IRL: Homestead: Friday practice report

RICE PACES FIRST DAY OF PRACTICE FOR MIAMI RACE HOMESTEAD, Fla., Friday, March 4, 2005 -- 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice picked up where he left off from his last visit to Honestead-Miami Speedway. Rice, who was fastest during the IRL...

RICE PACES FIRST DAY OF PRACTICE FOR MIAMI RACE

HOMESTEAD, Fla., Friday, March 4, 2005 -- 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice picked up where he left off from his last visit to Honestead-Miami Speedway.

Rice, who was fastest during the IRL IndyCar® Series' only day of Open Testing on the 1.5-mile oval in January, turned the fastest lap on the opening day of practice for the Toyota Indy 300.

Rice recorded a lap of 25.0382 seconds, 213.514 mph, in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone. Bryan Herta was second-fastest with a lap of 25.0812 seconds, 213.148 mph, in the No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone. Tomas Scheckter was third-fastest with a lap of 25.0957 seconds, 213.025 mph in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

POST-PRACTICE QUOTES:

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent/Pioneer Panoz/Honda/ Firestone): "The car is good but we have some things still to work on. With the new undertray (of the car) and a few others added bits, we are still learning about the 2005 car. But that is true for everyone here. It feels good to be fast again here. We were good in the test, too. The weather is different and the wind is more of a factor than we had at the test. It is a big difference coming to Homestead this year as opposed to last year. Last year, I was new to the team and we surprised ourselves by winning the pole. Now we come here with a solid team, engine and race car. We have more confidence this year. We made some mistakes last year that took us out of the championship. I think we know more now, and I feel good about this team. The thought process is different this year and we are much more familiar with each other. That makes adjustments and changes a lot easier. The fastest lap was a draft lap as were most of the top laps today."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "To have the quickest time of the session doesn't do a lot for you, but it's a great feeling to start the first session of the first race of the year as the quickest. The XM Satellite Radio crew is still trying to get settled in and work with our setup. We're fairly happy with where we are. At this time last year, the XM Satellite Radio crew was thrashing to get all of our pit equipment built. This year, we had a whole winter to prepare, and I was really expecting for us to come out of the box stronger this season. So hopefully, this is a good indication that we have."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "We got quite a bit done given we didn't get a full practice in due to the rain. We focused on race setup and the Marlboro Team Penske car handled well in traffic. Tomorrow morning, we'll work on our qualifying setup. It doesn't matter where we start because you can move through traffic here and my crew is great on pit stops which can help us gain track position. I'm really looking forward to Sunday and the first race of the season."

DANICA PATRICK (No.16 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent /Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "Even though this was my first day in the IRL IndyCar Series, today seemed like any other day in a race car. I am just trying to go faster than everybody else. It doesn't matter if it is local people or the best in the world, as a driver you are always just trying to find a way to go faster. I didn't think the Argent/Pioneer car seemed right this afternoon. Maybe it was a setup issue, but the car was much better in the early session. We just have to figure out what went wrong this afternoon. This is where having a three-car team is an advantage for us. Obviously Buddy (Rice) and Vitor (Meira) were quick today, so we have a solid knowledge base to look at our car and make some decisions. I just wasn't able to hold the car flat and now we have to go back and figure out why."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "We had a good day today, and the Marlboro Team Penske car is looking strong. Tomorrow, we'll work on our qualifying set-up and I think we should be in good shape. I can't wait until Sunday -- I know it's going to be an exciting show for the fans."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Toyota/Firestone): "It was OK, but the Target car was just not as comfortable as we would have liked it. The Target crew did a really good job making changes with such little time between the practice sessions with the schedule getting changed but we didn't quite get all the things we wanted to try done today. It definitely good to be back on track and to get the season started and I think we got thing off on the right foot today."

VITOR MEIRA (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Menards/Johns Manville Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "Everything is just starting right now, but the Menards/Johns Manville Honda felt really good. The conditions were a lot different than for the test last month. The air was heavier. It doesn't matter what the conditions are for us. This team is good, and they can adjust to everything. We still have some work to do but probably not as much as some of the other teams right now. We did our homework for this race. There is a long way to go until Sunday afternoon and the race, but I'm pleased with the progress with our team. Running the three cars helps us gain information. Honda is still the engine to have, and we feel good working with them. The track was much different today with the rain and the other rubber from the sports cars, but having our homework already and knowing the different conditions is the key. This team is so good at making the right adjustments."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No 4. Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone): "Our time today just proves the hard work Chevy put into this program during the offseason. We hardly even touched the car this afternoon. Everybody wants to see how their car runs in dirty air, and I think it's going to be a lot tighter on Sunday than it was here last year. I can't wait for the race. I want to put that Pennzoil car back in victory lane."

***

SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
9 a.m.-9:10 a.m. Menards Infiniti Pro Series practice
9:20-10:20 a.m. IndyCar Series practice (two groups)
10:30 a.m. Menards Infiniti Pro Series qualifying
11:45-12:50 p.m. IndyCar Series Marlboro Pole qualifying
1:30-1:45 p.m. Menards Infiniti Pro Series final practice
2 p.m.-2:30 p.m. IndyCar Series final practice

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Bryan Herta , Chip Ganassi
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing