IPS: St. Pete: Friday practice notes

Rookie Raphael Matos turned the fastest lap among the teams preparing for Indy Pro Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Matos, the driver of the No. 41 Gutrie Racing/Car Crafters entry, recorded a lap of 1:08.7521, 94.252 mph on the 1.8-mile ...

Rookie Raphael Matos turned the fastest lap among the teams preparing for Indy Pro Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Matos, the driver of the No. 41 Gutrie Racing/Car Crafters entry, recorded a lap of 1:08.7521, 94.252 mph on the 1.8-mile street circuit. Rookies Jay Howard and Bobby Wilson were second and third, respectively.

Qualifying sessions for the first of two Indy Pro Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. and 10:40 a.m. (EST) on April 1. The race is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.

INDY PRO SERIES POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:

RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 41 Guthrie Racing/Car Crafters, fastest in practice): "I first want to thank my team, because they worked hard at getting my car back together after I crashed this morning. They did a great job, and we have a fast car. We will make some changes tonight, and hopefully start up front for both races this weekend. I really like the two races. I'm still learning about the car because I've only had one day in the car. I learned a lot today, and I'll learn more tomorrow morning in qualifying."

JAY HOWARD (No. 7 Lucas Oil/Isilon/Sam Schmidt Mtrspt, second fastest in practice): "We made some big changes from this morning, and it really paid off. We got faster all day. We should be strong tomorrow and Sunday. I think the doubleheader format is great. I think the more racing we can get in a weekend is really, really good. I'm really looking forward to reversing the top six in the second race. I think that will be interesting. We'll some what happens there, because there's not going to be a lot of difference between the top guys."

BOBBY WILSON (No. 9 Ocala Gran Prix, third fastest): "Hats off to the Michael Crawford Motorsports team. We've been clicking pretty good. We come off of Homestead. We've been working together more and more, and I just see better things to come this year. I'm really happy with the way things are going this weekend, and I can only expect better." (About a shot at the pole) "Definitely. I'm feeling really good about it. I got basically one good lap without traffic or a yellow, so I definitely am not showing all my cards right now. I'm looking to be real quick tomorrow."

ALEX LLOYD (No. 26 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc., fourth fastest): "When we tested on Tuesday, we only had 60 percent throttle, so when I started here I didn't quite realize how much power I had been lacking. When I came out of the pits, it's like getting used to a new car because of the more power that I had. It still looked good. We had a few gearbox troubles all day, which we think we just about got sorted out towards the end. It cost us a few laps early in the second session. All in all, I'm very happy. The times were pretty good. We've got a few more changes to make to the car, and obviously the more laps I can do, the better because I'm just learning, learning all the time. I haven't been in a car much the last 12 months. Every lap I do is crucial. I'm feeling more and more comfortable." (About a shot at the pole) "Yeah, I think we have a decent shot. You tend to get a bit quicker overnight, especially when you're new to something. We'll make a couple of adjustments to the car. We're still finding out how we work together. This is my first race with the team and in the car. The team needs to know how I like to drive. I need to know how they work. We're learning as we go along. It's been a good positive day so far. Hopefully, we'll have a shot at the pole and be able to be on the podium in both races."

JEFF SIMMONS (No. 24 Kenn Hardley Racing, fifth fastest): "Matos put up a really good lap there at the end. That was out of nowhere. We were close. We still have a lot to do to try to make the car better. We thought we'd be a little bit better when we got here. I think the track is coming in a little bit, so it's making it a little bit tough to read some of our changes. I know there's still a little bit of time that I can find out there. We still have good tires and everything for tomorrow."

DAY 1 NOTES:

Geoff Dodge, the inaugural Knoxville Nationals Fast Track to Indy winner, will drive the No. 1 Brian Stewart Racing entry in this weekend's Indy Pro Series events in place of Wade Cunningham, the defending series champion. Cunningham will miss the two Indy Pro Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg races after having his appendix removed Thursday night at the Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg. Cunningham is expected to be released from the facility this afternoon.

