IRL: Milwaukee: Friday practice report

AGR DRIVERS LEAD FRIDAY PRACTICE AT MILWAUKEE WEST ALLIS, Wis., Friday, July 21, 2006 -- Andretti Green Racing's Dario Franchitti led preparations for the July 23 IndyCar® Series ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 at The Milwaukee Mile. Franchitti, the...

AGR DRIVERS LEAD FRIDAY PRACTICE AT MILWAUKEE

WEST ALLIS, Wis., Friday, July 21, 2006 -- Andretti Green Racing's Dario Franchitti led preparations for the July 23 IndyCar® Series ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 at The Milwaukee Mile.

Franchitti, the 2004 Milwaukee race winner, topped the day's speed charts with a lap of 21.569 seconds, 169.409 mph in his No. 27 Klein Tools/Canadian Club Honda-powered Dallara in the first of two practice sessions.

Rookie teammate Marco Andretti turned the second quickest lap of the day in his No. 26 NYSE Honda-powered Dallara with a speed of 169.293 mph in the afternoon session.

Rounding out the top-five were Vitor Meira (169.061 mph), Tony Kanaan (169.293 mph) and Bryan Herta (169.061 mph) in their Honda-powered Dallaras. Marlboro Pole Qualifying for the ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 is scheduled for 12:15 p.m. on Saturday.

FRIDAY NOTEBOOK:

This is the third IndyCar Series event at The Milwaukee Mile. Sam Hornish Jr. is the defending race winner. Hornish holds the qualifying record with a lap of 21.4567 seconds, 170.296 mph set in July 2005. This is the third Indy Pro Series event at The Milwaukee Mile. Jeff Simmons is the reigning race winner. Thiago Medeiros holds the qualifying record with a lap of 24.8094 seconds, 147.283 mph, set in July 2004.

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Both of the previous IndyCar Series winners at Milwaukee are entered in the ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Indy 225: Sam Hornish Jr. (Marlboro Team Penske) and Dario Franchitti (Andretti Green Racing). Four Indianapolis 500 champions are expected to participate in the Firestone Indy 200: Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002), Buddy Rice (2004), Dan Wheldon (2005) and Hornish (2006). Drivers entered in the ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Indy 225 have combined for 71 IndyCar Series victories, 67 IndyCar Series pole positions and 890 IndyCar Series starts.

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Two IndyCar Series rookies are entered in the ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Indy 225: Marco Andretti (Andretti Green Racing) and Jeff Simmons (Rahal Letterman Racing). Both are eligible for the $50,000 Bombardier Rookie of the Year title. Jeff Bucknum (A.J. Foyt Racing) is making his first appearance at the Milwaukee Mile, but is not eligible for Rookie of the Year.

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The ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Indy 225 is the second and final short-oval race of the season. The other event in 2006 that took place on a short oval was the June 24 event at Richmond International Raceway won by Sam Hornish Jr.

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The ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Indy 225 will be the 130th IRL IndyCar Series event since the series' inaugural race in 1996. In the 129 previous events, 25,775 laps of competition have been completed. In nine races thus far in 2006, there have been four winners. Sam Hornish Jr., Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves have won multiple events this season this season. Hornish won at Indianapolis, Richmond and Kansas, Castroneves won at St. Petersburg, Motegi and Texas and Dixon won at Watkins Glen and Nashville. Dan Wheldon won at Homestead-Miami. In those eight races, 15 drivers have finished in the top five in at least one event.

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The Milwaukee Mile has hosted all forms of motorsports, horse races and some big concert acts. But did you know that the Green Bay Packers played in the infield?

In the 1930s, the Packers played two games each season on the infield field. The Mile hosted the 1939 NFL Championship Game in which the Packers defeated the New York Giants 27-0. The Milwaukee Chiefs of the American Football League also played their home games at The Mile field in 1941.

The first auto race held at the Wisconsin State Fair Grounds took place in 1903. Indy-style racing in Wisconsin dates to 1911, when 10 of the 40 starters in the inaugural Indianapolis 500 raced at the Milwaukee Mile in a pair of races on the dirt oval.

Wilbur Shaw won when the Indy-style cars returned to the dirt oval in 1933, the first of four races held at Milwaukee before World War II. Open-wheel racing returned to the track in 1948. In 1963, the first rear-engined car, a Lotus-Ford driven by Jim Clark, won

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Jeff Simmons is looking forward to the "IndyCar Brew" he'll receive in a few weeks.

The Rahal Letterman Racing driver of the No. 17 Team Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone assisted in the brewing process of "IndyCar Brew" at the Miller Brewing Co. Pilot Research Center. The event was led by head brewmaster Troy Rysewyk.

"It was a unique experience," Simmons said. "I walked in here and had expectations of Norm from 'Cheers' with his white smock on, walking around tasting beer. In reality, it has so many parallels to the ethanol industry. I really learned a lot."

Brewing is more involved and scientific than a barfly would believe. Brewing begins with malted barley and corn (in the form of grits) being mixed with water. The mash is pumped into the "mash tun," where heat converts the starches in the grains to fermentable sugars. The mixture remains in the tun until the correct sugar content has been produced.

The mash is then pumped into a lauter tun, which separates the solids from liquids. That liquid, called wort, is pumped into a brew kettle, where spicy hops are added. The mixtures are boiled for an hour. The wort is then placed in a fermentation tank, where a special strain of brewer's yeast is added. As the yeast grows, it converts the sugars into alcohol.

Fermentation is about a 10-day process, with the mixture cooled and the yeast removed upon completion. After fermentation, the filtered wort is officially beer. But it needs to mature, so it is aged at ice-cold temperatures until the brewmaster decides everything is balanced.

"I think I was one of the first to sample a new seasonal beer scheduled to launch in the Midwest this fall," Simmons said. "I have to thank everyone here at Miller Brewing for the chance to come in here, check out the Pilot Brewery and taste test a little bit.

"There's so much stuff that I learned today about what makes a good beer, just from watching the process. Plus, I can tell all my friends that I had their dream job today."

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DANICA PATRICK (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Argent Dallara/Honda/Firestone): (About having figurine): "I feel very special." (Does it look like you?): "It has long dark hair. And the suit and the helmet looks just like mine. The eyebrows are a little high and short and my lips are a little more glossy color than pink or red. I feel very lucky that I have a figurine. I don't think anyone else here has one. Do any other drivers have a figurine? I hope that it gives people another reason to come to the race. We have great racing. It's just a matter of bringing people in to see it. And as I've been told by my friends and family and other people, 'Once you see it, you're hooked.' We just need to hook them." (About being the big draw): "It's a very fortunate situation. It comes with some baggage. It's a lot of work and I end up doing lots of interviews, but it's good. I'm happy doing it. Being that draw requires some effort too. I want to do everything I can to promote the series. I don't want to let them down in any way. If I am that person, I want to help and I want do it. The series needs all the help they get and I'm happy to do it. I'm really lucky. Over the last two years of my career, people have written good things about me and have been very kind. That's not always the situation. I've been fortunate." (About last week's race): "Every time you improve, you're obviously going in the right direction. It seems like this past year has been a fairly unlucky one. It started being obvious at Indianapolis. New tires are their best when you put them on. I'd put on new tires, do a burnout or run maybe one lap, and every time the yellow would come out. I'd be like 'God, can this stop?' I caught the flags wrong. Finally at Nashville it came around for me. I was lucky. Things finally went my way and I was up front. That's the way things need to happen right now. We're not the fastest car, so we need to catch a couple breaks, and we did finally."

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POST-INDYCAR SERIES PRACTICE QUOTES:

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Klein Tools/Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone): ""It's pretty tricky out there. The difference between the darker patches on the track is significant. All is going well right now. We'll keep working tomorrow for a good race car and see what happens. We worked this afternoon on race set up, so we weren't as quick as this morning. I think this is a track that is more to our liking, and we might have a chance at racing with some of the other cars that have been out front this year. There are a lot of strong cars out there, but the Andretti Green foursome has a reasonably good chance.

MARIO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Being here last week makes a difference, for sure. I was back into the wall the first time I was here last year in a Pro Series car. I've certainly come a long way. We're finding what we need here. Things are definitely going good. I'm getting really comfortable. The test made all the difference for me. I'm able to keep building confidence, and each lap we seem to get faster and I continue to learn. The shorter tracks depends a lot on balance rather than pure speed. It lets us show our skills. Things are so tight out there that we really need to stay on top of the conditions to stay out front.

VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Revive Panther Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "This was a great day for us. We were confident coming into the weekend that the Revive Honda was going to be powerful. It is important for us to be careful and analyze the day only versus ourselves. It was an open day and everybody was doing different things. We improved every time that we went out and that's what proves to us that it was a good day. We've still got plenty of work to do, and we're looking forward to the rest of the weekend."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "The test that Dario (Franchitti), Marco (Andretti) and Jonathan (Klein) did here really helped to get us started down the right path. We are certainly a lot closer than where we've been at other tracks this year. It was a good day for Team 7-Eleven. We still have some work to do but it's nice having a couple cars at the top of the scoring sheet. That makes it easier for us to work on our race day and qualifying setups."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I'm pretty happy with the XM Satellite Radio car. Unfortunately, we got behind on our tires because we cut a tire and had to put our old set on so we didn't get to run until the end of the session. I definitely feel like we made a step in the right direction and none too soon; this team needs a good race."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We worked mostly on our race setup today, mainly trying to get the car to handle well in traffic and by ourselves over the course of a long run and everything is going as planned. We're really happy with how the Marlboro Team Penske car is handling, and hopefully, we'll be just as happy with it on Sunday. We weren't on the top of the speed charts, but that wasn't what we set out to accomplish. We have a practice session tomorrow morning where we can trim the car out and hopefully put it on the front row in qualifying."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We've been trying a lot of different things with the car. We're a little off the pace, but we're focusing on how the Marlboro Team Penske car will be handling throughout the race. I'm pretty confident with the progress we made today. The key to the race on Sunday will be consistency and that's exactly what we've been so far."

JEFF BUCKNUM (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It was a very productive day, building confidence for me since I never raced here. We're in a good window set-up wise and now we can massage it to go quicker. The team is coming together, and it's nice to have A.J. (Foyt) back."

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The next IndyCar Series event is the ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Indy 225 at 1:30 p.m. (EDT) on July 23 at The Milwaukee Mile. The race will be telecast live by ESPN and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Milwaukee 100 on July 22 at The Milwaukee Mile. The race will be telecast by ESPN2 at 2 p.m. on July 27. ESPN2's coverage of the Sunbelt Rentals 100 will be telecast at 2 p.m. on July 20.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Jim Clark , Buddy Rice , Jeff Bucknum , Marco Andretti , Jeff Simmons , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr. , Thiago Medeiros , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske