CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Penske drivers stand out at Mid-Ohio

LEXINGTON, Ohio (June 7, 2000) - Marlboro Team Penske served notice that it will be a force on road courses as well as ovals during the 2000 FedEx Championship Series season when drivers Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran topped Wednesday's ...

LEXINGTON, Ohio (June 7, 2000) - Marlboro Team Penske served notice that it will be a force on road courses as well as ovals during the 2000 FedEx Championship Series season when drivers Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran topped Wednesday's practice charts during the opening day of a two-day CART Open Test at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

De Ferran (Marlboro Honda Reynard) delivered the fastest speed of the day, at 122.113 miles per hour (1 minute, 6.568 seconds) during the afternoon test session on the 2.258-mile permanent road course. He was also second fastest in his secondary car, at 120.928 mph (1:07.220) during the three-plus hour afternoon session.

That came after Castroneves (Marlboro Honda Reynard) had topped the morning chart at an average speed of 118.708 mph (1:08.477).

Both de Ferran and Castroneves are in their first seasons with Marlboro Team Penske, where they have returned the team to its once-exalted position in Champ Car competition. De Ferran claimed the team's historic 100th victory on May 27 at Nazareth Speedway and also earned pole positions at Homestead and Long Beach while Castroneves matched a career-best result with a runner-up effort at Long Beach.

"The car feels great," said de Ferran, who currently stands sixth in the FedEx Championship Series with 43 points. "I'm very pleased with the setup. It's very encouraging because we got a lot accomplished and we have plenty of things left to try tomorrow. The track is coming along quite nicely; once we were able to get rubber down. I think we'll have a very good test day tomorrow."

Following de Ferran on the day's combined practice chart was Michael Andretti (Big Kmart/Texaco/Havoline Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing, whose speed of 120.720 mph (1:07.336) was third fastest overall and was also established in the afternoon session.

"We didn't do much out there, really," Andretti said. "We went back to our standard setup. We tried to concentrate on getting the balance right in the car and gear up for tomorrow. We'll change some things overnight and see how the car responds."

Max Papis of locally based (Hilliard, Oh.) Team Rahal was Wednesday's third fastest driver at 120.584 mph (1:07.412). Like all the front-runners, Papis (Miller Lite Ford Reynard) - who claimed his first career FedEx Championship Series victory in this year's season opener at Homestead - posted his fastest time of the day in the afternoon session.

"Mid-Ohio has always been an excellent course for Team Rahal and the Miller Lite car," Papis said. "We were focusing on optimizing the race and qualifying setups today. We still have a little bit to go but we are here to learn, and that's what we were doing."

Rounding out Wednesday's top five drivers were Dario Franchitti (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green, fourth at 120.270 mph (1:07.588) and Christian Fittipaldi (Big Kmart/Route 66 Ford Lola) of Newman/Haas Racing, fifth at 120.117 mph (1:07.674).

Defending FedEx Championship Series and reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Juan Montoya (Target Toyota Lola) of Target Chip Ganassi Racing was 15th on the speed chart at 118.304 mph (1:08.711). Montoya arrived at Mid-Ohio after recording the first FedEx Championship Series victory for a Toyota-powered driver in series history in Monday's Miller Lite 225 at The Milwaukee Mile.

FedEx Championship Series points leader Paul Tracy (KOOL Honda Reynard) of Team KOOL Green was 16th-fastest on the day at 117.891 mph (1:08.952). He holds a 59-52 points lead over Roberto Moreno (Visteon Ford Reynard) of Patrick Racing entering Round 7, the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit, June 18 at The Raceway on Belle Isle.

A second day of testing is scheduled today, with morning and afternoon sessions. On-track activity begins 9 a.m. ET and concludes 5 p.m. ET.

-CART-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Max Papis , Roberto Moreno , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Chip Ganassi
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing