IRL: Watkins Glen: Friday practice report

CASTRONEVES LEADS PRACTICE AT GLEN WATKINS GLEN, N.Y., Friday, June 2, 2006 -- For the second year in a row at Watkins Glen International, Helio Castroneves will select the order (straight up or inversed) for single-lap qualifying June 3. It's...

CASTRONEVES LEADS PRACTICE AT GLEN

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y., Friday, June 2, 2006 -- For the second year in a row at Watkins Glen International, Helio Castroneves will select the order (straight up or inversed) for single-lap qualifying June 3.

It's the third time in five IndyCar Series street/road course events that the driver of the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone topped the combined speed chart in first-day practice, earning the right to select the qualifying order. His quick lap of 1:30.6783 (133.792 mph) was just off his pole-winning 1:30.6688 (133.806 mph) in September.

Under the IndyCar Series format, the quickest driver selects the qualifying order. The fastest six from single-car qualifying return for the 10-minute, all-car "Firestone Fast Six," which determines the first three rows.

"The car seems to be very good," said Castroneves, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner who crashed in the race five days earlier. "We had a little issue this morning, actually a lot of issues. We had to stay in the pits for a long time, but Marlboro Team Penske did a hell of a job. They fixed the car in time, and with 20 minutes to go, I was able to get out there and come back with a time. Every time you're in the pits here, you lose time, because the track gets better and better. So it was good to be able to come out and set a fast time."

Tony Kanaan (1:31.0462; 133.251 mph) in the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone was second on the chart. Rookie Marco Andretti, who was the runner-up to Sam Hornish Jr. in the 90th Indianapolis 500 on May 28, was third (1:31.1722; 133.067) in the No. 26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone.

Target Chip Ganassi teammates Scott Dixon (1:31.2363; 132.973) and Dan Wheldon (1:31.5971; 132.450) completed the top five. Hornish, coming off the first portion of his Victory Tour, was sixth quick on the chart (1:31.8463; 132.090).

DAY 1 NOTES:

This is the second IndyCar Series event at Watkins Glen International. Scott Dixon is the defending race winner. Helio Castroneves holds the qualifying record with a lap of 1 minute, 30.6688 seconds, 133.806 mph set in September 2005. This is the second Indy Pro Series event at Watkins Glen International. Jeff Simmons won the inaugural event last year. Wade Cunningham holds the qualifying record with a lap of 1:39.6051, 121.801 mph set in September 2005.

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Five Indianapolis 500 winners are entered: Sam Hornish Jr., Dan Wheldon (2005), Buddy Rice (2004), Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002) and Eddie Cheever (1998).

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Two IndyCar Series rookies are entered this weekend: Marco Andretti (Andretti Green Racing) and Jeff Simmons (Rahal Letterman Racing). Both are eligible for the $50,000 Bombardier Rookie of the Year title.

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In 2005, the Indy Racing League introduced a unique road/street course qualifying procedure for IndyCar Series events in which the race for the pole began when the cars hit the track. All cars participate in the initial practice session of race weekend, with the times determing the two groups that will be used in the remaining pre-qualifying practice session.

Friday's combined practice times determine the qualifying order, with the driver posting the fastest time having the option of driving first or last in single-lap qualifying. At the conclusion of single-lap qualifying the fastest six cars will participate in a 10-minute, European-style session to determine the first three rows.

During the 2005 season, drivers Bryan Herta and Helio Castroneves both improved starting positions during the 10-minute session to capture pole positions on the streets of St. Petersburg and the road course at Watkins Glen International, respectively.

Earlier this season at St. Petersburg, only one position changed during Firestone Fast Six Qualifying. Scott Dixon went from fourth to second. All six drivers did improve upon their times from single-lap qualifications.

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IndyCar Series drivers Ryan Briscoe and Eddie Cheever Jr. are entered in both the Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix and the Grand American Road Racing Series Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen. Stephan Gregoire and Al Unser Jr., who competed in the Indianapolis 500 on May 28, are also scheduled to drive in the Sahlen's Six Hours.

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Four-time Indianapolis 500 champion A.J. Foyt is making his first visit to Watkins Glen International since 1989 when he drove his No. 14 Oldsmobile in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series' Bud at the Glen. Foyt qualified 35th and finished 37th after completing only seven laps due to the car's engine overheating. He missed last year's IndyCar Series event when Hurricane Rita struck the Gulf coast and his native Houston. Foyt's properties escaped unscathed.

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As part of its season-long promotion for its contractors, ABC Supply will honor Country Siding & Windows this weekend at the Glen. Country Siding & Windows will become an associate sponsor of A.J. Foyt's Racing team this weekend.

The ABC Supply Honda-powered Dallara will carry the Monroe, N.Y.-based company's name on top of the sidepods, and company owner Steve Pawlowski will meet with team owner A.J. Foyt and Felipe Giaffone.

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The Lyn St. James Foundation is launching an eBay Charity Auction to benefit its "Women in the Winner's Circle" program, an annual event that celebrates the success of women in racing.

Items to be offered include photos from a 1981 Ford Motor Company publicity shoot, an autographed copy of St. James' book "Ride Of Your Life," a 1992 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year poster, "11th Row Society" Pace Car jacket and T-shirts from the 2000 Indy 500, and an ESPN pit road firesuit.

St. James' colleagues also have donated items, including a Monica Seles autographed tennis ball, Scott Pruett autographed Oakley racing gloves, Sarah Fisher autographed helmet visor worn during the 2004 Indy 500, and the June 28, 2005, Sports Illustrated commemorative edition signed by Lance Armstrong.

Access the auction at www.ebay.com/womeninthewinnerscircle

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Sam Hornish Jr. will try to become the second IndyCar Series driver to win the race following the Indianapolis 500 this weekend. Arie Luyendyk won the 1997 Indianapolis 500 and followed that win with a victory at Texas Motor Speedway.

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We're hoping to capitalize on our win last weekend at the Indianapolis 500 and carry that momentum into Sunday's race at Watkins Glen. After qualifying in the top-five and running in the top-four for most of the race at St. Petersburg earlier this year, we're confident we can earn a solid result in upstate New York on race day."

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Ryan Briscoe drove his first laps in a Dallara and with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing during the first session.

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 5 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Honda/ Firestone): "Today was a very positive day for us. That last session we were running some pretty quick times, and we improved the car from the first session to the second session. I'm also feeling more comfortable in the car than I was in the first session. Everything we did today has been moving us in the right direction. At the end of the final session today, we had put on new tires, and we thought we had more time, so we didn't get a full lap in. We needed a few more minutes of track time to improve our lap speed. Overall, we are in a good position and we will certainly push harder to get into that fast six."

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ABC Sports coverage of the Indianapolis 500-mile race last Sunday was the top-rated motorsports event of the weekend, earning a 5.2 rating during flag-to-flag coverage and a 15 share according to Nielsen Sports Marketing.

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ABC Sports coverage of the Indianapolis 500-mile race last Sunday was the top-rated motorsports event of the weekend, earning a 5.2 rating during flag-to-flag coverage and a 15 share according to Nielsen Sports Marketing.

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INDYCAR SERIES POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fastest of the day): "When I saw the 11 car (Tony Kanaan) on top, I thought, 'Oh man, this is going to be like Detroit in 1997.' We were teammates and one car would go faster and then the other guy would go faster. It's a healthy competition (between us). I saw the No. 11 on top and said 'No way.' It's fun. You can see Tony and I are having a good time. We're not upset, and it's good both cars are handling well. I think this was a new track record. It's fun. The cars seem to be very good. We had a little issue this morning, actually a lot of issues. We had to stay in the pits a long time, but Marlboro Team Penske did a hell of a job. They fixed the car in time and with 20 minutes to go, I was able to get out there and come back with a time. Every time you're in the pits here, you lose time, because the track gets better and better, so it was good to be able to come out there and set a fast time."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, second fastest): "I think we're competitive. We're working towards qualifying tomorrow. I believe that the car is pretty good. We had a pretty competitive car out of the box. We're just fine-tuning the car right now. This track is still a lot of fun as usual." (About Castroneves' last lap run taking fast time): "I didn't see his run because I was putting my run together. Nothing is new to me. After 20 years, we've been doing that to each other all the time. It didn't surprise me."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone, third fastest): "It's been pretty good. We came with a pretty good car and were quick right away. We've been making improvements on it. It don't know what else to say, except that it's going smooth, so far. Hopefully, it continues." (Is your confidence high after Indy?): "It's good because I'm at a road course. It's something I'm more familiar with. Hopefully (Indianapolis) is more about the momentum we've needed. It's not about my confidence because I always thought I could win races. Maybe it's just opened more people's eyes."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone, fourth fastest): "We've been struggling a bit today with front grip. I think when they changed the tires for us this year, it hurt us a lot more than the Dallaras, and trying to find front grip for us is not so easy. All in all, I think we made a few gains, but not big enough that we're at the front yet."

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone, fifth fastest): "We had the left and right tires the wrong way around, so we just couldn't understand why it wasn't working. As soon as we fixed that, we figured it out. It was frustrating because it took a long time to figure out. It's that time in the season where it's just tough on everybody because we've been busy. I think everyone at Target Chip Ganassi Racing is working hard towards giving us a good race car.

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, sixth fastest of the day): "Everything went pretty much as expected today. The first session was good and we were happy with how the Marlboro Team Penske car was handling. During the second session, we didn't pick up as much speed as we hoped for, so we still have a little bit of work to do before qualifying tomorrow. Hopefully the weather will hold off and we'll be able to qualify under dry conditions."

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The 2006 IRL IndyCar Series continues with the Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix presented by Tissot at 3:30 p.m. on June 4 at Watkins Glen International. The race will be carried live by ABC Sports and the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Corning 100 at 12:30 p.m. on June 4 at Watkins Glen International. The race will be telecast at 2 p.m. on June 8.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Felipe Giaffone , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Stephan Gregoire , Arie Luyendyk , Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Scott Pruett , Dan Wheldon , Lyn St. James , Buddy Rice , Ryan Briscoe , Marco Andretti , Jeff Simmons , Chip Ganassi , Wade Cunningham , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing