IRL: Watkins Glen: Saturday practice, starting grid report

CASTRONEVES EARNS POLE AT GLEN; WILSON TO START FIRST IN CORNING 100 WATKINS GLEN, N.Y., Saturday, June 3, 2006 -- Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan, constants in the first three rows of IndyCar Series road/street course events, will hook up in...

CASTRONEVES EARNS POLE AT GLEN; WILSON TO START FIRST IN CORNING 100

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y., Saturday, June 3, 2006 -- Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan, constants in the first three rows of IndyCar Series road/street course events, will hook up in another spirited competition in the Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix presented by Tissot.

The longtime friends and rivals will occupy the front row for the second IndyCar Series race on the 3.37-mile, 11-turn Watkins Glen International circuit.

The grid was set based on June 2 combined practice times. Single-car qualifying and the "Firestone Fast Six" session were wiped out because fog precluded the trauma helicopter from landing at the facility before cars were scheduled to get on the track. The Indy Racing League requires an evacuation helicopter at each race it sanctions.

"Part of me is disappointed that we didn't have a qualifying session because we showed we were quick yesterday in practice and it would have been nice to try and qualify on pole, but we'll take a pole position how ever we can get it," Castroneves said.

Castroneves, the IndyCar Series point leader driving the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, topped the speed chart June 2 with a quick lap of 1:30.6688 (133.806 mph) in the afternoon session. Kanaan had a quick lap of 1:31.0462 (133.251 mph) in the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone.

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WATKINS GLEN DAY 2 NOTEBOOK:

Road Weary: Several drivers haven't been home since before the Indianapolis 500. Rahal Letterman Racing drivers Buddy Rice and Danica Patrick spent the time between the Indianapolis 500 and Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix by driving to the track in the their motorcoaches with members of their family.

Here's how other drivers spent the break:

SCOTT DIXON: "We didn't really have much down time. We had the banquet on Monday night. Basically just catch up with friends and family before they fly back. We did a bit of wakeboarding on the boat. Also a bit of training, cycling and swimming and stuff like that."

DAN WHELDON: "I really didn't have that much down time because we were preparing for here. We had some appearances. I tried to sleep as much as I could. Indy was mentally very tough. I led 148 laps and had a great car. That's when it doesn't tax you physically. To go out of sequence because of a puncture is very frustrating. It was just a shame to go down like that."

VITOR MEIRA: "I stayed back at home with my brother, my mom and fiancee and took it easy. I obviously worked out a little bit here and there. Monday, I did nothing, just some video games. We didn't even go out at all. I just rested. The 500 was pretty brutal."

EDDIE CHEEVER: "I rested and I rested and I slept and I slept. Then I rested some more."

KOSUKE MATSUURA: "I spent time with my brother and my friend. They came from Japan and I just spent time with them. I did a little shopping, golfing, and stuff like that."

JEFF SIMMONS: "I had a little bit of time off. I relaxed a little bit. I saw some family and stuff like that. Met some friends which I hadn't seen in a while because we were fairly busy during May."

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Target Chip Ganassi Racing is running a special paint scheme this weekend to promote Energizer e2 Lithium Batteries. Instead of the red and white colors of Target, Dixon's No. 9 Honda-powered Panoz is blue, silver and black.

SCOTT DIXON: (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "It's cool. Target's doing three events this year where we have our major sponsors, along with Target. It's Energizer this weekend. We're doing Nicorette and a Fuji Film on later on. It's kind of cool to change it up a bit. It creates a little more attention to the car for Target Chip Ganassi Racing this weekend."

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Dan Wheldon may have given up his title as reigning Indianapolis 500 champion, but thinks Sam Hornish Jr. will live up to the role.

DAN WHELDON: "(Sam Hornish Jr., is) obviously a different personality to me, but I think the people who are running up front, the 500 means a lot. I'm very disappointed to give away that title. I think Sam will represent the Indianapolis 500 very well. Sam's been in the IndyCar Series a long time, and out of everybody that month, he was very quick. If I had to lose my title to somebody, it might as well be him and Roger Penske. Sam's a good role model for everyone involved."

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Watkins Glen International is considered the "home track" for IndyCar Series rookie Jeff Simmons, who grew up in Hartford, Conn. Simmons won the inaugural Indy Pro Series Corning 100 at the Glen in 2005 after passing Marco Andretti with three laps remaining.

JEFF SIMMONS (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Team Ethanol Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "I think there were more family members at Indy, because everyone wants to go to Indy, but I do have some friends and family coming out. Hopefully, they'll get to see as good a race as they saw from me last year."

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INDYCAR SERIES POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, starts from pole): "We went out there today to see how the Marlboro Team Penske car would react under wet conditions. You really can't tell much about the set-up on a day like today, because we were focusing on maintaining grip through the high speed corners instead of working on lap times. Overall, we feel pretty comfortable heading into the race. Part of me is disappointed that we didn't have a qualifying session because we showed we were quick yesterday in practice and it would have been nice to try and qualify on pole, but we'll take a pole position how ever we can get it. If it rains tomorrow, it will be a very difficult race, but I have run on wet tracks before, so I think that will definitely give us an edge. No matter what Mother Nature brings, I'm ready and excited."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified second): "We didn't really learn anything today. I scrubbed some race tires to take the shine off, but I don't think we learned anything that we can use for tomorrow. We'll keep an eye on the weather but I think the Team 7-Eleven car is very good this weekend, and I love to drive in the rain. It would have been nice to have qualified, but Helio (Castroneves) is only starting next to me; he's not in front of me."

MARCO ANDRETTI (26 NYSE Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified third): "I'm definitely happy that things worked out like they did. I really believe that the NYSE car could have been in the top-six shootout had we qualified, but we might have ended up qualifying sixth instead of where we are at. This definitely worked out in our favor."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone, starts fourth): "It hurt us more, not being able to go for pole. We definitely had a chance to gain a couple of places. I'm not sure if we had enough speed for pole. I think we should have been on the front row, or at least third. It was disappointing. I learned nothing today on the track, just scrubbed some tires."

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone, starts fifth): "Fortunately for me, I was able to do two laps at the end of my second session on new tires. We had a little, little problem yesterday where we had the left front on the right front and the right front mounted on the left front so it was a difficult day, but I think we have a reasonably good car. Obviously, Scott has done a lot of work with the g force around here, and so we're kind of basing ourselves off of that in the short time we've had. It'll be a good race though."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, starts sixth): "I've run a lot of races in go-karts and Formula Fords in the rain, so I'm fairly confident with what to expect during the race. Last year when we came here, almost every practice session was somewhat wet, so I think we've got a decent idea of where we need to be tomorrow. I just wanted to get a little bit of time out there today to make sure the Marlboro Team Penske car was where it needed to be, and I can't complain. We're not starting quite where we'd like, but if we play it smart and are careful with the weather hopefully we'll be able to earn a top-five finish and some solid points in the championship."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Klein Tools/Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone, starts seventh): "We tried some things yesterday that didn't work, trying to get a direction, but we always knew we could come back to the setup Tony (Kanaan) had and be more competitive. I'm disappointed qualifying was cancelled. I thought we had a shot to get a whole lot further up the grid. I think tomorrow is going to take some hard work, but I still believe the Klein Tools/Canadian Club team can win the race. Weather conditions might play a part in the race, which I'm fine with."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone, starts ninth): "I'm disappointed that qualifying was cancelled because the XM Satellite Radio team wasn't going for a time yesterday. We didn't even put on new tires in the afternoon. Obviously if we would have known this was going to happen we would have tried harder yesterday. I would have rather qualified than practiced today but that's a call for the IndyCar Series so we'll try and make the most of it tomorrow."

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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 Helio Castroneves , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Marco Andretti , Jeff Simmons , Chip Ganassi , Roger Penske , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing