NEWMAN/HAAS/LANIGAN RACING GAINS VALUABLE EXPERIENCE ON FIRST OF TWO-DAY OPEN TEST AT THE HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (February 24, 2009) -- Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) drivers Graham Rahal and Robert Doornbos made the most of the 4-10 p.m. session on the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway oval today. They were joined on the track by Venezuelan driver Milka Duno who is testing with the team here. Following are comments from the drivers:
Graham Rahal, No. 02 Dallara-Honda-Firestone: "It was nice to get back in the car for the first time since Australia overall, and for the first time on an oval since September. The first couple of laps feel different for sure. At the beginning the car wasn't quite what we expected and we struggled a bit up until the dinner break. We made some good, positive changes and kind of inched up on getting it better and towards the end the car was pretty good. We still have a ways to go to get the car comfortable but we're getting closer. I think we have a good starting point tomorrow. Hopefully we will make some good changes overnight and build from there. Our lap times are pretty honest, we didn't get a tow. On our own we clearly need to be quicker but we will get there. Martin (Pare; new engineer) and I are working together well and he gets along great with the guys which is important. I think we will be able to get some good results down the road. He brings a lot of experience after having worked at Andretti Green and that can help us a lot."
Robert Doornbos, No. 06 Dallara-Honda-Firestone: "I really enjoyed myself today, especially the first two hours. After the dinner break we had a few problems and then did some pit stop practice so that wasn't performance related but good for the boys and myself. But the first two hours we were pushing and I was following my mate Ryan (Briscoe) in the Penske car and I couldn't' believe that I was doing the same laps times because they have a lot experience with the cars so I give full credit to the engineers that worked hard over the winter. It was actually quite cool running wheel-to-wheel when I ran with Marco. Its weird, you don't see the car but you hear the engine noise when it's really close to you and you hear your spotter say 'He's still there, he's still there.' It's a great experience."
Milka Duno, No. 23 Dallara-Honda-Firestone: "It was good to get back in the car for the first time since the race in Chicago last year. Today, I worked with the team and with the engineer to know how we can communicate. We were working hard on the car and it was getting better and better but after we made some changes, the car responded the opposite way we expected so we are thinking that maybe something was not right somewhere. We're not sure what happened but my engineer Len is going to look at everything tonight."
The second and final day of the open test will take place tomorrow from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. The 2009 season will begin with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 5. NHLR earned their first ICS victory, and 106th of 107 overall in the event in 2008 when Rahal became the youngest winner in series history in his Indy car racing debut.