Edmonton: Series Friday practice report

PENSKE TRIO TOPS OPENING DAY AT EDMONTON EDMONTON, Alberta (Friday, July 24, 2009) - Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe ended the opening day of preparations for the Rexall Edmonton Indy in a familiar position. The Team Penske drivers were 1-2...

PENSKE TRIO TOPS OPENING DAY AT EDMONTON

EDMONTON, Alberta (Friday, July 24, 2009) - Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe ended the opening day of preparations for the Rexall Edmonton Indy in a familiar position.

The Team Penske drivers were 1-2 on the time chart for practice. That's where they started last year's race.

Castroneves posted a quick lap of 1 minute, 1.5467 seconds (115.405 mph) on his 13th - and final - lap of the afternoon session. Briscoe, the polesitter in the inaugural IndyCar Series race last year on the 1.9773-mile, 14-turn Edmonton City Centre Airport circuit, had posted the quickest lap of the day (1:01.9820; 114.595) six minutes earlier.

Will Power, driving the No. 12 Penske Truck Rental car for Penske Racing, was first in the morning session and third overall (1:02.0853), and defending race winner Scott Dixon was fourth (1:02.3164). Rookies Raphael Matos (1:02.3383) was fifth in the No. 2 US Marines Luczo Dragon Racing car and Mike Conway was sixth (1:02.4343) in the No. 24 Charter Media/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing car.

Early in the afternoon session - when the ambient temp was 88 degrees (F) and the track 112 degrees - Dan Wheldon's No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing car spun exiting Turn 3 and made front-end contact with the concrete barrier in Turn 4. The incident collected the No. 7 Boost Mobile/Motorola car driven by Danica Patrick. Both drivers were uninjured.

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DAY 1 NOTEBOOK:

This is the second IndyCar Series event held at Edmonton City Centre Airport. Scott Dixon is the defending race winner. Ryan Briscoe captured the Peak Performance Pole Award last year.

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Warrant Officer David George Shultz will be the grand marshal of the Rexall Edmonton Indy and give the command to start engines.

A member of the Canadian Forces since 1988, he has served on six overseas deployments and is currently employed as the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Regimental Veteran's Care Warrant Officer.

"I want to thank (event promoter) Northlands and the great city of Edmonton for this great honor," he said. "I'm truly honored and excited as you can't imagine."

Northlands has donated 400 three-day race weekend tickets to families of Canadian Forces personnel.

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Dario Franchitti has sported several one-off firesuits this season and will be sporting another new look this weekend. Franchitti will be wearing a blue Vaseline MEN Lotion firesuit during the Rexall Edmonton Indy.

Unilever announced that Vaseline MEN Lotion will be the primary sponsor of the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car.

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Firestone Racing returned with the same primary tire specification that was used in the 2008 Rexall Edmonton Indy, and the softer-compound alternate tires will be used at the track for the first time in the IndyCar Series.

"So far this season, the Firestone Firehawk alternate tires have added a lot of drama and strategy to qualifying and racing on street and road courses, and we anticipate that will hold true this weekend and that the IndyCar Series will put on a great show for the crowds," Firestone Racing executive director Al Speyer said. "In fact, one of the reasons we introduced the alternate tire concept to the IndyCar Series this year was due to the amount of interest shown by fans in Edmonton last year, who had seen the alternate tires in action during the Champ Car races there."

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Helio Castroneves didn't want to hear any residual boos from Paul Tracy fans this weekend during the Rexall Edmonton Indy. So the team Penske driver took a proactive approach - wearing an "I (heart) Canada" T-shirt with Tracy's No. 15 inserted in the maple leaf heart at the circuit.

The reigning Indianapolis 500 champion wasn't the most popular IndyCar Series driver in Toronto two weeks ago when his car got tangled up with Tracy's as they competed for second place late in the race on the Exhibition Place course. Sustained boos - something the effervescent Castroneves isn't used to hearing - rained when he returned to pit lane.

"I will use it most of the weekend," he said. "I admire the fans. They're supporting their people and that's the way it should be."

Both Tracy and Castroneves said the incident was "one of those racing things."

"He's the last person I would want to tangle with," Castroneves laughed. "It's unfortunate because it cost me a lot of points in the championship. That's what people sometimes don't understand. I was just trying to finish the race."

Tracy, who will be driving the Edmonton Honda Dealers/WoundedWarriors.ca entry for KV Racing Technology, agreed.

"I think it cost me a good finish in Canada, but for him it effectively ended his championship run," said Tracy, who finished fourth on the Edmonton City Centre Airport course last year. "To make up that (78-point) difference in last six or seven races is too difficult."

