IRL: Hornish leads first Phoenix practice

PHOENIX, Friday, March 16, 2001 - Sam Hornish Jr. wasted no time getting up to speed Friday at Phoenix International Raceway, turning the fastest lap of the opening practice for Sunday's Pennzoil Copper World Indy 200. Hornish,...

PHOENIX, Friday, March 16, 2001 - Sam Hornish Jr. wasted no time getting up to speed Friday at Phoenix International Raceway, turning the fastest lap of the opening practice for Sunday's Pennzoil Copper World Indy 200. Hornish, 21, recorded a top lap of 20.755 seconds, 173.451 mph during the morning practice on the 1-mile PIR oval. Hornish stepped into the Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone vacated at the end of last season by veteran Scott Goodyear. Eliseo Salazar recorded the second-best overall speed of 172.324 in the morning session. Salazar is now the sole driver for four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt in his famous No. 14 Harrah's A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. "We were just trying to get to where we ended last month in the test," Hornish said. "We wanted to get the same setup. "We were good all day. Our team did an excellent job so we weren't in the pits all the time. In the afternoon we worked on the race setup because it was the only time it would be close to race conditions. Tomorrow morning we'll work on our qualifying setup." Hornish predicted that the pole-winning lap time will be between 20.3 and 20.5 seconds. Qualifying for Sunday's race starts at noon (MST) Saturday. In the afternoon session under a blazing sun, Stan Wattles clocked the best speed of 172.188 mph, good for third overall. He was third fastest in the morning round with a 171.852-mph lap in his Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Wattles only raced at Indianapolis last year but has a full-season program in place with Hemelgarn Racing as a teammate to defending Northern Light Cup champion Buddy Lazier. "Working with Buddy and (team owner) Ron Hemelgarn is just a thrill," said Wattles, feeling the effects of a bad cold. "I feel very comfortable with the platform I have under me." Salazar also was thrilled with his first day as Foyt's sole driver. Salazar and Jeff Ward were teammates for Foyt last season. "That was the first time to drive No. 14 for Foyt," Salazar said. "We're looking strong. My boss says it doesn't pay today. When it pays is on Sunday, when we hope to climb one more position." Phoenix resident Billy Boat, driving for a new team for which he is part owner, was 14th in the morning but then jumped to fourth in the afternoon with a 172.021 lap in the CURB Records/Ash Kicker Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Boat ended up sixth overall. Defending series champion Lazier was third in the afternoon in his Tae-Bo/Coors Light/Delta Faucet Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone at 172.059, good for fifth overall. Penske Racing drivers Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves made their Northern Light Series debuts Friday, with Castroneves leading the team at 171.364 in the Penske Auto Center Special Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, good for ninth overall. Defending CART champion de Ferran was 20th overall at 167.776 in another Penske Auto Center Special Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. "Practice didn't go well," de Ferran said. "We had a little bit of a problem getting the car running right. The problem was something in the motor. We couldn't get it to run properly."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Eliseo Salazar , Buddy Lazier , Jeff Ward , Billy Boat , Scott Goodyear , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Stan Wattles , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske