IRL: Kanaan bests field in Motegi practice

Tony Kanaan led both practice sessions today topping the speed charts with a best lap of 203.907 mph (26.8357 seconds) in the afternoon practice session. Kanaan, who improved his morning session time by nearly four tenths of a second, reiterated...

Tony Kanaan led both practice sessions today topping the speed charts with a best lap of 203.907 mph (26.8357 seconds) in the afternoon practice session. Kanaan, who improved his morning session time by nearly four tenths of a second, reiterated how important the Motegi race is to Honda. "Winning at Twin Ring Motegi means everything. This is Honda's track. They've been trying to win this race for seven years. They've been close every year, so it means everything."

Asked what would happen if he won the race for Honda, Kanaan replied, "I think we're going to have to stand up in the museum for a week, ourselves and our cars."

Kanaan's Andretti Green Racing teammate Dario Franchitti was second fastest on the day. Franchitti shaved nearly six-tenths from his morning time, posting a lap at 202.374 mph. "This was one of the hardest first days we've had because of the wind and dust on the track," said Franchitti, who was 11th in the morning session.

Scott Sharp, who won the inaugural Japan Indy 300 last year, was third fastest. "I am very pleased where we ended the day today. We made great gains between the morning and afternoon sessions. We hope to keep gaining momentum and finish tomorrow's qualifying in the top ten which will put us in a great position to go racing on Saturday."

Helio Castroneves was fourth fastest, followed by the trio of cars entered by Team Rahal. Buddy Rice led his teammates with Vitor Meira seventh. Meira's time was a scant 0.0375 seconds faster than Roger Yasukawa in the SAMMY G-Force.

"I think we're looking very good with the three cars," said Rice. "We were able to exchange information and that is much different than before for me. It's a big help to have all of Team Rahal's resources concentrated on one series."

Fourth fastest after the first session, Vitor Meira was surprised that he found speed so quickly. "Actually, I wasn't expecting our No. 17 team to be this good right away. I was new to the team and the track and the team is new to the series. But after the very first lap, I felt that the car was very, very good and I was comfortable."

The morning practice session, which saw Kanaan, Buddy Rice and Sam Hornish atop the speed charts, nearly went incident free but with five minutes remaining, Scott Dixon broke loose in turn four, spun and made heavy contact with the wall. Dixon exited the car under his own power but was complaining of pain in his left ankle. "I'm not sure what happened exactly," Dixon said. "The car just went around on me. I thought there might have been something on the track.

Tomas Scheckter, who was following behind Dixon, braked hard for the accident, lost control and impacted the wall as well. The second impact led Dixon to believe that Scheckter may have encountered something on the track too.

When the yellow came out, "I was on the brakes immediately," said Scheckter. "I have no clue what happened. Maybe it was because I was braking because of the yellow and there was something on the track."

As a precaution, Dixon was transported by air to Dokkyo University Hospital for X-rays. Doctors at the hospital indicated that Dixon suffered a hairline fracture to the base of his left fibula at the ankle and may be able to drive in Saturday's race. A final decision will be made after the Indy Racing League medical staff examines Dixon on Friday morning.

In the afternoon session, Sam Hornish slid high off turn four, smacked the wall with the right side of the car and came to a stop past the start finish line. Hornish was unhurt in the incident and the session continued after a short delay. Hornish, who ended the day tenth on the speed charts, was the only driver in the top ten who did not improve upon his morning time.

"I was coming out of turn four when the Marlboro Team Penske car pushed up. I lifted but unfortunately still made contact with the wall. The primary car was beyond repair, so we're going to our backup. Tomorrow morning, we'll shake down the car and get ready for qualifying."

Several minutes after Hornish crashed, Tora Tagaki spun by himself in turn four and made hard contact with the outside wall, ending practice for the day. Tagaki was assisted from the car by safety officials and was complaining of back pain. He was transported by air to Dokkyo University for x-rays of his back and neck.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Buddy Rice , Sam Hornis , Vitor Meira
Teams Team Penske