IPS: IRL: Fontana: Friday notebook

Toyota Indy 400/California 100 Day 1 Notebook Kanaan leads IndyCar Series practice; Taylor wins pole for Chicaogland 100 FONTANA, Calif., Friday, Sept. 19, 2003 -- Tony Kanaan, one of the five contenders for the coveted IndyCarTM Series ...

Toyota Indy 400/California 100 Day 1 Notebook
Kanaan leads IndyCar Series practice; Taylor wins pole for Chicaogland 100

FONTANA, Calif., Friday, Sept. 19, 2003 -- Tony Kanaan, one of the five contenders for the coveted IndyCarTM Series Championship, posted the fastest time at California Speedway Sept. 19 during practice for the Toyota Indy 400.

Kanaan, driver of the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, turned a lap of 32.0238 seconds, 224.833 mph around the 2-mile oval outside Los Angeles. With two races remaining, Kanaan is third in the point standings with 425 points, 14 points behind leader Helio Castroneves.

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During the first IndyCar Series practice session, Alex Barron, driver of the No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, made slight contact with the pit wall as he was entering his pit box after a practice run. He was uninjured, and the car suffered minor damage.

ALEX BARRON: "It looks like they laid down new concrete in Ed Carpenter's pit box right behind us. It left a bump of concrete between his pit box and ours. When I came in for a pit stop, the wheel locked up over the bump, and it pushed me into the pit wall. Luckily, I didn't hit anyone in the Red Bull Cheever Racing crew. We're going to have to switch pit boxes unless they can fix it."

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Also during the first IndyCar Series practice session, Bryan Herta, driver of the No 27 Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone, made contact with the outside retaining wall in Turn 2. The car suffered damage to the rear of the car. Herta was uninjured.

BRYAN HERTA: "I don't know what happened, I really don't. The car got a little loose going into Turn 2 on the lap before. The next lap, I went into the corner, and it just came around."

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INDYCAR SERIES POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:

RICHIE HEARN (No. 91 Metabolife/Delta Faucet/Life Fitness Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "The car is getting better. It's tough to come in here with a new team, especially a team that's been with Buddy (Lazier) for a long time. So, it's tough for someone like me to come in. We're taking it one session at a time. It's better than it was last session, and we'll improve for tomorrow. Hopefully, we'll run in the front of the pack in this race and then test at Texas and go from there." (About racing in home state of California): "It's good to be back. I've got a lot of family and friends here. I've got about 25-30 people coming. It's good to race in your hometown."

ED CARPENTER (No. 18 Metabolife Ultra Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We had two completely different runs. The weather conditions really changed a lot out here, and it made us come with a completely different approach. As a rookie, I learned a lot about how a track can change. My first race, two weeks ago at Chicago, we didn't really encounter anything like this, so it has been a good learning day. We learned a lot about how much it can change and what we can do to fight that. Everything we did in the morning session, we pretty much threw away in the second session just because the track was so different. With the heat coming up so much, the track loses a lot of grip. The cars need twice as much downforce with this heat. It is unbelievable."

ALEX BARRON (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Our second practice session today was definitely better than our first. Track conditions changed since the wind picked up a lot, but we were able to have a pretty good run. We worked on our race setup mostly today, but tomorrow morning we'll focus more on our qualifying setup. We gained a lot of good information when we tested here last week, so we're hoping it will pay off in qualifying tomorrow."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Everything is going pretty good. The wind picked up a little bit, just like we though it would, but we didn't lose that much speed, so we're pretty happy with that. We're just working on the race car, and we'll see what we have for tomorrow in qualifying. It's going to be quite a showdown in the race, because it's looks like all the top five in points are right up there."

GIL DE FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "We've been working on race setup all day. We've got a lot of work to do, and we got some good pointers there toward the end of the day that should give us a direction to start tomorrow."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "It was a good day. We basically worked on the race car most of the day. The times are kind of useless to look at because some people got a draft. I got a draft, and it doesn't matter that much. We're looking very strong. (About the difference between the morning and afternoon): "Wind. It was the only big change. The car was running smooth in the morning, and then in the afternoon, we had some little issues, but nothing that we won't have time tomorrow to fix."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 27 Archipelago/Motorola Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It was a difficult day for us all around. This morning was a setback, and we just haven't found a setup that I'm happy with yet. We're going to take a good look at Dan (Wheldon) and Tony's (Kanaan) notes, then Allen (McDonald, race engineer) and I will sit down and get the Archipelago/Motorola car running better tomorrow."

