CASTRONEVES PACES OPENING DAY AT TWIN RING MOTEGI MOTEGI, Japan, Thursday, April 28, 2005 -- Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves led the opening day of practice for the Indy Japan 300 as IRL IndyCarÂ® Series teams began...
CASTRONEVES PACES OPENING DAY AT TWIN RING MOTEGI
MOTEGI, Japan, Thursday, April 28, 2005 -- Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves led the opening day of practice for the Indy Japan 300 as IRL IndyCar® Series teams began preparations for the series' only overseas event.
Castroneves recorded a lap of 26.9071 seconds, 203.366 mph, in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone. Defending Indy Japan 300 winner Dan Wheldon was second fastest with a lap of 26.9866, 202.767 mph in the No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone.
Wheldon's teammate, Dario Franchitti,b was third fastest with a lap of 26.9967, 202.691 mph in the No. 27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda/Firestone.
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/ Firestone): "Out of the truck, the plane actually, the car seemed to be very good and felt very comfortable. From the last two times we've been here, we know that this track gets faster and faster each day, so we'll keep working hard. But today we're happy with a great result. I was very happy with the first session in the morning. In the second session, we focused a little bit more on race setup and towards the middle of that session we were able to change tires, and I was fortunate to have a good lap. I think the track, from what we saw this morning increased speeds by three-tenths, so I think it will continue to increase to three-tenths to half a second so probably it will go to 26.5 to 26.4 (qualifying speed), and I think that is what it will be. If the weather holds up I am looking for things to be the same as today. The race I am sure will be very interesting as it looks like we are achieving the same speeds as last year. It will be a tough race, this track is always very difficult especially with the wind, which is always very strong, and if everyone respects each other we should have a good showing."
DAN WHELDON (No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I think we still have a fair bit of work to do on the Klein Tools/Jim Beam car, but it was good to get out and get an idea of what the car felt like full of fuel. It was a good end of the day for the Klein Tools/Jim Beam team.
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 ArcaEx Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We worked hard on the balance of the ArcaEx car. We made a lot of changes from the morning to the afternoon and we managed a pretty good, long run, and that's going to give us more information to change the car slightly for warmup tomorrow. I think the ArcaEx car is in pretty good shape and with a couple of minor adjustments, we'll be there."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Menards/Johns Manville Panoz/Honda/ Firestone): "It is really nice to come to Motegi this year after a year with the team. Last year, I was new to the track, to the team and to the car. The Rahal Letterman team has been working hard to get our oval setup back to what we had last year. We are coming into the strength of our team, the big ovals. The car was getting better with each session. We are not where we want to be yet. But the car felt good in the second session today. I really like this place for a race. It is wide on the straights and in turns one and two. Turns three and four are tricky here. We have to shift down a gear or so entering turn three. But I think we'll have a good qualifying run and be set for the race."
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "Both practice sessions were good for our Marlboro Team Penske car today. We concentrated on our qualifying setup during the first and our race setup during the second, and we have good balance in the car with both settings."
PATRICK CARPENTIER (No. 83 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "The day started well. We did some work since St. Pete and really improved. We stalled in our progress in the afternoon session. The car was sliding too much. We couldn't take advantage of the new tires we put on."
JEFF BUCKNUM (No. 44 Investment Properties of America Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We had a really good session this morning and answered a lot of questions. It told me what I needed to know about the car, and then moved forward with the second session this afternoon. We weren't anxious and everything went to plan. The guys got data and we got feedback, and then Roger went out and made even more progress based on where we had started. It was almost like I was out there. He moved us forward and finished even better. My confidence level went up and I didn't have to keep learning the track, and just worked on fine tuning the car, like knowing when to downshift into three and then to carry through. We set our best time by ourselves and finished with full fuel. It's just the kind of race weekend that you want to have. Every change we've made has gone forward and that's exactly what you want."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We worked on the race set-up in the afternoon, so I don't think we're the strongest car to qualify. But I believe we have a good race car. I've had to pass a lot of cars the past two races, so that shouldn't be a problem. We'll work on the race set-up a little bit more and try to have a good car for the race."
The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues with the Indy Japan 300 on April 30 at Twin Ring Motegi. The race will be telecast by ESPN at noon (EDT) on April 30 with a live simulcast of the race at 11:59 p.m. (EDT) on April 29 by ESPN360.com. The race will also be broadcast by the IMS Radio Network at 11:30 p.m. (EDT) on April 29. The IMS Radio Network broadcast is available on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 "XM Extreme" and webcast on indycar.com. The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Futaba Freedom 100 on May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast on ESPN2 at 2 p.m. (EDT) on May 27.