BRIAN STEWART, team owner: "I'm extremely disappointed that Wade is not in the car. We went to Sebring earlier this week. He was really, really fast. We were looking forward to this track. Last year, we led 18 laps here, and with another year's experience I figured we would set the pace. Last night, I went to Wade because basically it's his car, and I said, 'Wade, what do you want me to do?' And he said, 'I want you to put Geoff in the car.' (Team manager) Doug Hoy visited Wade this morning. Wade is extremely upbeat, because he's that type of person, and he hopes that Geoff does well. We all know Geoff doesn't have any experience at this level in these cars, but I told him to take it easy, build your speed up gradually. If there's any attrition in the races, if he keeps his nose clean, he should come out of it OK."

GEOFF DODGE: "We certainly didn't want to see anything bad happen to Wade. Hopefully, he has a quick recovery and gets back in the car he rightfully deserves to be driving soon. It's a good opportunity for me to get some laps on a road course. It's a really neat event here in St. Pete. I'm definitely looking forward to getting out there. They tell me it's not a bad thing if you turn right on this track. After coming up in road racing in karts, it was always something that I kind of missed when I went oval racing, so we'll see what happens here."

WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 1 Brian Stewart Racing, sitting out race due to illness): "It's disappointing not be running. Last year, we were the quickest in every single session on the track. We had some good testing at Sebring. We were comfortably the quickest. We started the year off we were super quick at Homestead and got penalized. That's just the way racing goes I guess. We're three races into the championship by the end of this weekend, so we'll just have to start again. We talked about going for race wins this year, and that's what we're going to do now that the championship is further away."

***

Alex Lloyd, the 2003 McLaren Autosport British Racing Driver's Club Young Driver of the Year, will compete in the Indy Pro Series with AFS Racing. Lloyd will drive the No. 26 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc. entry April 1-2 in two 40-lap races on the 1.8-mile street circuit in St. Petersburg, Fla. Lloyd is taking the first step in establishing his career in the United States, something he has wanted to do for more than a year. Lloyd is among drivers such as IndyCar Series star Dario Franchitti and Formula One competitors David Coulthard and Jenson Button to take home the prestigious award from the BRDC.

ALEX LLOYD: "I turned up at Homestead without a drive and not really knowing anyone other than (Indy Pro Series Executive Director) Roger (Bailey). Roger put me in touch with (team owner) Gary (Peterson) and things sort of went from there." (About the test): "It went well. We didn't get to do too much running, maybe about half an hour in the car, which was enough for me to get sort of a feel for the car but not enough to sort of get on top of it. It's going to be difficult coming into the weekend to try and get myself comfortable and be as quick as possible. But early signs from the half hour we did at Homestead are that we were going pretty quickly, so with a little bit of luck and a bit more time in the car, hopefully we can have a competitive weekend."

GARY PETERSON (team owner): "We've been looking for another driver to run with Arie Luyendyk Jr. Finally, an opportunity came up to test Alex Lloyd, a driver from the U.K., on the road course at Homestead. Everyone at AFS Racing was very pleased with Alex's first time in the No. 26 Indy Pro Series Dallara Firestone car. He was very smooth and adjusted to the additional weight of the IPS car well. Alex is used to driving a lighter car, which has much more torque. All in all, Alex did a great job, and we had a very successful test."

***

The 2006 IRL IndyCar Series continues with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on April 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN and the IMS Radio Network. The IMS Radio Network broadcast is also carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Series Racing" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Indy Pro Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg at 3:15 p.m. (EST) on Saturday, April 1 and 11:30 a.m. (EDT) on April 2. The race coverage will be telecast at 4 p.m. on April 7 by ESPN2.

-irl

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Jenson Button , David Coulthard , Sam Schmidt , Alex Lloyd , Wade Cunningham , Bobby Wilson , Jay Howard , Geoff Dodge , Arie Luyendyk Jr.