IPS: IRL: Homestead: Friday practice report

Scheckter Posts Fast Lap on Opening Day at Homestead HOMESTEAD, Fla., Friday, Feb. 27, 2004 -- Tomas Scheckter led Chevrolet's ascent to the top of the speed charts as four Chevy drivers were in the top six after the opening day of practice for...

Scheckter Posts Fast Lap on Opening Day at Homestead

HOMESTEAD, Fla., Friday, Feb. 27, 2004 -- Tomas Scheckter led Chevrolet's ascent to the top of the speed charts as four Chevy drivers were in the top six after the opening day of practice for the Toyota Indy 300 on Feb. 27 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Scheckter, the driver of the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, lapped the reconfigured 1.5-mile oval in 24.6480 seconds, 216.894 mph in the afternoon session.

Red Bull Cheever Racing driver Alex Barron was second at 24.6819, 216.596 in his Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. Defending IRL IndyCar® Series champion Scott Dixon was fastest in the morning session and third overall at 24.6974, 216.460 in the No. 1 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone.

Arie Luyendyk Jr. posted the fastest time of the Menards Infiniti Pro Series drivers preparing for the season-opening Homestead-Miami 100. Luyendyk Jr., driver of the No. 5 Active Intl/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, turned a top lap of 28.3130, 188.818.

IndyCar Series Post-Practice Quotes:

MARK TAYLOR (No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Racing): "I was really happy with both practice sessions today. The Chevy pulled really well while we were out there running alone, and the car felt great in traffic, too. Right now we're looking to qualify well tomorrow and get that Menards/Johns Manville car ready for the race on Sunday."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Pioneer/Argent Mortgage Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone): "That was a good day for our team, considering it was really only our third day of testing. We lost a couple of days in testing. I am so pleased with how Team Rahal works with the car. We've had some difficulty in the tests, and the team went back to the shop (in Hilliard, Ohio) and studied the setups. And Honda has given us a strong engine this weekend. It's exciting for me as a driver. We have continued to work on the program we established for Friday. We had full tanks this afternoon, and the car felt good. We have been concentrating on the race setup. And the car is much improved from our test here a month ago. We'll see how we qualify on Saturday, but I think we can be good in the race."

BOBBY RAHAL (Co-owner, Team Rahal): "I thought the team worked very well today. We were able to accomplish all that we set out to do with the car. These cars are very sensitive with the heat, and our team looked at the track conditions. We have had some trouble in testing with a variety of new elements. But I think we are getting a better handle on the new Panoz G Force chassis. We still have some ways to go in learning his car. Buddy did a good job today in his first day of a race weekend with our team. I'm pleased how he, the engineers and the crew were working together."

DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "This race is going to be difficult. The conditions are going to change a lot between now and the checkered flag so we need to make sure we have a good race car. The Klein Tools/Jim Beam team did a good job preparing the cars, and we are just hoping the weekend keeps going the way it has started. I haven't had a chance to run in a big pack yet, and that is why it is difficult to get excited about the handling of the car. We have a good idea of where we need to be for the race, so I like where we are."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It was a really good day for the XM Satellite Radio team. We had a list of objectives, and we worked through that and got them all handled. The car seems to be working well right now so we have a lot to look forward to. This team has come together quickly, and they are doing a great job."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We struggled a little bit with the setup today. We tried something a little bit different than our teammates. But that is the good thing about having four cars. Now we can work with them and see what they've got. The big day is Sunday. The result today doesn't look like we would want it to look, but the important result is the one we get Sunday."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "So far I think we're in good shape. We worked on the qualifying setup of the Marlboro Team Penske car this morning and the race setup during the second session. We had the chance to take some long runs this afternoon, and I think the car is handling well. (Saturday) morning we'll go back to working on the qualifying setup and hopefully find that extra little bit to help put us near the front of the grid."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "We worked on our race setup during both the morning and afternoon sessions, and I'm happy with what we were able to accomplish. The Marlboro Team Penske car was consistent and worked well running the high or low lines. This afternoon we were able to run with some of the other guys and the car was good in traffic. Tomorrow morning we'll shift our focus and see what we've got for our qualifying run."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 1 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "We had a few problems to start with. We made a lot of changes from this morning to this afternoon, just working on race setup, and initially it wasn't too good for us. I think toward the end it seemed fairly decent. I think most of our gains have come aerodynamically. I don't think there's been too much development in our engine. I think the strongest part of our motor is going to be getting to the end of the race."

ALEX BARRON (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "The team came together fairly late. Being involved with Red Bull has been a very good experience. Chevrolet has worked extremely hard in the offseason to make the powerplant efficient as well as powerful, and we're really looking forward to the season. It's still a fairly new team, but things are coming together fairly quickly. I think the engine manufacturers have done a tremendous amount in the offseason to make up for the hole in the airbox, the slot. They're always evolving the engine, developing it, and I think they've gotten a lot of it back. I'm sure it's going to get stronger and stronger until Indy. The difference what separates it from any other is that the banking doesn't roll up until fairly around the corner. You have to be quite a ways into the corner to feel the banking. That makes it somewhat different than some of the other mile-and-a-half ovals that we run on."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "It was the first day, and we've got two more days with the most important one being Sunday. It was just a towing game out there. I got a good, clear lap and caught two good cars in front of me and got a good run. The main thing is that we worked on our race stuff a lot, and it seems to be pretty good. It looks like all three engine manufacturers are very close, which makes for some exciting racing. Banking doesn't seem to be a problem. It seems like its set up for good racing. Usually, even in Chicago with pretty high banking, two-and-a-half, three lanes there, the first day its not very easy to get into that second lane. We're already using the second lane pretty easy. We'll be lucky to see three abreast going in and carrying around throughout the corners, but I'd say 2-1/2."

SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "Today was a bit of a challenge for the Delphi Kelley team. We had to work pretty hard to gain some speed back that we had expected to have right out of the box. The team worked hard, and Andy (Borme) and the other engineers did a good job. I think we have a pretty good race car, but I think, unfortunately, we don't have the speed we want for qualifying. With the new track configuration, I don't think our qualifying position is going to be as important. What's going to be important is having a car that can draft along, and I think we have that for Sunday."

ED CARPENTER (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "So far, so good. Even though we didn't have as much opportunity to run in traffic as Alex (Barron) did, we were still able to test out the traffic for a few laps, and the car was handling really well. We finished in the top five, along with three other Chevy's, and we have two great race cars on our hands."

Menards Infiniti Pro Series Post-Practice Quotes:

PAUL DANA (No. 91 Ethanol/Hemelgarn Johnson Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "Things have gone pretty well today considering the wind. The wind was a problem during the Open Test, and I suspect it will be during the race. It is really hard to tune the car with the wind tossing it around so much. We are confident that we are quick and we can get a good qualifying run."

PHIL GIEBLER (No. 2 Western Union Speed Team Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "It's a learning experience, for sure. We're trying a lot of different setups on the car. For me, it's a different way of trying to feel what the car is doing. We're just learning, little by little. As a driver, you're looking for different lines and different ways to get the speed. We're just trying to get the car as free as possible and running as fast down the straight so we can run with these guys tomorrow. There's not much pressure. I always want to do my best no matter what I'm doing, whether it's a test or race. It doesn't really matter what kind of car it is, I just want to do my best."

MATT BEARDSLEY (No. 12 Jugular Energy Drink/Landtitle Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "We didn't do any testing because this deal kind of came together at the last minute last week. We were planning of our first race being Phoenix, but everything came together. The first session was just really a test, a chance to get back in the car. The second session we got a little better. We're basically putting two days of testing into one hour. We need to do a little more. I think, all in all, we're doing well. We'll put up a fight in the race and see what we come out with. We're back with the same guys on the car and the same engineer, which helps a lot. I think at the later races in the year, hopefully by Indy, we'll be just as fast as ever."

BRAD POLLARD (No. 24 XBOX/Team ISI Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "We're still a bit slow, and we're trying to find out why. The crew is working their butts off. We think there may be a problem with the voltage, and we are working on that."

ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 5 Active Intl/Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "We were working with Thiago (Medeiros, teammate) this session to see how our cars would feel in the draft. I'd run out front with him following pretty close for a few laps, then he'd run in front of me. He was a bit faster towing me, so during the last part of the practice we worked on my car alone and got it going a bit quicker. We should be in good shape for tomorrow and qualifying." (About being fastest): "It never feels bad, but you have to take it in context as most of those quick times were with tows."

ROLANDO QUINTANILLA (No. 10 Roquin Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "We got out and did we have to do. We're learning every session. Right now we're pretty quick. We have a fuel pressure issue we're trying to sort out. It is holding us back. Handling-wise, the car feels real good. We're here, we're running, we're competitive, that's all I can say. This track is a lot different than any I've ever run. The radius is a lot different. It seems like you're always turning. My engineer and I have been communicating. The changes we've made have been positive. Every change he's made, it's improved the car. As a team, we're taking long strides."

JESSE MASON (No. 3 Segway Human Transportation Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "The car doesn't want to run free down the straightaways; it feels a little bound up. We did some changes and made the car lighter in the corner but still coming out it was still having the same problem. Being my third day on an oval track, it's always a learning experience. I got in a little traffic out there, which was new and exciting, and a little bit scary. I'm definitely learning a lot, from the team, especially. It's going forward, just not as quickly as we'd like."

MARTY ROTH (No. 4 Roth Racing Dallara/Infiniti Firestone): "We had a great day, did a lot of changes, and we brought the car a long way. There's still a lot of time on the track tomorrow, but right now we're really happy with the way we ended it. I love Homestead. What they've done to the track is great. It's a windy place traditionally. A little wind makes it interesting."

THIAGO MEDEIROS (No. 11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti Firestone): "In the first session, we were working on setting up the car for qualifying, getting a baseline setup. In the afternoon, we started to work on the race day setup, but I had a gear problem and I couldn't get a good tow. I was missing my fourth and fifth gears, so I was a bit worried about the gearbox, but I still feel comfortable about tomorrow. My teammate Arie (Luyendyk Jr.) was able to draft off me, and I did my best even though I didn't have the right gears. Tomorrow's a new day. This is motor racing. Everything changes. I'm confident about qualifying. We have another practice tomorrow, and I think I'll have a very strong car. I learned a lot of things about ovals last year, and I'm still able to learn something new every day. You have to do your best every time. I know the car very well, and I know how far I can go to push the car to the limit. I know the car better, and I know how to make the changes. I'm happy working with Tim (Neff, engineer) and Chris (Griffis, chief mechanic). We are starting to know each other better, and we are starting to think in the same way." (About the reconfiguration of the track): "I like this track, too, but I prefer the other one. With the new, high banking, the car setup really makes a lot of difference here, like Chicago or Kansas. We're just working step by step to have a really good setup for the race. It's a long race with the heat, and the track has new asphalt, which means big changes for the tires, too. We need to have a good car for the last half of the race, in particular."

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Scott Dixon , Alex Barron , Sam Schmidt , Chip Ganassi , Jim Beam , Arie Luyendyk Jr.
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing