CHAMPCAR/CART: Honda Racing Rio Friday news

Brazilian native Helio Castro-Neves led the Honda-powered field today in opening round practice for Sunday's Rio 200 CART FedEx Championship Series event. The Marlboro Team Penske driver finished the day fifth overall, less than fourth tenths...

Brazilian native Helio Castro-Neves led the Honda-powered field today in opening round practice for Sunday's Rio 200 CART FedEx Championship Series event. The Marlboro Team Penske driver finished the day fifth overall, less than fourth tenths of a second off the quick time set by defending series champion Juan Montoya.

Teammate Gil de Ferran, who already has two poles this season - at Miami and Long Beach - was quickest in this morning's first practice session. Only a quick spin near the end of final practice spoiled his efforts at a top time in the quicker afternoon se ssion.

Long Beach race winner Paul Tracy was third fastest in the morning, but dropped back to 10th overall when yellow flags spoiled his final two attempts to set a quick time on fresh tires. Dario Franchitti in the second Team KOOL Green entry struggled with h andling in both sessions today, 16th in both sessions.

In what is expected to be his final race with Walker Racing, Bryan Herta ended the day 20th overall. Regular driver Shinji Nakano, injured last month in a testing crash at the Milwaukee Mile, is expected to return to the cockpit for the next race, at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan.

HELIO CASTRO-NEVES (#3 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) 5th fastest: "It was a productive day, we're already going faster than I qualified last year, and the track will only get quicker tomorrow. We made a full (fuel) tank run and the handling was pretty good. I was pretty sure we could go faster, so I was a little disappointed to see the last couple of yellows. We never got to try for a quick time."

GIL de FERRAN (#2 Marlboro Team Penske Honda) 8th fastest today: "It was a reasonably good session. We were working to improve the balance of the car from this morning and I think we did that. I would've liked to have made a final run on new tires, but the little spin I had, then Mauricio's (Gugelmin) incident ended that."

PAUL TRACY (#26 Team KOOL Green Honda) 10th fastest today: "I'm actually pretty happy with the car today. But every time I'd try and put a run together the yellow flag would come out. I know we can run in the top three or four here, we would've done it today if we'd had the opportunity. My fastest times came on tires with 60 laps on them. We put on a fresh set of tires with about 12 minutes left and as soon as I got up to speed the yellow was out again."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (#27 Team KOOL Green Honda) 16th fastest: "We didn't finish as well as we expected. We wanted to be further up the ladder, of course, but we haven't found a good balance yet. With this sort of race track, it all comes down to turns one and four. I need to be able to carry more speed into the corners and then be hard on the throttle coming out."

BRYAN HERTA (#5 Avex Group/Walker Racing Honda) 20th overall: "We improved the car today, but not enough relative to everyone else. This car is better than this morning but we still have a ways to go and we'll go back and brainstorm some ideas for tomorr ow. I'm really impressed with the life of the (new) Firestone tires. They're very consistent, the handling never really changes during the entire run, and I haven't seen any marbles out on the track yet."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Bryan Herta , Shinji Nakano
Teams Team Penske