.405) of the session. All three cars made major set up changes in the afternoon session where Briscoe took over top spot for the day with both his Target teammates in the top five.

#9 Scott Dixon- Toyota / Panoz /Firestone

"I think we knew we'd be pretty strong here after the test in April. I'm pretty happy. The second session wasn't as good for us because we made some changes on the car. But the changes obviously didn't work. For this team, it's great. It's really lifted everybody's thoughts and spirits, and it makes it a lot easier to work. I think we'll have a good race car on Sunday."

#10 Giorgio Pantano- Toyota / Panoz /Firestone

"I think the day went quite well. I was just really getting a feel for the indycar and trying to understand it better. I'm very excited about the driving the no10 Target Toyota, and I'm really pleased with the team and the hard work they did. They made me comfortable in the car very quick. I'm here, and we'll see what happens. We were P1 this morning and after playing with some changes we finished the day in the top five. We expect to be competitive this weekend and the goal is to be up front. We will do our best."

#33 Ryan Briscoe- Toyota / Panoz /Firestone

"What today was about was getting a good car set-up and putting us in a good position to qualify at the front," said Briscoe, who has years of road-racing experience, most recently as a Toyota Formula One test driver. "It was actually a pretty good session. We didn't get any yellows like in the first session, so we were able to get a pretty good rhythm out there. The car on new tires was handling well. There were a couple of points we need to improve still, but it's definitely exciting to be back on the road course. We achieved what we went out to do."

King of the Road- Target Chip Ganassi Racing has had a long history of success on road courses. The team boast a total of 45 wins since 1994 (IRL and Champ Car) and 26 of those have come on road or street courses. Their last road course win was at Mexico City in 2002 with driver Kenny Brack.

Heard it through the Grapevine--Fans might be wondering who the new guy is behind the wheel of the no.10 Target Toyota this weekend at Infineon Raceway, but they will quickly get to know who and how good Giorgio Pantano really is. >From wine country to wine county, young Italian driver joins the Target team in the Sonoma Valley for his first experience behind the wheel of an IndyCar. His extensive road course background however was more than enough to get the nod from Target team owner Chip Ganassi, who has a reputation for recruiting young talent.

"We're really excited to have such an experienced and talented road course racer added to our team for the Sonoma and Watkins Glen races," said Target team owner Chip Ganassi of the 26-year-old driver from Padua, Italy. "He was the best driver available to us and we couldn't be happier that his schedule allowed him to be able to participate in both races. Along with Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe, we expect the Target Team to be the team to beat out there for these two road course races. We had a strong showing at the first street race in St. Petersburg. We're hoping the addition of Giorgio will help us turn the corner in that department and get to victory lane."

"This is a very good opportunity and a good challenge that Chip Ganassi and the Target team have offered me and I am looking forward to living up to expectations," said Pantano who in 2004 made his Formula 1 debut with the Jordan F1 Team running 14 Grand Prix races. "This will be my first experience with IndyCars and I can't wait to get behind the wheel and get a feel for it. It is fantastic to be with a team that puts so much into winning."

Pantano passed his Indy Racing League Rookie Test on Aug. 24 at Infineon Raceway and will also compete at the Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix on Sept. 25.

Checking the Rear View Mirror--Looking back to this past April's wild 100-lap contest around the 1.8-mile St. Petersburg, 14-corner temporary street circuit, fans will remember that pit strategies and a few gambles with Firestone tires put the Target team up front on several occasions culminating with rookie Briscoe and teammate Manning leading the field on lap 81. The Target team looked poised for a podium finish when, following a restart on lap 82, a hard charging Tony Kanaan would push his way past Manning and then make a charge to challenge Briscoe for the lead. With just 9 laps to go heading into turn 10, Kanaan made contact with the #33 Target Pioneer Toyota sending the young rookie into the tire barrier and ending his hopes of a top 5 finish.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road -- For the first permanent road-course race in IRL history, Firestone delivered 826 dry-condition and 368 wet-condition Firehawk race tires for use. All were produced at the Firestone Technical Center in Akron, Ohio.

Dry-condition tires ("slicks"): Each car receives eight sets of slicks (32 total tires) for the race weekend, to use as its team determines in the practice, qualifying and race sessions. Those cars that make the "Firestone Fast Six" for the final segment of qualifying receive an additional set for that session only. The Firestone race tire development team has chosen a soft road-course tire specification for this weekend's event - it was successfully tested here in April.

Wet-condition tires ("rains"): Firestone supplies each car up to four sets of grooved-tread rain tires (16 total tires) per race weekend on road and street courses, as needed. Teams can provide two additional sets of the same-spec rain tire that may have been distributed at an earlier test. The softer rain tire specification was selected for this weekend.

Catch it LIVE--Target fans can tune in to watch the Argent Mortgage Indy Grand Prix on ESPN Live at 3:30 pm (EDT) on Sunday, August 28th. The race will also be broadcast on the IMS Radio Network and available on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 (XM Extreme).

Next Stop --Target Chip Ganassi Racing returns to action in two weeks time at for the Chicagoland Indy 300 in Joliet, Illinois.

-cgr

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Giorgio Pantano , Scott Dixon , Ryan Briscoe , Chip Ganassi
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing