CASTRONEVES LEADS FINAL DAY OF ROAD COURSE TESTING HOMESTEAD, Fla., Friday, March 3, 2006 -- Helio Castroneves continued to impress on the road course at Homestead-Miami Speedway, leading the final day of IRL IndyCarÂ® Series road course Open...
CASTRONEVES LEADS FINAL DAY OF ROAD COURSE TESTING
HOMESTEAD, Fla., Friday, March 3, 2006 -- Helio Castroneves continued to impress on the road course at Homestead-Miami Speedway, leading the final day of IRL IndyCar® Series road course Open Testing.
Castroneves, who led the opening day of testing on the 2.21-mile road course on March 2, recorded a lap of 1 minute, 10.5683 seconds, 112.742 mph, in his No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone. Castroneves was slightly faster than 2003 IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon who posted the second-fastest lap, 1:10.6675, 112.584 mph, in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone.
"Awesome days," Castroneves said. "Sam (Hornish Jr.) and I were working together, the whole team was working together and that makes us very strong. It's good. It's our first time with the Honda engine. We're trying to understand the new rules - no traction control. Everything seems to be going our way. It doesn't mean much here, but it at least gives you a good feeling that things are going well, at least going better than the others. We have to keep working hard. Nothing comes easy."
Hornish (112.300 mph), Scott Sharp (112.240 mph) and Dario Franchitti (111.961 mph) rounded out the top five as teams turned 1,393 laps of incident free testing.
IndyCar Series teams will take a day off before returning to test on the variably banked 1.5-mile oval on March 5. The IRL Indy Pro Series^Ù will conduct its initial test of 2006 on the road course on March 4.
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, Quickest in testing): "(About lack of traction control) It's good to have these days, and also one more after the Homestead race again to make sure that everyone feels comfortable with it. I haven't heard anybody complain much about the traction control. The good side, my point of view, is that when the tires get old even an experienced driver can make a little mistake, wheels spin a little bit, and that might give someone a chance to make a pass. That's very hard on the road course normally. We want to make everything as equal as possible for everyone, so I think Honda and the IRL are going in the right direction.
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone, second fastest): "It went well. I think we kind of got a little bit lost during the mid-part of the day with the compound of tires we had here. We didn't get much out of it in the last few runs. For a team test and everybody here, we got what we need to get done. Hopefully, we'll move on and move up a qualifying spot."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, third fastest): "Everything went smoothly, but we didn't pick up as much speed as we wanted to after all of the changes we made overnight. We're happy to be in the top five. It's a lot better than when we tested here last year. I feel a whole lot better heading to St. Pete this year."
SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Panoz/Honda/Firestone, fourth-quickest): "It was a really good day. The road courses are an area we needed to improve on. John Dick and the Delphi squad really worked hard. We came here with the thought process that we don't race here, so being fast on the speed chart here really isn't that important, but let's throw different things at that car that may not even help the car here but give us good information for the other tracks. To be pretty competitive and still feel like we learned a lot, we're really pleased.
DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone, sixth fastest): "It personally was a challenge for me to familiarize myself with the Panoz chassis, which I have not been in before. To tell you the truth, I didn't get it as I would have liked. We had a car that we thought was very good on the older compound tire. When we put the new compound tire on, we didn't think it suited us as much. The stuff we had to change to make the old compound work, we'll have to go back and change that. It will help us."
Guthrie returns to IRL with Indy Pro Series effort: Jim Guthrie feels like he's coming home. The 1997 IRL IndyCar® Series Bombardier Rookie of the Year announced March 3 that he will field a team in the Indy Racing League Indy Pro Series^Ù in 2006.
Travis Gregg, a three-time winner in the series, will drive the No. 41 Guthrie Racing entry March 26 in the season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway, while Raphael Matos, the 2005 Star Mazda champion, will drive the doubleheader event at St. Petersburg, Fla. April 1 and 2.
Guthrie's son Sean will take over the wheel for the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and beyond.
"I've been waiting to get back into the IRL," said Guthrie, who made 15 IndyCar Series starts from 1996-98. "It feels like home, it feels comfortable, so it made sense emotionally. It also made sense from a business standpoint. With the prize money being upped this season, it makes sense to compete in the Indy Pro Series."
Guthrie was part owner of Blueprint Racing in 1997 when he recorded a win at Phoenix International Raceway and a fourth-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway en route to Rookie of the Year honors.
Last year, he founded Guthrie Racing to help his son Sean's promising career. Sean Guthrie won a national championship in shifter karts before he started racing cars in 2004. After a year in SCCA Formula Ford and a year in Star Mazda, he is ready to move up to the Indy Pro Series.
"Sean's been racing since he was eight years old, and he has the same dream that I had -- to race in the Indy 500," said Guthrie, who competed in three Indianapolis 500s. "This was the next step in our plan, maybe a year or two too soon based on his age and the fact that he'll miss the first couple of races, but this is where we want to be."
Jim Guthrie didn't want to wait for his son to turn 18 on April 18 to start racing.
"We need to learn the car," Guthrie said. "Travis is good, he's fast, he's a hired gun. We're gaining experience with a knowledgeable driver."
Gregg finished third in the Indy Pro Series championship last year, winning three races and leading the most laps.
"I'm really looking forward to racing at Homestead again," said Gregg, a native of Camden, Ohio, who won on the 1.5-mile, high-banked oval last year. "I need to get used to a new team and new guys, but I've had success there in the past, so I'm looking forward to it."
Gregg also will test the car March 4 and 6 at the track during the Indy Pro Series' only pre-season Open Test.
Matos, 24, won the Star Mazda championship in 2005 on the strength of four victories.
"Raphael did some test work with us last year on Sean's car, and his team manager worked with me in the past at the Indy 500," said Guthrie. "I watched Raphael win the first four races last year, watched him drive up from seventh at Road Atlanta. He has so much heart and talent. I think he has great shot at winning in St. Pete."
The IRL IndyCar Series opens the 2006 season with the Toyota Indy 300 at 3:30 p.m. (EST) on March 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ABC Sports and the IMS Radio Network. The IMS Radio Network broadcast is also carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition opens with the Miami 100 at 12:30 p.m. on March 26 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be telecast at 1 p.m. on March 31 by ESPN2.