Tracy also represented WoundedWarriors.ca - a nonprofit charity that supports Canadian soldiers wounded overseas - at Toronto. For a donation, spectators can sign Tracy's firesuit. It will be auctioned as a fundraiser.

"I met some of the soldiers in Toronto who had just come back from Afghanistan. They were just so proud to have someone represent them," Tracy said. "Being Canadian and supporting the Canadian troops and bringing awareness is important."

There will be a photo opportunity tomorrow, July 25, at Tracy's pit box at 9:30 a.m. Tracy and Castroneves will be in attendance. Castroneves will sign his "I (heart) Canada" t-shirt and present it to Tracy to be donated to WoundedWarriors.ca.

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HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, fastest of the day): "This place is amazing and you learn something every time you go out on the track. It's a great start for Team Penske. It shows what we can do as a three-car team with Will (Power), and it shows that it helps everybody. It's not over, though. It's just Friday. We need to keep it up for qualifying and the race. It's great to have a healthy competition inside the team. We're working on keeping it inside the team for the weekend."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, second fastest of the day): "It's awesome. The cars have come out of the truck feeling good. It's just one of those weekends where we feel like we need to take care of the tires. We need to save them for the race. That's why we stopped early today. But it's a good start for Team Penske and with Will (Power) looking strong as well, it's a great start to the race weekend."

WILL POWER (No. 12 Penske Truck Rental, third fastest of the day): "We had a mixed day in the Penske Truck Rental car. After we led the morning practice, I had a few excursions into the grass in the afternoon, damaged one front wing, but managed to get a fairly quick lap right at the end. It was good enough for third behind my two Penske Racing teammates. I wasn't satisfied with the third position, but we'll think things over tonight and be ready tomorrow when it counts in qualifying."

DAN WHELDON (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing): (About accident): "It was driver error. I hit a curb which sent me to the other side of the track and a wheel went onto the grass and I ended up spearing it into the wall. It's unfortunate for the National Guard Panther Racing team. Our guys will build the car back up and we'll be back out there tomorrow. We thought we'd made some headway from the first session; we looked at the data and thought we knew where we needed to improve and felt pretty confident in that. But that was just my mistake and unfortunately I took Danica with me, which is a shame for her and the entire Andretti Green Racing team. We'll regroup and come out tomorrow strong."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 McDonald's Racing Team): "The McDonald's car certainly seemed to get better at the end of the day. At the start we were struggling pretty bad, and I felt like we needed a big change to really improve it. At the end, I think we started to figure it out but there is a little bit of room to go obviously. The Penskes are very fast. On our last set of tires, on the second run, were pretty old and they had a couple of big lockups on them already but we were up almost three-tenths on the last lap, and I gave it away because I couldn't keep it through Turn 7 because I had a lot of understeer. I'm just happy that we were more competitive by the end of the day. It was a big step forward and certainly there is more to do but I am definitely much happier."

ROBERT DOORNBOS (No. 06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing): "It's good to be back in Edmonton and see all of the Canadian fans in the stands, cheering us on for a practice day. We worked hard today in the morning session. It was quite obvious that this afternoon our two team cars went in different directions set-up wise and the 02 McDonald's car performed a bit better, so we're hoping we can find some more out of it for tomorrow because at the moment we aren't that competitive but we should be better tomorrow."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Boost Mobile/Motorola): "I was really looking forward to the second practice session today. We made some changes to the car after this morning's practice, but then got caught up in Dan's (Wheldon) incident which cut the afternoon's session short. I think we will be back on track tomorrow but I really wanted to see if the changes we made were going to be the answer for having an ideal car for tomorrow's qualifying run."

PAUL TRACY (No. 15 Edmonton Honda Dealers-woundedwarrior.ca): "The Edmonton Honda Dealers-Wounded Warriors.ca car had a pretty good day. We didn't end up where I think the car is capable of being, but we were in the top five for the first session and most of the second. We made a few changes in the second half of the second practice, which didn't work out, but by then it was too late to reverse them. Tonight we will get the car back to the how it was, and then I think we have a car capable of qualifying in the top-five."

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The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues July 26 with the Rexall Edmonton Indy at Edmonton City Centre Airport. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 5p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. A one-hour qualifying show will be telecast by VERSUS at 6 p.m. on July 25. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The radio broadcast also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Firestone Indy Lights Grand Prix of Edmonton on July 25 at Edmonton City Centre Airport. The race will be telecast at 4 p.m. (EDT) on July 27 by VERSUS.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Paul Tracy , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Dan Wheldon , Ryan Briscoe , Chip Ganassi , Mike Conway , Will Power , David George , Danica Patrick
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , KV Racing Technology , Team Penske