INDYCAR SERIES BEGINS TESTING UNDER THE LIGHTS AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY HOMESTEAD, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2007 -- 2005 IndyCar Series champion Dan Wheldon paced the first Open Test held under the lights as IndyCar Series teams completed...
INDYCAR SERIES BEGINS TESTING UNDER THE LIGHTS AT HOMESTEAD-MIAMI SPEEDWAY
HOMESTEAD, Fla., Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2007 -- 2005 IndyCar Series champion Dan Wheldon paced the first Open Test held under the lights as IndyCar Series teams completed the first of a two-day test on the oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Wheldon, who won the last two IndyCar Series races at the variably banked 1.5-mile oval, recorded a lap of 24.8816 seconds, 214.858 mph in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda-powered Dallara. Wheldon, though, was involved in a single-car accident with about an hour left in session when his car made contact with the SAFER Barrier between Turns 1 and 2. He was not injured in the crash, but the damage was enough to end his testing for the day.
"I just got a little loose," Wheldon said. "It's unfortunate because the car was really quick. Both Target Chip Ganassi Racing cars were fast. We'll just have to put another one together and go back out there tomorrow."
Wheldon's lap was slightly faster than Marco Andretti in the No. 26 NYSE Group Honda-powered Dallara, who recorded a best lap of 25.0020, 213.823 mph. Scott Dixon (213.693 mph) Helio Castroneves (213.543 mph) and Dario Franchitti (213.504 mph) rounded out the day's fast five.
"I think we might have found it. I don't want to speak too soon but team's work in the off-season, so far it's paid off. It's only one day of testing. I hope we don't come back for the race, and it's a totally different beast, which is known to happen. But so far, so good.
"Today was the most important day here. We're going to know where we stand for the year on the big ovals. We always know Andretti Green is going to be up front on the short ovals and road courses. Now, hopefully it's across the board. That's definitely good for the championship. We're just going to work at it and be consistent."
DAY 1 TESTING NOTEBOOK:
South Florida living: What does every successful and recognizable 20 year old need to get around South Beach? A Ferrari. That was Marco Andretti's thought process until his father, Michael, intervened. The reigning Bombardier Learjet Rookie of the Year, who maintains a residence in Indianapolis, is putting the finishing touches on a South Florida abode so he can train more often with Andretti Green Racing teammate Tony Kanaan.
"I just got talked out of buying a Ferrari yesterday (Feb. 20) by my dad and my business manager," said Andretti, who turns 20 on March 13. "It was a good call by them. I just couldn't get rid of my (BMW) M6." If it's any consolation, he still has the recently acquired Mercedes CLS 63 AMG to drive. "I'm just getting a place here to hang out with TK, who is the beast of this field of working out," Andretti said. "I'm just trying to keep up with those guys. Even the F1 guys, they train, they have physios that know exactly what a driver needs." Andretti said he'll spend some down time in Aspen, Colo., over his birthday before the IndyCar Series season kicks off March 24 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"I'm going to go to Aspen to just sort of do nothing," he said. "I'll just turn my phones off for the last four days -- the calm before the storm. I'm just going to hang out, finish my place here, and we'll be ready (for the kickoff race)."
Crunch: Wheldon's Turn 2 incident was his first contact with the SAFER Barrier during any test, practice or race since he was involved in an accident with Felipe Giaffone during a race at Kansas Speedway during his rookie year 2003. A.J. Foyt IV, who is testing again with Vision Racing, spun in Turn 2 late in the session, but did not make any contact with the SAFER Barrier or inside wall.
Tomahawk chop: Chip Ganassi Racing's Indy Pro Series driver Chris Festa played a joke on Target Chip Ganassi Racing engineer Eric Bretzman. Festa, who attends Florida State, stuck a large Florida State Seminoles decal on the computer of Bretzman, a graduate of the University of Florida.
Walking the paddock: Interested spectators at the test included a trio of Indy Pro Series veterans searching for IndyCar Series rides. 2005 Indy Pro Series champion Wade Cunningham, and 2006 champion Jay Howard were roaming the pit lane and garage area.
Rahal Letterman Racing partners with Andersen Racing for Indy Pro Series program: Rahal Letterman Racing and Andersen Racing announced a partnership that will allow the two teams to field multiple entries in the Indy Pro Series, the official developmental series of the IndyCar Series. At the core of the agreement is an opportunity for Rahal Letterman Racing to expand its driver development program and for Andersen Racing to access on and off track support from Rahal Letterman Racing.
"We feel this program is an important component to our IndyCar Series program and we feel it is important for our team to be involved in all levels of the IndyCar Series," said Bobby Rahal, the co-owner of Rahal Letterman Racing and the 1986 Indianapolis 500 champion. "We have been involved in developmental series programs in the past and that has certainly paid dividends in allowing us to groom the next generation of driver. I have a lot of respect for Dan Andersen and his organization. I saw first hand in 2005, when my son Graham ran for his team in Star Mazda, their approach to fielding a feeder system entry. Their team has shown a passion for the sport and they have the right approach in making sure things are done professionally and correct the first time. This is the manner in which we run our IndyCar and ALMS programs and it was vitally important for us to find an IPS partner with the same approach."
"Andersen Racing is delighted to be affiliated with Bobby Rahal, David Letterman and Rahal Letterman Racing," said Dan Andersen, who operates Andersen Racing with his brother, John. "I greatly respect Bobby as a person and as a businessman and his record of success in the sport and outside the sport is well documented. This partnership allows me to fulfill a key component of my vision for Andersen Racing, which is to take young, talented drivers through our ladder system and allow them an opportunity to be seen by IndyCar teams in the IPS and hopefully land an IndyCar ride," added Andersen. "Rahal Letterman Racing's involvement will elevate our program and provide opportunities for our young drivers to work with one of the top teams in IndyCar today." Young American Andrew Prendeville of New Jersey and Australian native Joey Scarallo will pilot the Rahal Letterman Racing Andersen Racing Indy Pro Series entries. The 2007 Indy Pro Series opener is slated for March 24 at Homestead Miami Speedway, the same day as the IndyCar Series opener
Canadian Club returns as Andretti Green sponsor: Beam Global Spirits & Wine, Inc. and Canadian Club Canadian whisky, the number two Canadian whisky in the world, announced today that it will continue its sponsorship with Andretti Green Racing for the 2007 IndyCar Series season. Canadian Club will be the major sponsor of the No. 27 car driven by Dario Franchitti. Canadian Club, in its second season of partnership with AGR, will also be an associate sponsor on AGR's IndyCar Series entries driven by Tony Kanaan and Danica Patrick. "We are very excited about the continuation of our partnership with Andretti Green Racing and Dario Franchitti for the 2007 season," said Dennis Prado, Canadian Club senior director. "The Canadian Club racing program was very successful in 2006 bringing our brand to core markets through the IndyCar Series and we are looking forward to making it more effective for the brand in 2007 by becoming the major sponsor for the No. 27 car. The IndyCar Series aligns well with the core Canadian Club brand attributes and it appeals to our target consumers."
DAY 1 TESTING QUOTEBOOK:
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/ Firestone, third-fastest):
"Being back at Homestead really give you the sense that the season is upon us. I think racing here on a Saturday night is going to be really fantastic. It'll be great for the fans especially. It's good fun. The test so far has been all good for the No. 9 Target Honda. We're still looking to improve and gain some more speed but so far it's been a good test for us. The car is strong and really comfortable. It's kind of cool testing at night. I can't remember the last time we did that. I spent a good four hours in the car in tonight, and we'll put in plenty more laps on Thursday."
HELIO CASTONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fourth-fastest):
"The first oval test of the year is generally difficult for everyone to get going again because it's been several months since we've been in the car at these speeds. You have to be careful not to do too much too soon until you get your rhythm back. I think it's great that we're testing here at night because this is exactly how the race will be. Plus, Miami is a town built on nightlife, so the change should add some additional excitement for the fans. Overall, we're pretty happy with where we are, but there's still work to be done tomorrow."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fifth-fastest):
"It was a pretty good first day on the oval with the Canadian Club car. The guys worked hard over the winter, and we seem to be making progress, so I'm pretty happy."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, sixth-fastest):
"Everything is going pretty much to plan. We aren't as quick as we'd like to be, but we're working through everything smoothly. It's been five months since I've driven the Team Penske car on an oval, so it was good to get out there. We're going to come back tomorrow and work hard and hopefully we'll be a little quicker than we were today."
The 2007 IndyCar Series season begins under the lights with the XM Satellite Radio Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 24. The race will be telecast live by ESPN2 at 8 p.m. (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The sixth season of Indy Pro Series competition begins with the Homestead-Miami 100 on March 24 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It will be webcast live on www.indycar.com and will be telecast on at 5 p.m. (ET) on March 28 by ESPN2.