ROGER YASUKAWA (No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Basically, to be racing in your hometown is always a good feeling. I actually grew up in Ontario. I lived here from when I was born until I was six years old, so I would really call this my hometown. Other than that, my Panasonic/ARTA crew did a great job today preparing the car. Usually, we concentrate a lot on the race setup, and today we spent a little bit of time on the qualifying setup, and it turned out to be really quick. We'll be qualifying a little bit earlier tomorrow, but I think it will still be hot like today, so we're fairly happy with that. Overall, I think we should work a little more with the race setup, but once we get to (race-day) warmup, we should have a pretty good car. We've been very strong on the superspeedway tracks lately. For me, winning the Rookie of the Year title is going to be the biggest thing. I'm going to try to be ahead of Dan (Wheldon) throughout the sessions and the race, which isn't going to be easy. We're working 100 percent to do that."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I bet everyone did a lap time with a tow, I just got a better one. I'm happy. I think we made good improvements since last week when we came here to test. I'm pleased with the balance of the car. We worked a lot on race setup today, so I wasn't concerned about speed, but the speed was still there. It doesn't matter where you qualify. This is going to be a tight race. It doesn't matter where you start. Concentrate on race setup and see what happens on Sunday. I'm not even worried about tomorrow in qualifying at all. I just want to be up front, obviously, to try and stay out of trouble."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "We did race setup in the second session. It seemed pretty good, but as Tony (Kanaan) said, on these circuits, a (fast) lap is pretty easy to get with a big tow. Guys get a lap at 224 (mph) and then the next one is 221. I think we're looking pretty good for qualifying. We had a few problems today with our race setup. The car wasn't too good in traffic." (About qualifying): "Obviously, you want to qualify in the front, but as Tony (Kanaan) said, it doesn't matter if you start last, you can probably be at the front in five laps if you have a good race car. The key is to have a solid race car, and we have some work to do there. Team Target will be fine. We still have a lot of track time left to make it better. We need to have a good finish this weekend to stay in the championship."

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QUOTES FROM TODAY'S CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDERS PRESS CONFERENCE:

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We've been very consistent. We've only had one win, which I am not happy about, but we've had several top fives and top 10s. We are going to still play clean and try to win in the best way, and that is clean. Between the five of us, we trust each other, and I think you will see people with nothing to lose trying to go crazy. The respect between us is mutual; I think because we have been racing side by side."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "What I need to do is win. We're far enough behind right now that we have to win these last two races, and we also need a little bit of bad luck for some of these other guys up here. It's been a great championship so far this season. We've had a lot of very close races, a lot of commanding performances by all five of us. I'm just really looking forward to these last two races to see what unfolds because it's really set up to be an amazing championship. I've said it before: I don't know if five cars can go across the start/finish line at one time, but I'm sure we're all going to try to do that"

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "It's been incredible, this championship, the ups and downs. Unfortunately, we cannot think about what is going to happen. We have to focus on our job. I'm very happy about the Marlboro Penske team working so, so hard to be in this situation. Now we just have to keep our focus on our job, and whatever happens, happens. We're professional race-car drivers. We've raced against each other many times, and I feel no problem racing side by side with everyone here. I guess everybody has the same goal -- to finish ahead of everybody -- so everybody is going to try to do whatever they can."

GIL DE FERRAN (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "I guess my chances are as good as anybody's, I suppose. Certainly, we'll have to improve our form a little bit from the performance we had in Chicago. We have a different car again this weekend in Fontana. In the test, we did relatively fast speeds. We tried to get a quick handle on the car. We'll see. For sure, we have a chance at the championship, just as any of these guys over here. It's been a season that I've been able to experience the highs of the highs and the lows of the lows. If you just take the accident out, it's been a really good season. We'll keep going here and see what happens. Any DNF's now would be very costly for (any of the championship contenders). We'll see."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "Most of us will keep pressing on and see if we can get points toward the end. I think our biggest problem this year has been trying to finish. We've been leading many races, but we fell out halfway or even toward the end. I think we've had the speed all year, we just need to stay up front and get some points. If it works out, it works out. I think since the beginning of the year, most of us guys have been side by side for many races. A few of them I thought there would be a lot more crashes, but I think everybody respects everybody. We've been racing with each other long enough that we know what the deal is. We've all been in the wall, and we don't like that. We're pretty good to each other. We're all here for one thing and that is to win. We're going to try our hardest to keep winning these races. That's, obviously, the best way to try and win this championship. I think that's the mentality of Team Target, and we're just going to try and keep winning. "

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Mark Taylor won the pole for the Menards Infiniti Pro Series California 100 Sept. 19 at California Speedway. Taylor turned a lap of 38.2020 seconds, 188.472 mph in the No. 4 Fulmar Panther Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.

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MENARDS INFINITI PRO SERIES POLE QUALIFYING NOTES:

*Rookie Mark Taylor won his fourth career pole, tying him with A.J. Foyt for most career poles. Taylor's other poles came at Phoenix, Nashville and Kentucky. He won at Phoenix and Nashville but did not start at Kentucky due to an illness.

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MENARDS INFINITI PRO SERIES POLE QUALIFYING QUOTES:

JEFF SIMMONS (No. 20 Western Union Speed Team Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "The track has slowed down a lot from this morning. It's almost a second slower. When we went out for the second practice there was a lot of understeer, especially in Turn 2, but we got rid of that. The car is not bad right now. It's hard to get the gearing right. We actually changed quite a bit in the gearing today. I still don't think we hit it quite right. If you drop a little too low in the revs in the corner, then it never gets up to the powerband down the straightaway."

CORY WITHERILL (No. 92 WSA Healthcare Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I think it went all right, for the most part. It felt like the car was kind of slow at the beginning of the first session. Then, in the second session, we tried to make our car faster for qualifying today. We kind of have a good idea of a good setup for the car for the race."

MARK TAYLOR (No. 4 Fulmar Panther Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "It was really good. This morning the wind and the heat really changed the track. It put a lot of push into the car. We were a little bit worried about it, so we were a bit conservative for qualifying. I bet we could've gone a little bit quicker. It's one of those things. At this point in the year, you don't want to end up making a mistake and end up in the back of the field. I'm going to go out every race and enjoy it." (About his season): "Once I got the deal done with Panther, I knew that they would give me a great car. I felt confident that I could go out on the ovals and learn very quickly, and that's what we were able to do. We were able to go out in the first two races and win them. Once you've got a good platform like that, the confidence grows. You never know quite how successful you'll be at the beginning of the year. I think everyone was hoping that we'd win five or six races in the year, but being able to actually do it is an achievement for the team as well as myself. To be able to have a car that has run every lap is unbelievable that we haven't had any problems so far. It was a new car for them at the beginning of this year. It just shows how much work they've put into it."

ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 5 Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "The car's a lot better than the last practice session. That session was pretty bad for us. We couldn't even go flat through (Turns) 1 and 2. We just lacked a lot of speed in the corner, and we had to use the whole racetrack. When I got the pole in Michigan, I just ran the bottom, and the car was really free. Here we had a lot of push in the corner, and I used the weightjacker a lot. Through (Turns) 3 and 4, the car was a lot better than Turns 1 and 2, where it seemed to push a lot. We just didn't have the speed."

TAYLOR FLETCHER (No. 9 Olive Crest Foundation/SSM Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "It's about as close as it gets to a home track. Most of them are a couple of hours away. It's nice, because I have a lot of family and friends here. We've been talking to a few sponsors here over the last few years, so I was able to bring a couple of these people out here today and tomorrow. That's going to be a real benefit to me in my career, as well as give them an opportunity to see what it's all about."

BRAD POLLARD (No. 99 Natural Golf/Sam Schmidt Mtrspts. Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "There was a big headwind going down the backstretch, but a great tailwind coming down the front. The car was planted. The Sam Schmidt team put together one of the best cars in the field. He (Sam Schmidt) gave me the pleasure of driving one of these today. I'm learning a little bit more every time I go."

GARY PETERSON (No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "This is great, but it's a lot of pressure though. I have a lot of friends and a lot of sponsors here and this is a great facility. It's a great track. I'm really glad to be here."

ED CARPENTER (No. 14 Futaba/Delphi/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "We came into this race third in the points championship. Mark (Taylor) has had a pretty dominant year, a year everyone dreams about. If it's a close call, he usually gets the breaks. It's just been one of those kind of years. Mark and I have been duking it out by the thousandth (of a second). He's got four poles, and I've got three. He's obviously got a lot more wins than me. I've tried to beat him quite a few times and just came up very short. Hopefully, I'll get a couple of the breaks these last two races and steal some of his steam."

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TOMORROW'S SCHEDULE:
9-10 a.m. - IndyCar Series practice
10:20-10:35 p.m. - Final Menards Infiniti Pro Series practice
11 a.m. - IndyCar Series MBNA Pole Qualifying
3:45 p.m. - California 100 (50 laps/100 miles), ESPN2, 2:30 p.m. (EDT), Sept. 25
4:45-5:15 p.m. - Final IndyCar Series practice
5:30 p.m. - Autograph session

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Mark Taylor , Helio Castroneves , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Alex Barron , Sam Schmidt , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Ed Carpenter
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing