IRL: Homestead: Friday practice report

Sharp shows way with fast practice lap at Homestead-Miami. HOMESTEAD, Fla., Friday, Feb. 28, 2003 -- On the first day of the season for the new-look IRL IndyCarTM Series, one of the series' original stars showed he still has plenty of ...

Sharp shows way with fast practice lap at Homestead-Miami.

HOMESTEAD, Fla., Friday, Feb. 28, 2003 -- On the first day of the season for the new-look IRL IndyCarTM Series, one of the series' original stars showed he still has plenty of speed.

1996 series co-champion Scott Sharp dominated the speed chart during practice for the season-opening Toyota Indy 300, turning a top lap of 26.4535 seconds, 204.132 mph in the No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Sharp has made 66 IndyCar Series starts, more than any other driver in the field for this event. Sharp has been a mainstay during every evolution of the series and is considered one of the contenders for the title this season, which sees many new drivers and the arrival of Honda and Toyota as engine manufacturers to the series.

"We're really pleased, obviously," Sharp said. "We made a lot of changes at Delphi/Kelley Racing over the winter. I think about 75 percent of my crew is new, and obviously it was a big change going to Toyota. The new Dallara is radically different. Things are coming together pretty quickly.

"We know we're in the game, but we have to keep working hard to keep up with them the next couple of days."

The Toyota Indy 300 starts at 1 p.m. (EST) Sunday and will be broadcast live on ABC and the IMS Radio Network. Qualifying is set for 1:15 p.m. Saturday, preceded by a practice at 10:15 a.m.

Each of the top five laps today was turned during the morning practice.

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves was second at 26.7371, 201.967 in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, while rookie Roger Yasukawa was an impressive third at 26.8758, 200.924 in the No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone.

"We are obviously happy with the way our sessions went today," Yasukawa said. "We got some work done, and I think our car balance for a long stint is pretty good. We proved that our last test here at Homestead wasn't a fluke, and we do have a good car and a good outright speed.

"The hardest part will be the race. There will be a lot more factors than what I'm used to. The easiest thing for me is to go out there and put a big lap time in, but in the race, I'm going to face a lot of new things, and I need to be prepared for that."

IndyCar Series newcomer Scott Dixon was fourth at 26.9876, 200.092 in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, while Michael Andretti rounded out the top five at 27.0165, 199.878 in the No. 7 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone. IndyCar Series newcomer Andretti was a two-time winner at Homestead-Miami while racing in CART.

Two-time defending series champion Sam Hornish Jr., who has won this event the last two years, was ninth overall at 27.1686, 198.759 in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

"We're working on it," Hornish said. "We're trying to get a little bit closer. We've got a pretty good race car. Everybody's out there doing different things, so you don't know what it's going to be like until Sunday. We've got to wait until race time and then see what everyone has.

"We're really focused on the race and we haven't had the car in qualifying trim yet this week, so we don't know what to expect out of ourselves."

Hornish was the second-fastest driver powered by a Chevrolet engine. Sarah Fisher was the fastest driver with Chevy power, seventh at 27.0598, 199.558 in the No. 23 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing/WeGotGear Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

The afternoon practice ended five minutes early when rookie A.J. Foyt IV brushed the outside wall in Turn 4 hard in his No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone. Foyt was unhurt.

"My spotter told me that he (Helio Castroneves) was on my bumper going into Turn 3, and I wasn't expecting him to dive under me there like that," Foyt said. "At least not in practice. I moved up to give him room or we would have both crashed. It got in the marbles, and there was no bringing it back down; it rode the wall. I think we can get it fixed for tomorrow."

Tickets for the Toyota Indy 300 and the Miami 100 are available by calling (305) 230-RACE, logging onto www.homesteadmiamispeedway.com or at any Ticketmaster location.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Michael Andretti , A.J. Foyt IV , Scott Dixon , Roger Yasukawa , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing