CHAMPCAR/CART: Mears Houston Friday practice notes

Casey Mears got behind the wheel of the ...

Casey Mears got behind the wheel of the #66 Pioneer-WorldCom/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Reynard for the first time today after Alex Zanardi's racing accident in Germany three weeks ago. Mears opened practice for Sunday's Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix of Houston this morning with a fast lap of 1 minute, 3.615 seconds (an average of 86.414 mph) around the 1.527-mile downtown street course in front of the George R. Brown Convention Center. That lap was 25th fastest among all drivers participating in the session. Mears was 23rd-fastest in this afternoon's session session run under a persistent light rain, recording a fast lap of 1:16.303 (72.044 mph).

His Mo Nunn Racing teammate Tony Kanaan and the #55 Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Honda-Reynard wrapped up a solid first day of practice with the second-fastest time during the wet afternoon session, 1: 12.609 (75.710-mph) effort that was surpassed only by Shinji Nakano's lap of 1:12.499 (76.824 mph). Kenny Brack was third-fastest in the wet this afternoon at 1:12.766 (76.557 mph). Kanaan had the ninth-fastest lap of 1:01.808 (88.940 mph) during this morning's opening session. Gil de Ferran had the fastest time of the day this morning with a lap of 1:01.222 (89.791 mph), followed by Christian Fittipaldi at 1:01.406 (89.522 mph) and Helio Castroneves at 1:01.418 (89.505 mph).

Practice resumes Saturday morning with qualifying set to begin at 1:45 p.m. local time (2:45 p.m. EDT). The local weather forecast calls for continued rain showers through tonight and tomorrow morning, while fair conditions are predicted for race day, Sunday. The CART qualifying show will be broadcast on ESPN2 at 2:30 a.m. EDT Sunday. Race time Sunday at 1 p.m. local time (2 p.m. EDT) with a live broadcast set for ESPN.

"Considering today was my very first time in this car with this team, I'd say it was a good day. I'm definitely behind the eight-ball. But everybody knows what we're up against and they've been absolutely great. I have Champ Car experience on true road courses and on big ovals, but this is my first time racing one on a street course. So my instructions from Morris and the team are to relax, take it easy, to learn the car and to gradually get up to speed. By the end of the first session this morning, I was feeling pretty comfortable in the car. I was really looking forward to getting back out there this afternoon on a dry track, but the rain messed that up in a big way. We got a lot of laps in during both sessions, and I even got pretty comfortable during the wet session. Now it's time to step it up a bit on Saturday, wet or dry, and have a good qualifying session. We're definitely taking it one day at a time."


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Casey Mears , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Christian Fittipaldi , Alex Zanardi , Tony Kanaan , Shinji Nakano , Kenny Brack , Mo Nunn