MIAMI, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2002 - It was only his fifth day on an oval track, but rookie Tomas Scheckter was the fastest driver during the first day of practice for the 20th Anniversary Grand Prix of Miami on Feb. 28 at Homestead-Miami Speedway,...
MIAMI, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2002 - It was only his fifth day on an oval track, but rookie Tomas Scheckter was the fastest driver during the first day of practice for the 20th Anniversary Grand Prix of Miami on Feb. 28 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the season opener for the Indy Racing League.
Scheckter, 21, led the morning practice at 26.4063 seconds, 204.497 mph in the No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone. He was ninth fastest at 27.0447, 199.669 in the afternoon practice, which was led by defending Indy Racing League champion Sam Hornish Jr. at 26.6259, 202.810 in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.
"Today we spent time on both qualifying and race setups," Scheckter said. "We learned a lot in both areas. We just need to stay in form, maintaining our pace tomorrow, as well. The crew of the Red Bull Cheever Racing team is working very hard and everything is coming together."
1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr., owner-driver of Red Bull Cheever Racing, hired Scheckter as his teammate just two days ago. Scheckter, son of 1979 Formula One World Champion Jody Scheckter was impressive during four days of testing with the team in January and earlier this month, his first experience on an oval after starting his career in European road racing.
Scheckter admits that the race, which starts at 1 p.m. (EST) Saturday and will be televised live on ABC, will be an entirely different experience than testing or practice.
"We also spent some time working on coming in and out of the pits," Scheckter said. "The yellow flags and pit stops will be something new for me in this race. We did some work in the pits today, and I managed to do them with no mistakes."
Cheever was second fastest overall for the day with his lap of 26.5515, 203.378 in the morning in the No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.
"We worked on our qualifying runs this morning, with two different setups on each of the Infiniti-powered Red Bull Cheever Racing cars," Cheever said. "We'll decide which way to go tomorrow based on our debriefings today. This afternoon we did full tanks, using setups that were a continuation of what we had when we tested here. It was much warmer then, so it's going to be very tricky."
2001 Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves was third fastest overall at 26.6151, 202.892 in the morning in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. Hornish was fourth overall with his session-leading lap from the afternoon, followed by Jaques Lazier at 26.6464, 202.654 from the morning in the No. 2 Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.
"The car has been very consistent," said Castroneves, making his full-time IRL debut with teammate Gil de Ferran. "We got to work on the race setup. I'm happy with today's practice, and hopefully that'll carry over to race day. At least race day is still far away. So we'll look to keep this momentum for tomorrow and Saturday for Marlboro Team Penske."
Twenty-six drivers combined to turn 1,883 incident-free laps during the opening day of practice for the 2002 Indy Racing League season. Practice resumes at 9:30 a.m. (EST) Friday, with MBNA Pole Qualifying taking place at 12:30 p.m. Final practice starts at 4:30 p.m.