IPS: IRL: Homestead: Friday practice report

GANASSI DRIVERS TOP FIRST DAY OF PRACTICE AT HOMESTEAD HOMESTEAD, Fla., Friday, March 24, 2006 --Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon led the opening day of preparations for the Toyota Indy 300 presented by XM Satellite...


HOMESTEAD, Fla., Friday, March 24, 2006 --Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon led the opening day of preparations for the Toyota Indy 300 presented by XM Satellite Radio at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Wheldon, the reigning IndyCar® Series and Indianapolis 500 champion, turned a lap of 24.0004 seconds, 215.561 mph, in his No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone in the afternoon practice. The lap was slightly better than Dixon, the 2003 IndyCar Series champion, whose best lap, 24.8974 214.721 mph, came in the morning session.

"I'm still getting use to working with my engineer (Andy Brown) with the limited testing time that you get," Wheldon said. "I think it takes a little bit of time to get a car set up for you and exactly what you want and just working through that process. Obviously, the series has mandated we can run a lower rear wing angle and add some more rear wicker, so we're getting use to that, too. I think certainly there are other cars out there that are very quick also. As a team, we just want to keep trying to improve what we've got because of the limited time that we've run here at Homestead."

Marlboro Team Penske drivers Sam Hornish Jr.(214.718 mph) and Helio Castroneves (214.381 mph) were third and fifth, respectively, while 2004 IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan (214.418) was fourth.

In preparations for the Indy Pro Series^Ù Miami 100, defending series champion Wade Cunningham posted the day's best lap. Cunningham recorded a lap of 28.5319 seconds, 187.369 mph in his No. 1 Brian Stewart Racing car.

Qualifying for the Toyota Indy 300 presented by XM Satellite Radio and the Miami 100 is scheduled for March 25.



SCOTT DIXON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, second quickest): "It was pretty good. The first session went smoothly. I think both of us worked most of the day on race setup. The cars were comfortable with no major issues. We basically tried running together. I think in the end, it's like any sort of test. Whoever gets the biggest tow ends up in the front."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, third fastest): "Our day went pretty much as expected. We spent the two sessions working on the race set-up to make sure the car handles well in traffic. That will be the key on these mile-and-a-half ovals this season. We're not quite where we need to be yet, but I'm sure the Marlboro Team Penske crew will get it figured out for race day."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fourth fastest): "We are working on making the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven car fast and comfortable. We're still a little behind, but we also still have all of Saturday and Sunday morning to get there. I'm not really complaining because being fourth isn't all that bad. But I think we can still improve the car a little bit more."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fifth fastest): "We worked on the race set-up of the Marlboro Team Penske car today. We've still got some work to do and hopefully we'll be able to get a little closer tomorrow. We'll also spend some time working on our qualifying setup, but obviously getting the best race set-up is our main goal. I'm happy with our performance today -- it's always good to finish in the top-five and I think we'll be in good shape on Sunday."



WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 1 Brian Stewart Racing, fastest of the day): "We were working on the car most of the session by ourselves. Obviously, the fast times were achieved with the towing. I went out there and looked for a tow, and I put a big lap in, because it's nice to see number one, up at the top. It's hard to say how good we'll be for qualifying. The Sam Schmidt/AGR cars will be quick, but I think we'll be close enough to start."

JONATHAN KLEIN (No. 27 Klein Tools, second fastest): "Today was good. We were quickest in the first session, but part of that was how well the car worked in traffic. In the second session we picked up a little bit of understeer. We kept chasing it and we were able to improve on it by the end of the session. We didn't get as much of a chance to run in traffic this afternoon as we would have liked, but overall we're happy with the Klein Tools/Turn-Key Forging and Design car."

JEFF SIMMONS (No. 24 Kenn Hardey Racing, third fastest): "We were running pretty good there at the end. (Chris) Festa was right at the top, but he looked fast on his own there at the end. He was down in the 28's, which is pretty tough to get to it seems, so he was looking good to, my car is good. We had a fuel pressure problem there at the end that we're going to have to look at. I don't know what was causing it, but it was making it cut out the last few laps that I ran, so we've got to figure out what the problem is there. I'm fairly happy right now. It seems that it's the best that we've run on the big tracks on our own."

MARTY ROTH (No. 4 Roth Racing, fourth fastest): "We're frustrated, because we had a really good car here at the Open Test. We've just been struggling to get it back. We still have a few more sessions, and we'll continue to chip away at it. We were third quick in that last session. We were really struggling this morning, so we've narrowed the gap a little bit. We still have some improvements to make."



Danica Patrick will turn 24 on Saturday. She took the opportunity to celebrate her birthday with her friends and family on Wednesday night in Phoenix.

DANICA PATRICK (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Team Argent Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "My birthday is Saturday, but we went out (Wednesday) night. It was chance for me to put on the little black dress and go out and celebrate."


Vitor Meira was involved in the only incident of the day. Meira's car did a half spin in Turn 4 and made heavy contact with the SAFER Barrier in the afternoon session.

VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 EcoNova Panther Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We're not really sure what happened. Panther has a couple of the best engineers in the business working on all the data we collected today. I know the EcoNova Honda was great this morning and as hard as the Panther crew works, we're going to be very strong tomorrow. If there is any team in this paddock that can bounce back from a challenge, it's Panther Racing. We're going to be very fast during qualifications tomorrow and even better when the race gets here on Sunday."


The IRL IndyCar Series opens the 2006 season with the Toyota Indy 300 at 3:30 p.m. (EST) on March 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ABC Sports and the IMS Radio Network. The IMS Radio Network broadcast is also carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition opens with the Miami 100 at 12:30 p.m. on March 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be telecast at 1 p.m. on March 31 by ESPN2.


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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Sam Schmidt , Chip Ganassi , Wade Cunningham , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing